All types of trees play an important role in our ecosystem. Trees provide shade, shelter, oxygen, and many even produce fruit. There are over 60,000 species of trees that come in all shapes and sizes, from majestic cedars to smaller fruit trees and shrubs. Identifying the different kinds of trees usually depends on examining their leaves and bark. Some types of trees have wide oval leaves, some have star-shaped ones, and many evergreen trees have needle leaves.
All species of trees are classified into two main types: deciduous trees and evergreen trees. Deciduous trees shed their leaves at a certain time of the year – usually in the autumn while types of evergreen trees keep their leaves throughout the year.
Trees are woody perennial plants that are a member of the kingdom Plantae. All species of trees are grouped by their genus, family, and order. This helps make identifying and studying trees easier.
Apart from providing oxygen for the planet and beauty when they bloom or turn color, trees are very useful. Certain species of hardwood and softwood trees are excellent for timber, making furniture, and paper. When managed properly, trees are a good source of renewable energy and construction material.
In this article, you will learn how to identify 23 different types of trees. Most of these trees are common in North America, Europe, and other countries around the world.
Two Main Categories of Trees
All of the thousands of species of trees fall into two categories – deciduous trees and evergreen trees.
Deciduous trees shed their leave usually in the autumn
Deciduous trees are the kind of trees that lose their leaves at certain times of the year. The term deciduous literally means to “fall off at maturity.”
In North America, Europe, and temperate counties, deciduous trees such as oak, walnut, elm, and birch shed their leaves in fall. This is usually preceded by the leaves turning wonderful colors including shades of orange, brown, and yellow.
In tropical countries, species of deciduous trees lose their leaves during dry seasons.
Evergreen trees retain their leaves all year around
Species of evergreen trees such as spruce, pine, and fir trees keep their leaves throughout the year. There are about 14 family groups of evergreen trees, and these trees provide color in gardens and landscapes all year long. Evergreen trees are the reason why forests look so beautiful in winter landscapes.
Identifying the Types of Tree Leaves
The shapes of the leaves help to identify the tree species
Tree identification is usually possible by examining the leaves.
There are three basic leaf types: broadleaf, needles, and scales.
Most, but not all, deciduous plants have broadleaves that can be in all shapes and sizes. The leaf shapes can be oval, rounded, long and narrow, triangular, or heart-shaped. Some easily identifiable broadleaves are the iconic maple leaf and the oak leaf with its lobed leaves.
Many evergreen trees such as conifers, pines, and spruce trees have needle leaves. These can be long, thin and straight and grow in clusters. Or, the needles could be soft needles that grow sparsely on the twig.
Some types of evergreen trees like juniper and cedar have scale-like leaves. Their leaves look more like scales than needles.
Other ways to identify trees by their leaves include:
- Opposite leaves grow directly across from each other on the leaf stem.
- Alternate leaves grow in a staggered, alternating pattern along the stem.
Types of Trees With Pictures and Identifying Features
Here is a list of many types of common trees that grow in forests, woodlands, fields, and gardens.
Silver birch (Betula pendula) is a medium-sized deciduous tree with white peeling bark
There are about 60 species of hardwood birch trees of the genus Betula and in the family Betulaceae. Birch trees can be easy to identify as their bark is often white or silver-colored and the long drooping branches have small thin leaves. Wood from birch is hard and is good for making furniture and plywood and is also a good source of firewood.
Tree identification: Birch trees have small triangular-shaped leaves with a slightly serrated edge. Another recognizable feature is that the bark of birch trees is papery. Depending on the species of birch, the smooth bark can be dark gray to white.
Japanese maple (botanical name: Acer palmatum) is a small deciduous tree with many cultivars growing worldwide
Maple trees are beautiful deciduous shade trees with deeply lobed leaves. Maple trees have dark brown furrowed bark, small winged fruits, and narrow reddish-brown twigs.
Maple trees belong to the genus Acer in the family Sapindaceae. Although the maple tree is commonly associated with Canada, most of the species are native to Asia. The most common maple tree species in Europe is the sycamore maple tree (Acer pseudoplatanus), and there are 10 species native to Canada.
Some of the most popular maple trees are the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum), and Japanese maple (Acer palmatum).
The most famous product made from maple trees is the sweet maple syrup made from the tree’s sap. Although you can make syrup from any maple tree, it’s only the sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum) that produces quality sweet syrup.
Maple is a hardwood tree that is also useful for making baseball bats and its timber is valued in the construction industry.
Tree identification: Maples can be woody shrubs growing about 33 ft. (10 m) tall or large majestic trees up to 150 ft. (45 m) tall. The most common identifying feature of maple trees is their lobed leaves growing opposite each other on branches.
Ash trees are medium to large size and most of them are deciduous
Ash trees (Fraxinus) are medium to large deciduous trees with a rounded crown of dark green leaves. Ash trees have lanceolate pinnate leaves that grow in groups of five, seven, or nine leaflets. Most species of mature ash trees have gray bark with a pattern that looks like a fishnet.
Most varieties of ash trees grow to between 50 and 80 ft. (15 – 24 m) tall. The medium-sized trees have a spreading round canopy up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. Most varieties of ash trees grow in USDA zones 3 to 9 in full sun.
Ash is a species of tree native to North America and it’s a common tree in parks, deciduous forests, woodlands, and residential neighborhoods.
Ash trees are a species of hardwood tree in the genus Fraxinus and family Oleaceae. This means that ash trees are related to olive trees and woody lilac bushes.
Ash tree wood is prized for its strength and flexibility. The grain in the wood is also attractive and this makes the tree valuable for furniture makers.
Tree identification: Ash trees have large, pinnately compound leaves. Ash tree leaves have narrow and slightly oval shape and they usually have five or seven leaflets. Mature ash trees have bark with ridges that form diamond shapes. Ash tree branches grow oppositely from each other.
Oak trees live in a wide range of habitats and are the national tree of many countries.
Oak trees are hardwood trees that are common in North America and Europe. There are over 90 oak species in the United States. Oaks can be trees or shrubs and are in the genus Quercus and the family Fagaceae.
Oak trees are well-known for producing wood that is extremely hard, durable, and resistant to disease. Oak wood has been prized for centuries and was used to make ships, create interior paneling, and also barrels for storing wines and spirits.
Oak trees are divided into two groups: white oaks (Quercus, subgenus leucobalanus) and red oaks (Quercus, subgenus Erythrobalanus). White oak trees have gray-colored bark and leaves with rounded lobes. Red oak trees have darker-colored bark and leaves with pointed lobes.
Oak trees are known for their acorns (also called oak nuts). Acorns have a smooth leathery shell that sits in a cup called a cupule. The acorns of white oak trees have a sweet or slightly bitter taste, however the acorns from red oak trees have a very bitter taste.
Tree identification: Most species of oak are deciduous trees and a few are evergreen. Oak trees can be identified by their lobed leaves with pointed or rounded tips. Oaks also produce acorns which are oval-shaped nuts sitting in a small cup-like structure called cupule.
