Environmental Protection and Sustainability
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Tree-Mendous Species

Fall 2013 Tree Descriptions

American Holly (Ilex opaca)

This native evergreen has a pyramidal growth habit, slow-medium growth rate (height: 15 to 30 feet width: 15 to 30 feet) and leathery leaves with prickly edges. A ratio of one male to every two-three females is needed for the production of bright red berries, which attract numerous birds and mammals in fall. Prefers sun or part shade and moist well-drained acidic soils. Avoid dry/windy unprotected sites.

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)

An attractive multi-stemmed native ornamental shrub, arrowwood can grow to 15 feet under optimum conditions with a medium growth rate. Creamy white flowers appear in May/June. Small blue-black fruits are late summer food for wildlife. Small dark green leaves turn yellow, or glossy-red to reddish-purple in fall. The species is disease and insect pest resistant. With its dense branches, it works well as a screening plant. Historically, shoots were used for arrow shafts, hence, the name "Arrowwood."

Bayberry (Morella (Myrica) pensylvanica)

A hardy native multi-stemmed shrub (six to12 feet) with dark-green lustrous leathery leaves, aromatic when crushed, often persisting through winter. Prefers full or half sun, wet, sandy or dry infertile soils. Also called candleberry, the small round gray berries (female) are used for bayberry candles (one lb. berries = four oz. wax). Provides food for song and game birds. Tolerates salt, drought, and compacted soil; no serious pests or diseases; transplants easily.

Black Tupelo (Black Gum) (Nyssa sylvatica)

A beautiful native shade tree with a broadly conical growth habit (30 to 50 feet) for naturalized areas or residential streets. Growth rate is slow/medium. Glossy dark-green leaves turn a spectacular bright yellow-orange or scarlet-purple in fall. Blue-black fruits attract songbirds and other wildlife. Prefers sun or semi-shade and deep, well-drained, acidic soil. Prefers spring transplant and fall pruning. No serious diseases or pests; tolerates coastal conditions. Sensitive to compacted soil and heavy pollution.

Blueberry, Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum)

This native shrub, which has an upright, spreading form, typically can reach six to 12 feet. in both height and width. It bears small bell-shaped, pinkish-white flowers in the spring, followed by blue-black berries that are relished by wildlife and people, in the late summer. This plant tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, but does best in moist, acid sandy loams. It is resistant to soil compaction and road salt, and moderately drought tolerant.

*Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

This non-native species originated in Asia, but has been a major garden species in the central and lower tiers of the U.S. The present offering is the ‘Natchez’ cultivar, which grows at a fast rate to about 20 feet. at maturity and takes full sun and a range of garden soils from moist to dry. The tree’s one to 1.5 inch diameter white flowers are borne in long, showy panicles for almost the entire summer season. The bark is also striking as it exfoliates with age to reveal patches of cinnamon brown beneath the smooth, gray outer bark. Crape Myrtle is an excellent choice for urban landscapes because of its drought and pollution tolerance.

Flowering Dogwood, White (Cornus florida).

An American favorite, this small (20 to 40 feet) graceful deciduous native is spectacular in spring. Showy snow-white bracts stand out on bright green foliage that turns burgundy in fall; nutrient-rich leaf litter enhances the soil. Flowers, seeds, twigs, bark, leaves and bright red berries (high in calcium/ fat) attract 36 species of birds and mammals. Prefers shade, deep moist lowland soils, or light soils of well-drained uplands. Susceptible to drought, and recently in particular, the fungus Discula anthracnose, mostly in wooded settings. However, these conditions can easily be controlled in smaller plantings, and should not preclude using this outstanding, classic native. For control and maintenance information, please call the Home & Garden Information Center at 1-800-342-2507.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

This native tree typically reaches 40 to 60 feet. in height and width, but can grow to 75 to 100 feet. under optimal conditions, not typical in the urban environment. It has an upright growth habit with arching limbs developing as it ages. Hackberry is found in lowland, wet, and upland dry soils. The leaves have a medium coarse texture, and change from a light green in the spring to yellow in the fall. Inconspicuous flowers attract butterflies and purple-brown, fleshy berries have a very high food value for songbirds and mammals.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

This attractive, mid-sized (six to 12 feet) slow growing, long-lived, native evergreen shrub has ascending branches and a full rounded form. The current offering is a cultivar, ‘Nigra’ of the wild species. Fine textured leathery leaves can vary from dark green to yellow-green in the winter. Inconspicuous greenish spring flowers are followed by small jet-black berries that provide high quality food for songbirds, game birds, waterfowl, and mammals. Prefers damp acidic shady lowland sites. Sensitive to drought, heat, and wind. Generally pest/disease free; salt and soil compaction tolerant. An excellent hedge or accent plant.

