Native Trees


This is an extensive but informal list of native trees you may encounter in the wild or in your yard, with some description, based on ten years of observation. 

Acer negundo (box elder)--Grows wild. Not commonly planted. It's soft wood can provide good habitat for birds. Considered messy and not very well formed.

Acer rubrum (red maple)--A durable, very commonly planted street tree. Also common in the wild.

Acer saccharinum (silver maple)--Common in yards and in the wild. Not often intentionally planted. Has a reputation for dropping limbs, but performs well in many yards, providing an attractive, open shade.

Acer saccharum (sugar maple)--Less common, but a sturdy, attractive native.

Amelanchier canadensis (shadblow serviceberry, Juneberry)--A very small tree or large bush. White flowers early in spring. Berries edible, but frequently attacked by cedar apple rust.

Betula lenta (cherry birch)--Grows wild along the Princeton ridge. Not commonly planted in yards.

Betula nigra (river birch)--Beautiful bark and form, frequently sold with three trunks.

Betula (paper and grey birches)--These species are more characteristic further north.

Carpinus caroliniana (blue beech, hornbeam, musclewood)--Common in the wild. Not often intentionally planted.

Carya alba (mockernut hickory)

Carya cordiformis (bitternut, swamp hickory)

Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)--Hickories are common in the wild, but not frequently planted.

Castanea dentata (American chestnut)--Devastated by the imported chestnut blight in the early 20th century. Only a few small specimens persist in the wild. The disease does not kill the root, which then resprouts. Backcrossing has developed resistant native varieties with a small percentage of asian genes, e.g. 1/16th Chinese. Some of these 15/16th native trees have been planted in parks and preserves in Princeton in an effort to reestablish the species. A few chestnuts grow along streets in Princeton, but are either Chinese or Japanese. The nut husks are very large and prickly.

Celtis occidentalis (hackberry, sugarberry)--Sturdy native, infrequently seen in the wild, underutilized in planted landscapes. They line Walnut Street across from JW Middleschool.

Chionanthus virginicus (fringe tree)--Very attractive flowers. Small tree/large shrub. Some evidence in Ohio that it can be attacked by emerald ash borer, but more evidence is needed before deciding not to plant.

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)--Attractive small tree, commonly planted, with berries that provide important nourishment for birds migrating south in the fall. Fairly common in the wild, but an imported fungus has cut back on its numbers. It can be harder to establish that the Korean dogwood, whose fruit have evolved to be eaten by monkeys in its native Asia.

Crataegus crus-galli (cockspur hawthorn)--Attractive small tree. Rarely found in the wild. Underutilized in planted landscapes, perhaps because of thorns.

Diospyros virginiana (persimmon)--Attractive mid-sized tree. Females bear fruit, which may be appreciated or viewed as messy.

Fagus grandifolia var. caroliniana (beech)

Fagus grandifolia var. grandifolia (beech)--Beech trees are common in the wild along the Princeton ridge, but are seldom if ever planted.

Fraxinus americana (white ash)--Princeton's most common tree, soon to be decimated by the arrival of Emerald ash borer. Though typically encountered in second growth forest, it can grow to a towering height, with a few extraordinary specimens to be found on campus and in older neighborhoods. Planting ash is discouraged, since all ash species will soon be dependent on chemical injections for survival. Anyone owning an ash they wish to keep should get it treated, with emamectin being the most frequently recommended insecticide to inject into the trunk.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)--Usually found in wetter conditions, and less attractively shaped, than the white ash. Same susceptibility to emerald ash borer.

Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust)--The wild variety has thorns and is rarely encountered, perhaps because it was spread by now extinct megafauna. The unripe seed pods have a sweet, edible inner lining. One large specimen can be found near the old gas station at Princeton Shopping Center. Planted varieties, such as those at the new Dinky station and Hinds Plaza, have no thorns, and provide a pleasant, open shade. The tiny leaflets conveniently disappear back into the lawn in the fall.

Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky coffee tree)--A remarkable tree, rarely found in the wild, for reasons similar to honey locust. Its very large compound leaves emerge late in spring, and drop early in fall, making the tree ideal for planting on the south side of passive solar houses. They were used in the landscaping for the new Dinky parking lot.

Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)--Attractive small tree/large shrub. The native species flowers in late autumn, while asian species flower in the spring.

Juglans cinerea (butternut)--Rarely seen. Some are hybrids. The native species has suffered from the introduction of a fungal disease. Efforts are underway to bring back the butternut in Princeton, in parks and nature preserves.