Related: Types of Oak Trees and How to Identify them (Pictures)
Sycamores are large flowering deciduous trees that grow easily from seeds
Sycamore trees are large deciduous trees with a broad, rounded crown of lush green foliage. Sycamore trees have large serrated lobed leaves that look like maple leaves. These huge trees have thin, peeling reddish-brown bark. Sycamore trees can grow to huge proportions with some reaching heights of 130 ft. (40 m).
In the late autumn or winter sycamore trees have round brown seed balls hanging on their branches.
Sycamore is a species of large hardwood tree in the genus Platanus. Sycamore wood is very hard and dense and not easy to work with.
Sycamore trees are fast-growing popular shade trees in city landscapes and parks. However, their roots have a destructive effect on sidewalks and building foundations. They are one of the largest deciduous trees native to North America.
The most common sycamore tree species in North America is the Platanus occidentalis which is also called the American sycamore. Other common names for the American sycamore tree are buttonwood tree, western plane tree, American plane tree, and water beech.
Tree identification: Sycamores trees often have bark that easily flakes off, giving the trunk a reddish-brown, multicolored look. Sycamore trees have large lobed leaves that look similar to maple leaves. The leaves grow alternately on stems and have 3 to 5 lobes with toothed edges.
Cedar Trees (Cedrus)
Cedars are evergreen coniferous trees
Cedar trees are large evergreen coniferous trees that have needle-like leaves that are arranged spirally on scented woody branches. Cedar trees are native to the Mediterranean region. True cedar trees are in the plant family Pinaceae and the genus Cedrus.
Cedar trees are a type of hardwood and can grow especially tall with some of the largest species growing up to 164 ft. (50 m) high. Because of their grace and elegance, cedars are popular ornamental trees and are often cultivated as bonsai trees. Cedar trees are also popular for their aromatic wood and fragrant foliage.
There are hardwood trees native to North America that have “cedar” in their common name. But these types of cedars are in the list of false cedar trees. If you check their scientific name, many are species of junipers in the family Juniperus.
Tree identification: Cedar trees have scale leaves that grow in dark green or bluish-green spiral clusters. There could be between 15 and 45 clusters on short shoots that make up the leaves on branches.
Juniper Trees (Juniperus)
Junipers are coniferous evergreen trees that vary in size and shape
Juniper trees are often called cedars but they belong to a different genus and family. Junipers (genus Juniperus in the family Cupressaceae) are evergreen conifers trees and shrubs with needle-like or soft scaly leaves that have a pine scent and dark-blue berry-like aromatic fleshy cones.
Species of juniper trees are tall columnar evergreens that grow between 66 and 103 ft. (20 – 40 m) tall. However, junipers can also grow as low-growing, spreading shrubs growing as little as 1 ft. (0.3 m) or as tall as 5 or 6 ft. (1.5 – 1.8 m). Junipers also grow in many climates and can withstand freezing temperatures.
Some popular types of junipers in North America include the Common juniper (Juniperus communis), California juniper (Juniperus californica) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma).
Tree identification: Most species of juniper have needle-like leaves when they are immature that grow into scale leaves as the tree ages, with dark blue berry-like cones.
Further reading: Juniper Trees and Shrubs: Types, Leaves, Berries – Identification Guide.
Willows are deciduous flowering trees and shrubs that prefer very moist soil
Willow trees are easily identified by their long drooping branches covered in oval elongated leaves. The leafy woody plants in the willow family are deciduous and can be low-growing shrubs or medium-sized trees.
There are about 400 species of willow that belong to the genus Salix. Willows can be large weeping trees, dwarf trees, or low-growing creeping shrubby plants.
One of the interesting features of willow tree leaves is their color. Willow leaves can be greenish-yellow, bluish-green or have red blushing.
Wood from willow trees tends to be soft and flexible and the branches are often used for making wicker baskets.
Tree identification: Willow leaves are simple and elongated with serrated edges. Willows are usually last to drop their leaves in fall.
Pine is an evergreen coniferous that is fast growing and long lived tree
Pine trees are often used as ornamental trees and are a softwood type of conifer. Evergreen trees in the genus Pinus are probably the most recognizable type of coniferous tree.
Pine trees produce hard cones and their leaves are clusters of needle leaves. Pine trees grow tall and straight with some of the largest species reaching heights of 268 ft. (81 m). Because of their fast growth, pine wood is important in the construction and furniture industries.
Most types of pine trees have reddish-brown or gray bark and there is also a species called the Red pine.
Tree identification: Their tall straight trunks and needle like leaves that grow near the top of the tree make these evergreens easy to identify.
Hickory are deciduous trees and include about 18 species
Hickory trees are deciduous trees in the genus Carya that are common in North America, China, and India. Hickory trees are well-known for their edible nuts.
There are 18 species of hickory trees, 12 of which are native to North America. The most common types of hickory trees are shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and shellbark hickory (also called kingnut or Carya laciniosa).
Pecan trees are also a type of hickory tree as they are in the Carya genus and their botanical name is Carya illinoinensis. Pecan tree bark is interesting because the bark splits and peels as the tree grows.
Hickory trees are related to walnut trees because they are in walnut family (Juglandaceae). Hickory is a type of hardwood that is used for making sports equipment such as bats and sticks, as well as being used for smoking cured meats.
Tree identification: Hickory trees can be identified by their large green leaves that have a pointed tip at the end and they grow alternately on the stems. Hickory produces edible nuts that are in a “double” shell.
Blooming Redbud tree
Redbud trees are small flowering trees that are famous for their beautiful pink or white spring flowers. Redbud trees have heart shaped leaves and their seedpods have dark brown color. Redbuds are deciduous trees that have green leaves in the summer that then become yellow, orange or red during autumn. Redbud trees belong to the plant family Fabaceae and the genus Cercis.
One of the most common redbud trees is the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). The Eastern redbud tree is named for where it commonly grows, which is in eastern North America.
Some of the names of redbud tree varieties to plant in your yard are: Ruby Falls redbud, Forest Pansy redbud, and Ace of Hearts redbud.
Tree Identification: Redbud trees can be identified by their pink flowers and heart-shaped leaves. Many cultivars in the redbud species Cercis canadensis have different flower colors and tree size. Redbud trees can have light pink, white, or dark pink flowers.
There are many species of mahogany tree but “true” ones are in the genus Swietenia
Mahogany is a type of redwood tree that is famed for its hardness and straight grains. Genuine mahogany trees are 3 species in the genus Swietenia and are native to North and South America. Other types of mahogany tree in the family Meliaceae grow in Asia, Africa, and New Zealand.
Mahogany wood is highly rated for its reddish-brown color and durability. Mahogany also is rot-resistant and has tonal properties making it the perfect type of wood for constructing musical instruments.
Tree identification: Rich brown-red colored wood that gets darker with age. Mahogany tree leaves have oval shape and they grow opposite each other on the stem.
The tropical teak is large deciduous tree and is known for its high quality
Teak are massive deciduous trees that are species of trees in the genus Tectona. Some species of teak tree can grow up to 131 ft. (40 m) tall and their branches produce thin, papery leaves.