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

A handsome large (height 60 to 80 feet width 40 to 50 feet) symmetrical fast growing native shade tree with heavy ascending branches and dense dark green foliage turning deep brilliant maroon-red in fall. A heavy crop of acorns produced every two-five years provides food for a variety of wildlife. Prefers deep moist well-drained acid soils (loamy, sandy, rocky or clay) and slopes facing north or east, but tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. Transplants easily and should be pruned when dormant. Susceptible to gypsy moth; no serious other diseases or pests. With adequate space, it is a good choice for open space urban plantings. It will heave sidewalks, but is tolerant of pollution, soil compaction, and salt.

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)

Moderate to fast growing, straight-trunked and symmetrical, this stately native tree grows to 50 to 80 feet. Lustrous dark green leaves turn russet, bronze or scarlet in the fall. Prefers rich loamy, well-drained soil, pH 5.5 to 6.6, and sun to part shade. Thrives in the small spaces typical of urban landscapes. Tolerates polluted environmental conditions.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Whether planted alone, in a clump or border, or a naturalized setting, redbud is a striking small native tree (height: 20 to 30 feet width: 25 to 35 feet). The trunk often divides close to the ground; branches ascend, gracefully spreading, and are lined with outstanding purple/pink blossoms for two to three weeks in April, before leaf out. Heart-shaped leaves are green in summer, yellow in fall. Prefers sun-part shade and deep, moist, well-drained soils.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

An upright, multi-stemmed native shrub with moderately open, rounded habit. It can grow to between six and 10 feet. tall with a three to five feet. spread. Full sun to half shade and adaptable to many soil types. Suitable for borders and mass plantings. The fruits are eaten by grouse and chickadees and other songbirds.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

A beautiful native tree (40 to 60 feet), its small red flowers are one of the early signs of spring. Emerging leaves are red-tinged and gradually turn to dark green. Showy fall color varies from greenish to bright yellow to flaming orange or red. Intolerant of heavy pollution; prefers wet to moist soil conditions. Provides food and habitat for a variety of birds.

Red Twig (Red Osier) Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

This small (two to 10 feet) multi-stemmed spreading shrub adds color to a naturalized landscape setting. Olive green leaves turn red in autumn and crimson/maroon stems are striking in the winter. Small flower clusters in early summer are followed by pea-shaped berry clusters that are loved by songbirds, bobwhite, grouse, and partridge. Twigs are eaten by deer and rabbits. Prefers wet-moist, lowland sites; a good choice for stream bank erosion control.

River Birch (Betula nigra)

This attractive mid-sized, multi-trunked native tree can grow 30 to 40 feet in 20 years. Prefers moist acid fertile soils; will tolerate drier sites. Leaves are lustrous and medium/dark green; paper-thin exfoliating bark adds spectacular beauty and interest in all seasons.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

This striking multi-trunked native shrub or small tree (height 15 to 30 feet; width 15 to 25 feet) is an excellent choice for small spaces and naturalized settings. Its handsome gray bark, showy white early spring flowers, dark red edible fruit (attractive to birds), and yellow-orange to red fall leaves, create year-round landscape interest. Preferred planting sites are shady/partly-sunny with well-drained, moist, acid soils; it is sensitive to air pollution, salt, drought and soil compaction.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

This native, deciduous shrub of moist rich woodlands has a rounded, open habit and can reach six to 12 feet in height and width. Clusters of tiny yellow flowers appear along the twigs in early spring before the leaves open, followed by glossy, scarlet red berries, prized by songbirds. The shrub is very tolerant of shade and resistant to disease, road salt, and damage from ice and wind. Locally, it also seems to be left unbrowsed by deer.

