NATIVE TREE SPECIES
What is a "native" tree species?
Why does it matter?
- A hard question! One answer is that native tree species grow
naturally in the wild in a particular region.
- Usually, the contrast is made between a native and an exotic
(or introduced) species.
- But certain trees and shrubs introduced since 1600 (e.g., common
buckthorn) are now widespread.
- Also, a native in one region of the Northeast may easily not be
native in another, much less in the entire country.
Are these claims true about the virtues of native
- In recent years, there has been heated debate about native vs.
- Some people want to avoid an invasion of exotic species into the
- Others argue that native species resist pests better, and thus
are easier to maintain.
- Some believe that natives are better adapted, so are less stressed
by climate extremes.
- And a few people just seem to want no "foreigners" around, period!
- There is no single or simple answer to this question.
- Some exotics (like Norway maple or Tree-of-Heaven) really can be
- But some natives (like aspen, black locust, or black cherry) are
- And invasiveness depends on a favorable and available site.
- Regional natives grown from regional seed usually resist regional
- Climate tolerance depends more on provenance or chance, not "native"
Serviceberry in a lawn setting
Which native species make good urban trees?
- Tree species native to a given region may not do well in disturbed
- Here are some species native in much of the Northeast and often
good for street tree use:
- red oak (Quercus rubra)
- sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
- hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
- white ash (Fraxinus americana)
- scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)
- hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
- These are often good for landscape use in the Northeast:
- serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)
- black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
- hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
- swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)
- tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
- river birch (Betula nigra)
- Try these for poorly drained or intermittently flooded soils
in the NE:
- bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
- tamarack (Larix laricina)
- red maple (Acer rubrum)
- green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
Where can I find native tree species?
- Remember, though, your site must meet the cultural demands
of the species.
Where can I get more information?
- Always try a local nursery first. Their stock is usually
more regionally adapted.
- Regional wholesale nurseries often carry native species--but try
to check the seed source!
- red maples grown from southern seed sources, for instance, will
do less well in the north than seed from northern sources.
- For less common natives, you may have to order from catalogues
of specialty nurseries.
Buckstrup, Michelle, and Nina Bassuk. 1998. "Native for native’s
sake?" American Nurseryman, May 15 issue. Pp. 55-61.
Check with your local University Extension office for a list of species
suitable for your region. For other information, advice and help on
this topic, call offices of your State Urban Forestry Coordinator, or visit
urban forestry web sites.