Teak is a type of hardwood that is popular with furniture makers and boat builders is teak. The reason why teak wood is widely used is that it is very weather resistant. Often, outdoor furniture, window frames, flooring, and boat decks are constructed from teak trees.
Tree identification: Teak tree leaves are large and ovate with a smooth surface and edges.
Black walnut tree is has a commercial importance for lumber and walnuts production
Walnut trees are best well-known for their delicious and healthy edible nuts. Walnuts are deciduous trees are in the genus Juglans and the family Juglandaceae. Walnut trees also tend to be large, massive trees that grow to between 33 and 131 ft. (10 – 40 m) tall. They also have a large spread.
The most important species of walnut tree for nut production is the Juglans regia, or black walnut. This species of walnut is an important source of hardwood timber.
Walnut trees generally have rough bark with deep fissures. The ridges in their bark run vertically up and down the trunk. The color of the walnut bark can be light gray to dark brown.
Tree identification: Walnut tree leaves are alternate and are comprised of leaflets that grow opposite each other.
Apple tree is a very popular and common type of fruit tree that is cultivated worldwide and has a beautiful blossom
Apple trees are a genus of large trees in the family Rosaceae that produce beautiful flowers and a crop of apples.
Apple trees grow in most countries in the world and the most common species is the Malus domestica tree. It is reckoned that apple trees are the oldest cultivated tree in history. It is estimated that there are over 7,500 different kinds of apple trees.
Apple trees can grow to 40 ft. (12 m) tall and have a spread of the same size. There are plenty of dwarf apple tree cultivars for gardens that may just grow 3 – 6 ft. (1 – 2 m) high.
Tree identification: Apple tree leaves are alternate and simple and their shape is egg-shaped. Many types of apple trees have ovate leaves that come to a point.
Crabapple Purple Prince (Malus ‘Purple Prince’)
Crabapple trees (botanical name Malus) are like miniature apple trees (Malus domestica). The smallest crabapple trees can be small shrub-like bushes around 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall. Larger crabapples can grow to between 20 and 30 ft. (6 – 9 m).
Crabapple trees are stunning ornamental flowering trees. Crabapple flowers come in spectacular shades of pink, white, purple, orange, and red. Additionally, crabapple trees produce small tart fruits called crabapples.
Crabapple fruits are generally up to 2” (5 cm) in diameter and can be yellow, amber, orange, red or purple. The taste of crabapples ranges from sweet to very sour and bitter, and they are made into jellies, sauces, pickled crabapples, and jams.
Further reading: Crabapple Trees (Malus): Types, Flowers, Fruits.
Ornamental Flowering Pear Trees
Ornamental pear trees flower with beautiful white flowers every spring. In the picture: Bradford ornamental pear tree in bloom
Ornamental pear trees (Pyrus calleryanaare) are deciduous flowering trees with shiny green leaves, cup-shaped white flowers, and beautiful fall colors. Most varieties of Pyrus calleryana have a pyramidal, upward growth shape. Ornamental pear trees grow between 32 and 40 ft. (10 – 12 m) tall and around 22 to 30 ft. (7 – 9 m) wide.
Although all flowering pear trees—including Pyrus calleryana—actually produce fruit, the tiny pears on ornamental pear trees are too insignificant to be useful. The pears are exceedingly small, measuring only about half an inch (1 cm). Pyrus calleryana fruit also tastes bitter, and, for most people, the small pears are inedible.
Ornamental pear varieties are heat and drought-tolerant and are resistant to many fruit tree diseases. These facts make ornamental pear trees popular for front and backyards. Ornamental flowering pear trees grow in USDA zones 5 through 9.
Further reading: Types of Ornamental Flowering Pear Trees – Fruitless Pear Trees.
Cherry trees have many cultivars that include edible fruit trees, ornamental flowering trees, weeping and dwarf trees
Cherry trees (Prunus) are spectacular deciduous flowering trees that bloom in spring. There are hundreds of varieties of cherry trees – Species of cherry trees are categorized by their fruit or blossoms.
There are sweet cherries (Prunus avium), sour cherries (Prunus cerasus), and ornamental cherry blossom trees, such as Japanese cherry blossom tree (Prunus serrulata) and Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis). Typically, fruit from cherry blossom trees is too small and sour to eat—although they are a favorite of many birds.
If you have a small garden or a compact space, you can choose dwarf cherry blossom trees. Typically growing in USDA zones 5 through 8, you can easily grow a stunning dwarf cherry blossom tree in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil.
There are also weeping cherry trees, such as weeping Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’) and dwarf weeping cherry tree varieties, such as Prunus jacquemontii ‘Hiromi’ that grows between 3 and 6 ft. (1 – 2 m).
Cherry trees have beautiful whitish-pink blossoms in spring between mid-March and mid-April covering bare branches. Cherry trees have glossy green oval leaves with pointed tips and serrated edges.
Cherry trees grow in USDA zones 5 through 9. However, some cold-hardy cherry trees can withstand temperatures in zone 4.
Further reading: Types of Cherry Trees with Their Leaves and Flowers – Identification Guide.
Most hawthorn trees grow between 5–15 m (16–49 ft.) tall and have edible berry-like fruit
The botanical name for hawthorn trees is Crataegus and they are in the same family (Rosaceae) as apples. Hawthorns are a type of tree or shrub that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Leaves from the hawthorn tree grow spirally on long shoots.
Because of their attractiveness, hawthorns are grown as street trees or ornamental trees and the smaller shrubs also make great hedges.
Other names for hawthorns include ‘thornapples,’ ‘hawberries,’ ‘mayhaw,’ or ‘May-tree.’
Tree identification: Hawthorn leaves come in many different shapes. Some types of hawthorn trees have leaves that are deeply lobed and look like large parsley leaves. Other hawthorn leaves look more ovate due to having shallow lobes.
Elm trees can grow tall and are popular street trees
Elm trees are a common type of forest tree that are classed as deciduous or semi-deciduous. There are about 35 species of elm in the genus Ulmus. Some common species of elm include American elm (Ulmus americana), European elm (Ulmus glabra), and Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra).
Elm trees are large shade trees that can grow up to 100 ft. (30 m) tall with a wide spread of around 75 ft. (22 m). Some elm species have tall, upright growth, and other types of elm trees have an umbrella-shaped canopy.
Tree identification: Elm is a thick, dense hardwood tree and some species are especially ornamental and beautiful. Elm leaves are classed as broad-leaves that can be between 7 and 16 cm long and their ovate shape tapers to a point. Elm bark is a dark grayish-brown color with deep furrows and a scaly appearance. Elm tree seeds are small and round and are protected in an oval papery casing called a samara.
Read more: Types of Elm Trees with Their Bark and Leaves – Identification Guide.
Spruce trees are slow growing and are important in the building industry
Spruce trees make up many of the types of forests in North America and are a type of coniferous evergreen tree. Spruces are classed as large trees that belong to the Picea genus. One feature of spruce trees is that they are extremely cold hardy. Some of the larger spruce species are very imposing because they can be as high as 200 ft. (60 m).