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

This oval shaped, dense native deciduous shrub (height: three to eight feet, width: four to six feet) has a slow to medium growth rate. Sharp-toothed leaves appear in late spring and turn deep green in summer, pale yellow to orange-brown in October. Tends to sucker and become multi-stemmed at base. The best time to prune is early spring. Very fragrant pink or white flowers attract pollinators in summer; fall fruit, persisting into winter, provides food for songbirds and shorebirds. Will tolerate shade or sun. Prefers wet, rich, acid soils of the Atlantic coastal plain. Salt and compaction tolerant and generally pest and disease free.

Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)

The mature height of this native tree ranges from 40 to 60 feet in cultivation, but it can reach 75 to 100 feet in a forest planting. The spread is generally two-thirds the height. Swamp White Oak has an especially notable bark of deep, irregular furrows, and a bronze to golden yellow brown fall foliage. This species has very high wildlife value in its acorn crop for birds and mammals.

Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

This medium sized (six to 12 feet height and spread) native shrub has many slender spreading wand-like stems and white tasseled spiked flowers visible June through July. Bright green summer foliage turns scarlet-crimson in fall. Small brown seed capsules are evident August through March. Prefers shady sites with wet to moist soils. Drought, salt, soil compaction, flood, and heat resistant; transplants easily.

Sycamore London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia)

This fast growing tree is a hybrid between our native sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and the Asian sycamore (Platanus orientalis). While our native species is a tree of rich bottomlands that can also thrive in wet to average sandy and gravelly garden soils that are neutral to alkaline, this hybrid is better suited than the native sycamore to the environmental stresses of the urban environment. Like all sycamores, this magnificent tree needs room. It can grow to a height of 75 feet or more with a wider spread. The tree’s best feature is displayed along the trunk, where the bark consists of patches of exfoliating sheets with a range of colors from creamy white to tan and brown.

Tuliptree (Tulip Poplar) (Liriodendron tulipifera)

This tall (75 to 100 feet) native deciduous tree, also called tulip poplar, is not a poplar at all, but a member of the magnolia family. It is a fast grower with large, showy, yellow/orange blossoms that resemble tulips. Leaves are bright green, turning to golden yellow in fall. It prefers sunny locations with deep rich, well-drained soil. This forest tree is considered a ‘pioneer transitional species’ because saplings quickly fill forest canopy gaps after major disturbances, where they may persist for a time as the forest canopy recovers. Baltimore County does not recommend this species for planting in streetscapes or other small sites because isolated trees are vulnerable to wind shear as they mature.

White Oak (Quercus alba)

The Maryland state tree, White Oak is one of the most handsome and long-lived oaks in the region. It grows with a full, outspread canopy from between 50 to 80 feet in cultivation, but may reach 100 feet in height in the wild. Best growth occurs in full sun in deep, moist but well-drained, acid soils, but can also tolerate dry, upland soils. The largest known White Oak in America was 31 feet. in circumference and had a one acre area dedicated as the Wye Oak State Park in Talbot County, here in Maryland, for its protection.

Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)

This beautiful medium-large (50 to 90 feet) native deciduous shade tree is straight trunked with slender ascending branchlets. Glossy light green fine textured willow-like leaves turn light yellow to russet red in fall. Acorns attract ducks, squirrel, deer, wild turkey, blue jays, and woodpeckers. Prefers rich moist non-compacted bottomland soils or sandy upland sites. Transplants easily; a good street tree, where sufficient space is available. Somewhat intolerant of acid rain.

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

This small (six to 10 feet) attractive, deciduous native holly has deep dark green leaves, minutely toothed but not spiny. It has a slow/medium growth rate, and a rounded/oval shape. From August to January, bright red showy clusters of berries are very attractive to birds. Prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, acid soils. Male and female plants are necessary for fruiting.

Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis)

This non-native is likely a hybrid of the Higan Cherry and Flowering Cherry trees of Japan. A plant of rounded, spreading habit, this tree can reach 30 to 50 feet in height. Fragrant white blossoms are borne in early spring, just before or with the opening leaves. Tiny, black fruits remain on the tree into the winter. This tree is tolerant of urban conditions.

Additional Information

Additional information about these trees can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Dirr, Michael. (1988). Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Illinois: Stripes Publishing Company.
  • Hightshoe, Gary L. (1988). Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Revised September 3, 2013

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