A small genus of deciduous trees; one found in the United States, the others in China and Japan. The leaves are alternate, pinnate; the pea-shaped flowers in loose panicles; pods flattened. The shrub or small tree sometimes called C. amurensis is now usually placed in a separate genus – Maackia. The true Cladrastis is readily distinguished from Maackia on account of the swollen base of the leaf-stalks enclosing and hiding the buds; in Maackia they are exposed; the flowers of Maackia, too, are arranged closely in cylindrical racemes. The name of Cladrastis is derived from the Greek, and refers to the brittleness of the branches; this is characteristic of both the American and Asiatic species, but not of Maackia.
These trees thrive best when raised from seeds, but failing them, plants may be raised from root-cuttings. They like a loamy soil and a sunny position.