All of the 35 species of spruce trees have pine needles that radiate equally around the stems and can be prickly. The most common spruce trees in North America are the Red spruce, Black spruce, and White spruce. Spruce trees are also traditionally used as Christmas trees. Spruce trees are also one of the most important trees for the timber industry.
Tree identification: Spruce tree cones are long and cylindrical that hang down off the tree. Also, the leaves of spruce trees are rows of green, bluish-green, or silver-green needles.
Types of Fir Trees
Fir trees are large evergreen conifer trees that are mainly found in forests in North America, Europe, and Asia. They have needle-like leaves that stay green all year long. Some species of fir tree such as the Fraser fir, balsam fir, and noble fir are popular types of Christmas trees.
The easiest way to identify fir trees is by looking at their needles and cones. The needles of fir trees tend to be softer than pine or spruce. Unlike the clusters of pine needles on a branch, fir tree needles attach individually to the branches and not in clusters. Also fir cones tend to grow straight upward from the branches.
The bark of young fir trees is usually smooth and gray. As the tree matures the bark becomes ridged.
Read more: Types of Fir Trees – Identification.
Cones and foliage of Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Hemlock trees (botanical name Tsuga) are a species of large evergreen coniferous trees native to North America that belong to the pine family.
Native hemlock trees generally grow between 30 and 230 ft. (10 – 70 m) tall. However there are dwarf cultivars of the popular Eastern hemlock or Canadian hemlock that are beautiful landscaping trees to suit small gardens.
Hemlock trees are identified by their conical shape, flat, aromatic needle-like leaves, oval or cylindrical seed-bearing cones, and reddish-brown bark. Hemlock needles are recognizable by their flat appearance and blunt, rounded tips, with a smooth, shiny dark green upper side and parallel white stripes on the underside.
Hemlocks are cold-hardy evergreens that grow in USDA zones 3 to 7. They perform well in damp soils and can be found growing in wetlands.
Further reading: Hemlock Trees (Tsuga): Canadian, Western, Leaves, Bark – Identification.
Flowers of black locust tree
Locust trees are fast-growing flowering trees that grow to between 66 and 98 ft. (20 – 30 m) and belong to a family of flowering plants called Fabaceae. Most types of locust trees grow in the eastern states of North America.
The most common types of locust trees are the black locust and honey locust tree. Locust trees have fragrant sweet spring flowers and colorful fall foliage. Many varieties of locust trees have long sharp thorns and there are a few thornless species.
Locust trees are hardy trees that are known for their hard and durable wood that is used for making furniture, fence posts, flooring, and small boats.
Identifying species of locust trees can be done by features such as their flowers, color of bark, height of the tree, the thorns, as well as by the shape and color of its seed pods.
Read more: Types of Locust Trees with Identification Guide and Pictures.
Cottonwood trees are species of poplar trees belonging to the genus Populus
Cottonwood trees are huge deciduous forest trees that have large green leaves, thick foliage and deeply fissured grayish-brown bark. One of the common features of all types of cottonwood trees is the fluffy cotton-like strands that appear in early summer .These large trees can grow to between 50 and 80 ft. (15 – 24 m) and some species can grow even higher.
Cottonwood trees are common in North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia. Cottonwood trees are popular because they are fast-growing, their timber is cheap, and they thrive in wetlands and arid environments.
For many people, the fluff from cottonwood trees is a nuisance and can cause allergic reactions. However only the female species of cottonwood trees produce the white fluff for which the tree is known.
Read more: Cottonwood Trees: Facts, Identification, Pictures and More.
Poplar Trees (Populus)
White poplar tree (Populus alba)
Poplar (Populus) trees are large deciduous trees with rounded to triangular leaves, attractive grayish bark, and small clusters of drooping flowers.
Many poplar trees are identified by their bark’s color— white, gray, or black— and triangular, ovate leaves. The white poplar is the most common poplar tree and has white bark and white and green leaves that seem to ‘twinkle’ in gentle breezes.
Apart from the common white poplar tree (Populus alba), other types of poplars include the black poplar (Populus nigra) and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera).
Many poplar species are large ornamental trees with wide canopies, making for excellent shade trees. Native poplar trees are easy to grow and have a relatively short lifespan. These fast-growing trees are good choices for planting in wet, moist ground where there is plenty of space.
Poplar trees range in height and grow in USDA zones 3 through 9.
Further reading: Poplar Trees: Types, Bark, Leaves – Identification.
Arborvitae Trees (Thuja Trees)
American arborvitae (Thuja Occidentalis) makes great privacy tree or hedge
Arborvitaes (Thuja) are evergreen conifers with soft, lush feathery foliage. Different types of arborvitaes grow as upright columnar trees, small conical trees, or globe-shaped shrubs. Arborvitae trees and shrubs are ideal for natural privacy screens, wide hedges, living fences, or specimen trees.
The American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) and Giant arborvitae (Thuja plicata) are native to North America, where they are popular garden landscaping plants. American and giant arborvitaes can grow to a height of 49 ft. (15 m) tall, however small cultivars have develop to suit smaller spaces.
The ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is one of the most popular landscaping trees in the Thuja species. Also called ‘Smaragd,’ this upright columnar arborvitae has compact growth and reaches up to 14 ft. (4 m) tall.
Read more: Varieties of Arborvitae Hedges, Trees, and Shrubs.
Cypress Trees (Cupressus)
Mediterranean Cypress / Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) trees, foliage and cones
There are various trees with the common name cypress, however not all of them are true cypress tress.
True cypress trees belong to the coniferous plant genus Cupressus. Cypress trees have soft, feathery evergreen foliage and produce cones that look like large acorns. Cypress trees such as the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and the Mediterranean Cypress / Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) are true cypress trees.
False cypress trees are evergreen and deciduous coniferous trees that also have the common name cypress. However, they are not from the cypress genus Cupressus. The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens) are examples of false cypresses. The Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) are other false cypress varieties.
Read more: True and False Types of Cypress Trees.
Lemon eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus citriodora / Corymbia citriodora)
Eucalyptus trees have evergreen aromatic leaves and attractive smooth peeling bark. The unusual eucalyptus flowers have a fuzzy look and can be white, cream, yellow, pink, or bright red colors.
Eucalyptus plants are flowering trees and shrubs with over 700 species. Some species of eucalyptus trees can grow as tall as 330 ft. (100 m). Eucalyptus shrubs—known as mallees—grow up to 33 ft. (10 m) tall.
Some types of Eucalyptus trees are called gum trees, and fruit from eucalyptus plants are called gumnuts. Eucalyptus plants are native to Australia but also grow in tropical and temperate climates throughout the world.
Further reading: Types of Eucalyptus Trees: Leaves, Flowers, Bark.
Dogwood Trees (Cornus)
Flowering dogwoods are small to medium size trees. They add decorative touch to any garden
Dogwoods are beautiful flowering deciduous trees belonging to the genus Cornus with distinctive flowers, berries, bark, and leaves. Dogwood flowers bloom in spring and are typically white, but some species produce yellow, pale red or pink blossoms.