Juglans nigra (black walnut)--Common in some wild areas, and in some backyards. Rarely planted, due to large nuts and the juglone compound emitted by the roots, which can suppress growth of tomatoes and other plants.

Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum)--Sturdy, large tree, common in the wild and sometimes planted intentionally. The "gum balls" it drops can be a drawback for some.

Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)--Fast growing, long-lived tree that can reach great size. Flowers tulip-like and attractive, but usually too high up to appreciate. Common in the wild, but not typically planted intentionally.

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay, swampbay)--Small tree. Can have attractive flowers. Not typically planted along streets.

Morus rubra (red mulberry)--The white mulberry (M. alba, nonnative) is also found in Princeton. A small tree. Bears abundant, edible berries similar in appearance to blackberries. The berries can be messy, and the tree lacks an attractive form. Very tasty berries, though, if you can reach them.

Nyssa sylvatica (black gum, tupelo)--Beautiful fall color. Sporadically encountered in the wild. Long-lived, sturdy. Is becoming more frequently planted along streets.

Ostrya virginiana (ironwood, hophornbeam)--Small tree. Not common in the wild, nor in the landscape trade.

Oxydendrum arboreum (sourwood)--Small tree with bright red fall foliage. Craggy form. More common in the wild further south. Several specimens in Princeton.

Platanus occidentalis (sycamore, plane-tree)--Can be confused with the London planetree, which is a hybrid between two species, one of which is P. occidentalis. Attractive, large tree, with highly ornamental bark. Its more susceptible to anthracnose than the hybrid.

Prunus pensylvanica (fire or pin cherry)

Prunus serotina (black cherry)--The native cherries are attractive mid-sized trees typically found in earlier successional forests. They nearly rival oaks in the diversity of insects they provide food for, and so are very important for food chains.

Quercus alba (white oak)--One of the most majestic trees. The white oak "family" (those with rounded lobes, such as white oak, swamp white oak, and willow oak) are less susceptible to bacterial leaf scorch than the red and pin oaks (pointed lobes).

Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak)--Sometimes planted along streets.

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak)--Attractive, but less commonly planted.

Quercus palustris (pin oak)--Very common street tree in Princeton. Its lower branches characteristically angle downward and often die back. Many are being lost to bacterial leaf scorch, which causes gradual dieback.

Quercus phellos (willow oak)--More frequently planted than in the past. More common in states further south. Its narrow leaves can form an attractive mulch, somewhat like pine needles.

Quercus rubra (red oak)--Common tree in the wild and along streets. Susceptible to bacterial leaf scorch.

Quercus velutina (black oak)--Encountered in the wild. Less commonly planted than red oak.

Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)--Native to the Appalachians. Widely planted and naturalized elsewhere. Its wood is resistant to decay, it has attractive flowers, and can achieve a very attractive form with dark, craggy limbs contrasting with the foliage. Can be invasive in some habitats, and can clone, sending up young shoots armed with thorns. But some specimens in Princeton front yards are beautifully formed and well behaved. Stately old specimens can often be found growing near historic homes.

Salix nigra (black willow)--Fast growing. Sometimes planted in low areas in the belief that it will dry the soil out.

Sassafras albidum (sassafras)--An attractive smaller tree, common in the wild. Can clone, which may be why it's not commonly planted.

Tilia americana (American linden, basswood)--Attractive. Underutilized. Sporadically encountered in the wild. Linden trees along streets are generally not the native species.

Ulmus americana (American elm)--Though the elm was hit hard across America by Dutch elm disease, Princeton varieties have shown considerable resistance, allowing specimens to perform well and provide shade for many years, even though they may eventually succumb.

Ulmus rubra (red elm, slippery elm)

Native Evergreen Trees:

Ilex opaca (American holly, Christmas holly)--Small, attractive native, sometimes used in yards.

Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar)--Small tree. Useful in some situations.

Pinus strobus (eastern white pine)--Not encountered in the wild unless in planted stands. Its native range is to the north of Princeton. Can get big, and tends to drop large branches during ice storms.

Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock): Some of these are doing fine, while others are succumbing to the wooly adelgid, an aphid-like insect introduced from Asia.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this inventory. Your nature notes are a valuable resource for those of us who like to know the names of the trees we live among. I'm going to go check out those Sugarberries on Walnut St today! Keep posting.