Dogwood trees are small to medium-sized trees, growing between 10 and 25 ft. (3 – 7.6 m) tall. Most species of dogwood are fast-growing ornamental trees that are ideal for garden landscapes. Some types of dogwoods look like shrubs as they are small shrubby multi-stemmed plants.
To grow dogwood trees, plant them in partial shade or full sun. Dogwoods flower every spring and require well-draining soil that is always moist. After the small trees are established, you only need to water them regularly on hot summer days.
Further reading: Flowering Dogwood Trees and Shrubs: Types, Leaves, Bark – Identification.
Crape Myrtle Trees (Lagerstroemia)
Large and small crape myrtle trees grow best as specimen trees and add a focal point to a landscaped garden
The ornamental crape myrtles belong to the Lagerstroemia genus of flowering trees and shrubs that thrive in warm climates. Popular in garden landscapes, crape myrtle trees produce masses of red, pink, purple, and white flowers throughout the summer.
Crape myrtle shrub-like trees have deciduous or evergreen foliage, colorful peeling bark, multiple stems, and bushy growth. Most species of crape myrtle trees thrive in USDA zones 7 through 10.
Dwarf crape myrtle trees are large shrubs that are perfect for compact gardens. Typically, dwarf myrtle trees grow between 6 and 10 ft. (1.8 – 3 m) tall, such as the ‘Acoma’ crape myrtle that is a multi-stemmed shrub-like tree with masses of white flowers and a rounded spreading crown. Other crape myrtle trees grow between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m).
Further reading: Crape Myrtles: Trees, Dwarf Plants and Shrubs.
Mesquite Trees (Prosopis)
Honey Mesquite Tree (Prosopis glandulosa)
Mesquite is the name for several large deciduous shrub-like trees in the genus Prosopis and pea family Fabaceae. Mesquite shrubs and trees can be a few feet tall or grow up to 50 ft. (15 m). From the 40 species of mesquite, around seven are native to Texas, California, and Northern Mexico.
Mesquite trees are short and thorny with feathery leaves, white or yellow flowers, and seed pods containing peas. The most common types of mesquite trees are the honey mesquite tree (Prosopis glandulosa), velvet mesquite tree (Prosopis velutina), and screwbean mesquite tree (Prosopis pubescens).
Mesquite trees thrive in USDA zones 7 through 11 in full sun and well-draining soil. You can find mesquite trees growing in deserts, grasslands, along streams, and on hillsides. Because of their fast growth and extensive root system, mesquite plants are considered invasive in some areas.
Further reading: Mesquite Trees: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Bark – Identification Guide.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Magnolia is a genus of large flowering shrubs or trees in the family Magnoliaceae. Magnolia grows as a multi-stemmed shrub or a single trunk tree. The beautiful landscape tree is characterized by its fragrant pink, purple, yellow, or white flowers, glossy leathery leaves, and cone-like fruits.
Magnolias can be deciduous or evergreen depending on their growing zone. There are some 125 species of magnolia suitable for growing in most zones. There are 8 species of magnolia native to the United States.
The most popular magnolia types are the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), and Saucer magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana).
Most varieties of magnolia thrive in full sun or partial shade. Magnolia trees and shrubs adapt to various soil types and grow well as long as the soil is well-draining.
Further reading: Types of Magnolia Trees and Shrubs with Their Flowers and Leaves – Identification Guide.
Buckeye Trees (Aesculus)
Buckeyes are deciduous ornamental trees that are popular in parks and open spaces
Buckeye is a variety of ornamental deciduous trees in the genus Aesculus and family Sapindaceae that is related to the horse chestnut tree. There are four main varieties of buckeye trees. Common varieties of buckeyes are the Ohio buckeye, the California buckeye, and the yellow buckeye.
Buckeye trees grow between 12 and 40 ft. (3.5 – 12 m) tall. You can find buckeyes growing in the deciduous forests and grasslands in the Midwest. They are also popular trees in parks and open spaces in states along the East Coast and the Southern states. Ohio buckeyes are found all the way from New York to Kentucky and down to Texas.
Buckeye trees are identified by their large round inedible nut-like seeds that look like the eye of a buck, green palmately compound leaves, and creamy-yellow or red flower clusters.
Further reading: Types of Buckeye Trees with Their Flowers and Leaves – Identification Guide.
Vitex Trees (Chaste Trees)
Vitex is a woody plant that can grow as a shrub (left) or as a multi-stemmed shrubby tree (right)
Vitex tree (also named chaste tree) is a large type of multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with attractive spikes of lavender-colored flowers that bloom in summer. Although referred to as the vitex tree or chaste tree, the vitex plant generally grows as a sizeable bushy shrub. But in warmer climates, vitex can grow as a small multi-trunked tree.
Chaste trees (Vitex agnus-castus) have many characteristics that make them desirable garden shrubs/trees. Apart from the clusters of small violet flowers, these plants have aromatic grayish-green, lanceolate leaves. The large deciduous shrubs/trees have a vase-shaped growth that spreads upward and outward.
Vitex trees grow best in USDA zones 7 through 9. In warmer climates, the large shrub can grow up to 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall and, as a tree, up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall. In zones 5 and 6, the shrubby plant experiences winter die-back. However, frost rarely affects the roots, and vitex bushes come back to life the following spring.
Further reading: Vitex Trees (Chaste Trees): Types, Flowers, Leaves, Care.
Larch Trees (Larix)
American Larch (Larix laricina) is a popular type of larch and is native to Canada and the northeastern states of the US
Larch is a species of deciduous, coniferous tree in the genus Larix and pine family Pinaceae. There are between ten and twelve species of larch trees. The two most popular species of larch are the American Larch (Larix laricina)—also called tamarack—and the Western Larch (Larix occidentalis).
Larch trees are identified by their pyramidal growth, typical of most conifer species. However, unlike most conifers, larch trees turn golden yellow in the fall before dropping their leaves (needles). Larches are one of the few conifer trees to have bare branches with no foliage in winter.
Larch tree leaves are soft, flat needle-shaped leaves characteristic of many pine trees. Like all true conifers, larch is a cone-producing tree with male and female cones growing on the same tree.
Larches are also tolerant of freezing temperatures, and they thrive growing in zones 2 through 5.
Further reading: Larch Trees: Types, Leaves, Cones, Flowers – Identification Guide.
Alder Trees (Alnus)
Alders are large deciduous trees that grow well in wet areas
Alder (Alnus) is a genus of flowering deciduous trees in the family Betulaceae. There are about 35 alder species, comprising of large trees and smaller shrub-like trees.
Alder trees are known for their drooping flower clusters and brown woody cones called strobiles. The alder cones develop from catkins (conical flower clusters) and stay on the tree throughout the winter, giving the bare branches a distinguishable look.
It’s easy to identify alders in landscapes due to their vast, rounded crown, serrated green leaves, and brown conifer-like cones.
Several species of alder trees are native to North America and Europe, with the Red Alder (Alnus rubra) and Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa) being the two most common.
Alders thrive in marshy, damp ground. Most alder species thrive in USDA zones 5 through 8; however, some individual species may be more or less cold-hardy.
Further reading: Alder Trees: Leaves, Bark, Flowers, Cones – Identification.
Sweetgum Trees (Liquidambar)
The American sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) is also called gumball tree
Sweetgums are ornamental flowering deciduous trees in the genus Liquidambar and the family Altingiaceae. You can find sweetgums growing in eastern North America from Connecticut to Florida and as far west as Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
There are 15 species of sweetgum trees that reach a mature height between 32 and 130 ft. (10 – 40 m). Sweetgum trees get their name from the sweet, sticky, resinous substance the oozes from the cut trunk.
Identifying features of sweetgum trees are large lobed leaves that can be orange, red, yellow, or purple colors in the fall, small globular flowers, and seed-containing spiky gumballs measuring up to 2” (5 cm) across.
The most popular sweetgum tree is the American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) which is also called gumball tree and is a beautiful shade or lawn landscaping tree.
Further reading: Sweetgum Trees (Gumball Tree, Liquidambar): Types, Leaves – Identification Guide.
Linden Trees (Tilia)
The flowering deciduous linden trees are typically large and suitable for landscaping spacious areas
Linden trees (genus Tilia and the family Malvaceae) are large deciduous shade trees with large heart-shaped broadleaves and clusters of fragrant yellowish-white flowers. In the fall, linden tree leaves turn a spectacular bright yellow color.
There are around 30 species of linden trees and shrubs that typically grow to between 65 and 130 ft. (20 – 40 m) tall and 50 ft. (15 m) wide.
Linden tree identification is by their thick furrowed trunks, rounded crown, dense leafy foliage, and pyramidal growth habit.
European linden trees are also called lime trees, and North American lindens are called basswood trees. They thrives in full sun to partial shade and moist soil with excellent drainage.
Further reading: Linden Trees: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Bark – Identification.
American Basswood trees (American Linden) thrive in USDA zones 3 – 8, but they may also grow in sheltered areas of zone 2
The main linden tree species in North America is the American basswood (Tilia americana) which is also named American linden.
American basswood is a large, fast-growing deciduous tree with fragrant yellowish-white flowers, large heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges and pointed tip, and a domed crown. In fall, the leaves of deciduous basswood trees turn pale yellow to yellowish-green.
After blooming, the flowers of basswood tree develop into basswood fruit. The small round nut-like balls measure up to 0.4” (1 cm) in diameter and dangle from long narrow leaf-like bracts.
The American basswood tree is a popular ornamental shade tree due to its dense foliage and spreading canopy. Popular American basswood cultivars include Carolina basswood, Redmond basswood and white basswood.
The American basswood tree is the only native North American species in the genus Tilia and is often found growing in eastern and central North America. Other tree species in the genus Tilia are known as linden trees.
Further reading: American Basswood Trees (American Linden): Types, Leaves, Flowers – Identification.
Aspen Trees (Populus)
Quaking Aspen Tree (Populus tremuloides) is the main species of aspen growing in North America
Aspen trees are flowering medium-sized deciduous trees belonging to the genus Populus. Aspens are characterized by their straight, slender trunks with gray-white bark, round leaves with toothed margins, and clusters of dangling flower spikes called catkins.
The quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata) are the most common aspen trees in North America. You can find aspens growing as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico.
Aspen trees have a unique spreading root system that produces new clone trees. You will often find smaller aspen trees growing alongside large, mature aspens as the tree suckers sprout up from roots.
Aspen trees typically grow among coniferous trees in North America. Aspen trees are cold-hardy trees that thrive in USDA zones 2 through 8.
Further reading: Aspen Trees: Types, Leaves, Flowers – Identification.
Acacia trees and shrubs can be of varying sizes and are tolerant of dry, arid conditions
Acacia thorny trees and shrubs are an evergreen plant species with unique fern-like leaves and showy clusters of fragrant yellow or white fuzzy flowers. Acacia fruit looks like peapods that can be straight, coiled, or twisted. The pods grow in clusters on acacia trees and can be green, brown, or black.
Many species of Acacia are native to Australia, and some are native to Africa. In North America, acacias grow in warm states such as Texas, Arizona, and California.
Also called wattles, acacia trees grow best in full sun and well-draining, loamy, or sandy soil. The drought-tolerant plant hardly needs any water after it’s established in the landscape. It’s a trouble-free, low-maintenance evergreen tree that don’t require much care.
Acacia trees are fast-growing and relatively short-lived trees that grow between 20 and 30 years.
Species of trees and shrubs in the genus Acacia thrive in USDA growing zones 9 through 11.
Further reading: Acacia Trees: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Thorns – Identification.
Beech Trees (Fagus)
American Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia)
Beech trees (botanical name Fagus) are tall deciduous shade trees with green ovate leaves with finely toothed margins, creating a dense, rounded crown. In the fall, beech tree foliage turns from green to beautiful autumn shades of orange, yellow, and golden brown.
All varieties of beech trees produce small clusters of yellow-green flowers (catkins), followed by beech tree unique looking fruit or beechnuts. The fruit (nuts) from beech trees are triangular in appearance and are contained in spiky husks called cupules.
The most common types of beech trees are the American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) and the European beech tree (Fagus sylvatica).
Beech trees are easy-care, versatile trees that thrive in various conditions. Native to temperate climates in North America and Europe, beech trees grow in rich, fertile soil with excellent drainage.
Further reading: Beech Trees: Types, Leaves, Bark — Identification Guide.
Catalpa tree is identified by its long and slender seed pods
Catalpa trees are flowering deciduous ornamental shade trees with large, heart-shaped or triangular leaves, white or yellow fragrant flowers, and long, slender dangling seed pods appearing in fall and persisting until winter or even spring. The unusual masses of long seed pods on catalpa trees look green and gradually turn dark brown.
Two species — the northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) and southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) — are native to North America. The other common type of catalpa tree is the Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata), which is native to China.
Catalpa trees are typically fast-growing trees that grow best in full sun and are adaptable to growing in various soil types.
Further reading: Catalpa Tree: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Seed Pods.
Serviceberry Trees (Amelanchier)
Autumn Brilliance Apple Serviceberry Tree (Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’)
Serviceberry is a group of small deciduous fruit trees or multi-stemmed shrubs with beautiful white flowers that bloom in early spring. Serviceberry trees and shrubs are identified by their long oval leaves with finely serrated edges, clusters of showy white 5-petalled flowers, smooth gray bark, and small round edible purple pome fruits. Serviceberry trees are excellent garden landscaping plants because they have a visual appeal in all four seasons.
There are 20 species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the genus Amelanchier and rose family Rosaceae. Serviceberries are native to North America and grow widely throughout the United States and Canada.
Serviceberry trees thrive in full sun to partial shade in USDA zones 4 to 9. They grow between 10 and 25 ft. (3 – 7.5 m) tall and up to 20 ft. (6 m) wide. Because serviceberry is a multi-stemmed tree that sends up suckers, if you to grow it as a tree, it’s vital to remove suckers to prevent it from developing into a bushy shrub.
Further reading: Serviceberry: Trees, Shrubs, Leaves, Flowers – Identification.
Tulip trees (Liriodendron)
Tulip tree flowers are not easily spotted among the green foliage
Tulip trees are flowering deciduous trees in the genus Liriodendron and magnolia family Magnoliaceae. The two species of tulip trees are the American tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and the Chinese tulip poplar (Liriodendron chinense).
Also called the tulip poplar or tuliptree, these impressive trees are easy to identify in landscapes with their straight trunk, oval or pyramidal canopy, yellow-green flowers, and beautiful golden yellow fall colors. The cup-shaped or trumpet-like flowers appear in late spring and complement the bright green, unusually shaped leaves. Being a type of deciduous tree, the tulip poplars lose their leaves in the fall when the foliage turns golden yellow.
Tulip trees thrive in USDA zones 4 to 9. They grow between 60 and 160 ft. (18 – 50 m) tall and have a pyramidal crown measuring 30 to 50 ft. (9 – 15 m) wide in their native habitat. Tulip trees are relatively fast-growing but grow for between 15 and 20 years before the trees produce flowers.
An issue with growing tulip poplars in garden landscapes is that they can be messy. Apart from their enormous size, the flower petals and autumn leaves can litter the ground. Additionally, the trees secrete a sticky sap that sticks to cars, paths, and driveways.
Further reading: Tulip Trees (Tulip Poplar): Leaves, Flowers, Bark – Identification.
Sumac Trees (Rhus)
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
Sumac (genus Rhus) is a group of flowering small trees and shrubs. Sumacs are identified by their fern-like pinnate leaves, conical clusters (panicles) of white or green flowers, and fuzzy red berries. In the fall, sumac trees and shrubs turn brilliant autumn shades of red, orange, or purple.
There are around 150 species of sumac, with 14 being native to the US. Sumac trees and shrubs grow in most soil types and are often seen growing in dry and poor soil.
Native North American sumac trees grow in USDA zones 3 through 9. Trees and shrubs in the genus Rhus grow between 3 and 33 ft. (1 – 10 m).
Sumac trees such as the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) produce edible red berry-like drupes. Most species of sumac are deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall. The native tobacco sumac (Rhus virens) is an evergreen variety with glossy green, leathery leaves.
A characteristic of sumacs is their suckering growth habit. This feature means that sumacs can grow as multi-stemmed shrubs if you don’t remove the suckers.
Further reading: Sumac Trees: Types, Leaves, Berries – Identification Guide.
Hackberry Tree (Celtis)
Common Hackberry Tree (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry (Celtis) is a group of medium-sized, deciduous trees with long ovately-shaped leaves, clusters of small fuzzy spring flowers, and small purple fruits. Low-maintenance hackberry trees are hardy trees that withstand many conditions, including drought, wet soil, strong winds, and air pollution.
The common hackberry tree (Celtis occidentalis) grows 40 to 60 ft. (12 – 18 m) high and wide. The attractive landscape tree has a pyramidal crown when immature. As the tree grows, the tree develops an open, spreading canopy of arching zigzag branches.
Hackberry bark is its most recognizable feature. The smooth light brown or grayish bark has characteristic wart-like growths, ridges, and a corky texture giving the tree’s bark a distinctive pattern.
The common hackberry is native to many states in the Midwest and Eastern areas of North America. In addition, some species of hackberry, like the sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), are common in Texas and other warm states in the south.
Most hackberry trees thrive in USDA zones 2 to 9. The sugarberry—or southern hackberry—grows best in zones 5 to 10.
Further reading: Hackberry Trees (Celtis): Common Types, Leaves, Bark, Fruit – Identification.
Mulberry Trees (Morus)
Old mulberry tree
Mulberry trees (botanical name Morus) are popular deciduous trees that produce delicious edible white, red, or black berry-like fruits. Commonly called mulberries, the medium-sized, berry-producing trees have attractive heart-shaped leaves, spikes of tiny white flowers (catkins), and thick grayish-brown bark.
The common species of mulberry trees are red mulberry (Morus rubra), white mulberry (Morus alba), and black mulberry (Morus nigra). They thrive in USDA zones 4 through 9, full to partial sun, and well-drained soils. In addition, the mulberry tree is relatively resistant to pests and disease.
The mature size of mulberry tree depends on the species. White mulberry is the tallest at 80 ft. (24 m), and the common red mulberry grows up to 70 ft. (21 m). The black mulberry is the smallest species, with a height of around 30 ft. (9 m).
Additionally, there are many mulberry cultivars, such as the weeping mulberry tree (Morus alba ‘Pendula’), fruitless mulberry tree, and dwarf mulberry tree which is ideal for containers, and grows 2 to 6 ft. (0.6 – 1.8 m) tall.
Further reading: Mulberry Trees: White, Red, Black with Flowers and Leaves.
Mimosa Trees (Albizia Julibrissin)
Mimosa tree flowers and leaves
The mimosa tree (slso called the Persian silk tree) is a fast-growing ornamental tree with silky pink pompom-like fluffy flowers, fern-like leaves, and brown flat, bean-like seed pods. The mimosa tree is a deciduous, medium-sized tree in the genus Albizia and legume family Fabaceae. A full-grown mimosa tree can measure between 10 and 50 ft. (3 – 15 m) and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide.
Mimosa trees are native to Asia and thrive in warm climates in USDA zones 6 through 10. These trees have a rapid growth rate, growing around 3 ft. (1 m) per year and can be invasive. However, they are short-lived trees. Their average lifespan is only 30 years. Additionally, the trunk and branches are weak and brittle and easily break in strong winds.
Mimosa trees grow well in containers and are excellent patio, deck, or balcony plants. Keeping them in a large container and pruning will limit their height.
The Chocolate mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’) is not as invasive as other varieties. It is a small deciduous tree with chocolate-burgundy foliage that grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and up to 20 ft. (6 m) wide.
Further reading: Mimosa Trees (Albizia Julibrissin): Facts, Flowers, Leaves.
Yew Trees (Taxus)
Yew trees, which have dense evergreen foliage, love pruning and are a great as privacy hedge or topiary
Yew (botanical name Taxus) is a genus of slow-growing coniferous evergreen trees and shrubs. Yews are typically long-lived trees that can live for hundreds or even thousands of years. Ornamental yew trees grow between 35 and 65 ft. (10 – 20 m) tall and up to 20 ft. (6 m) wide.
Yews are cold-hardy evergreen trees that thrive in USDA zones 3 to 7. Yews can grow in temperatures as low as -13°F (-25°C); however, the shade-loving trees don’t perform well in prolonged hot temperatures.
Yews are identified by their thin, scaly brown bark, tiny single-seed cones, red fruits, and linear flat leaves. The English yew (Taxus baccata) is the most common species. But Irish yew, Western yew, and Japanese yew are also ornamental conifer trees.
If you want to plant a yew tree as a tall hedging plant, it is best to choose a shaded spot because the evergreen trees grow well in partial sun or deep shade. Ensure that the ground is well-draining and protect yew trees from heat, drought, and full sun for more than six hours a day.
Further reading: Yew Trees: Types, Berries, Leaves – Identification.
Sassafras is a group of deciduous trees with three species of sassafras native to North America and Asia—Sassafras albidum, Sassafras randaiense, and Sassafras tzumu. The common Sassafras albidum matures at 30 to 60 ft. (9 – 18 m) tall and 25 to 40 ft. (7.6 – 12 m) wide.
However, the shrub-like tree also has suckering tendencies and can quickly become a large multi-stemmed shrub. In open woodlands, it’s not unusual to see colonies of sassafras that are all connected to the same parent tree.
Sassafras trees thrive in USDA zones 4 to 9. The trees are commonly found on the east coast of the United States. Sassafras trees grow best in full sun to partial shade. In garden landscapes, sassafras trees thrive in well-drained, acidic soil. In ideal conditions, sassafras trees are fast-growing trees that grow between 12” and 24” (30 – 60 cm) a year.
Recognizable features of sassafras trees are unusually lobed leaves, clusters of golden-yellow flowers, and dark blue berry-like drupes. Sassafras trees are also highly aromatic trees. In fall, when the foliage turns spectacular orange, scarlet, yellow, and purple colors, the leaves give off a strong fragrance. In the spring, the blossoms smell of root beer. Sassafras trees are relatively fast-growing trees that grow between 12” and 24” (30 – 60 cm) a year.
Further reading: Sassafras Tree: Leaves, Flowers, Bark – Identification Guide.
Chokecherry Tree (Prunus virginiana)
You can remove suckers around the central trunk to grow a single-stemmed chokecherry tree
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a small deciduous tree or multi-stemmed shrub that sends up suckers. Typically, a chokecherry trees grows between 3 and 20 ft. (1 – 6 m) tall and up to 20 ft. (6 m) wide. However, it’s not unusual for some chokecherry trees to reach 30 ft. (9 m) tall.
The fruit-bearing trees or shrubs are common throughout the northern states of the US and Canada. Chokecherry trees are known for their tart, bitter, berry-like drupes and are used to make jams and jellies. The tart flesh of Chokecherry fruit is edible, however don’t eat the seeds that contain toxins.
Identifiable features of chokecherry plants are relatively smooth gray bark, glossy green egg-shaped leaves, white spring flowers, and dark red or black summer fruits.
As a cold-hardy shrub or tree, the chokecherry thrives in USDA zones 2 through 10. The attractive flowering plant grows best in full sun or part shade, and when established, chokecherry is tolerant of drought.
Further reading: Chokecherry Tree: Leaves, Chokecherries, Flowers – Identification.
Plumeria Tree (Frangipani)
Plumeria is a group of small flowering trees or shrubs and is famous for highly scented, exotic, showy flowers. Plumeria flowers are shaped like a star and come in shades of white, yellow, pink, red, and multi-colors.
Plumeria trees are also called frangipani. The tropical trees are classed as deciduous or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs. However, there are a few evergreen plumeria tree species like the Plumeria obtusa and Plumeria pudica. The spectacular flowering trees thrive in USDA zones 9 through 12. They commonly grow in Florida, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, Mexico, and Central America.
Frangipani trees are moderate to fast-growing plants that can grow up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall. However, in most tropical and subtropical garden landscapes, the exotic trees reach between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall.
The only care plumeria trees require is plenty of sunlight, well-drained soil, water, and fertilizer.
Further reading: Plumeria Tree: Growing and Care Guide.
Ginkgo Biloba Tree
Ginkgo trees have a unique leaf shape that helps identify them
Ginkgo biloba tree is a slow growing spectacular deciduous ornamental tree with large fan-shaped leaves that turn a stunning buttery-yellow color in the fall. Ginkgo biloba is the only species of tree left in the genus Ginkgo and the family Ginkgoaceae.
Ginkgo trees grow 50 to 75 ft. (15 – 23 m) with a broadly spreading pyramidal crown that grows up to 60 ft. (18 m) wide. However there are many varieties and smaller cultivars.
Also called the maidenhair tree, the ginkgo tree thrives in loamy, well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade, and in growing zones 3 to 9.
Male ginkgo tree is identified by its long drooping flower-like cones that “bloom” in mid-spring. The female ginkgo tree is identified by its orangey globular fruits growing in dangling clusters. Each round fruit contains a single large seed.
The main complaint of the ginkgo tree is the offensive stink from the fruit. Also, the slimy flesh of the female ginkgo fruit is particularly messy. If you have a small, compact garden, it’s best to choose male dwarf cultivars.
Further reading: Ginkgo Tree: Identification and Growing Guide.
Holly Tree (Ilex)
American holly tree (Ilex opaca)
Holly plants belong to the genus Ilex and the family Aquifoliaceae. The various types of hollies include large trees, bushy shrubs, and dwarf cultivars.
Holly trees can grow between and 30 and 80 ft. (10 – 24 m) tall. However, holly bushes typically grow up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall and are multi-stemmed plants.
Although most species of hollies are evergreen plants, there are some deciduous hollies that drop their leaves in winter. The most common holly species are the American holly (Ilex opaca) and the English holly (Ilex aquifolium). Both these evergreen holly trees are famous for their shiny, jagged leaves and winter red berries.
Holly leaves are typically ovate or oblong, glossy green with wavy margins that are spiked, serrated, or smooth. Some of the most spectacular varieties of holly trees and bushes are variegated cultivars. The inedible berry-like fruits of holly are usually red but can be other colors, such as yellow and black.
Further reading: Holly Trees and Bushes: Identification Guide.
Chestnut Trees (Castanea)
American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata)
Chestnut trees are large deciduous trees with large, pointed leaves with coarsely toothed margins, long finger-like flower clusters (catkins), and brown edible nuts.
Chestnuts are easily identifiable due to the spiky burs growing in clusters and containing the fruit—a brown-shelled nut encasing creamy-white flesh. Chestnut trees have a straight, broad trunk with deeply furrowed bark and a large spreading rounded canopy.
Species of chestnut trees belong to the genus Castanea and the beech family Fagaceae. The flowering trees mostly grow in temperate regions of the world in USDA zones 5 to 7. Chestnut trees perform best in full sun and loamy, well-draining soil.
The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) used to be in the timber industry, however due to chestnut blight fungal disease it is almost extinct in the wild now. It can grow up to 75 ft. (22 m) tall and wide.
Further reading: Chestnut Trees – Identification Guide.
Redwood trees are the largest and tallest trees on the planet. Redwoods are famous for their towering stature, with the tallest trees reaching 360 ft. (110 m) tall.
Two evergreen redwood species are native to California: California redwood/coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant redwood/sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). The deciduous dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is native to China.
Sequoias are the largest trees in the world in terms of volume, and they have immense trunks. Redwoods are the tallest trees and have slender trunks.
Redwoods require humid conditions with substantial rainfall in spring, fall, and winter. In addition, the foggy conditions common along the northern Pacific coast allows redwoods to thrive.
As a coniferous trees, redwoods produce seed-bearing cones, green needle leaves, and tiny yellowish-brown flowers. The cinnamon-red or reddish-brown bark is one way to identify redwood trees.
Further reading: Redwood Trees: Types, Facts and Identification.