University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Native Trees for the Landscape
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Trees dominate our landscapes, forming not only the framework for our
outdoor living spaces, but also the overall theme of our surroundings.
Alien trees may be beautiful, but native trees offer a unique advantage.
They evolved here in northern New England. That means you can be sure they
are hardy, are able to tolerate the weather and pest populations found
here, and can make our united landscape look like it "fits."
They also provide food and shelter for our birds and small mammals.
If you're looking for an evergreen, a shade tree, or a flowering tree
for your landscape, why not try one of these?
Evergreens protect your property from wind and snow and provide year-round
shade. Here are some species suitable for growing in this part of the country:
- Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) does best in full sun to light shade
and moist soil. It reaches a height of 75 feet so does best at the edge
of a refined landscape.
- White spruce (Picea glauca) requires full sun and moist soil.
It grows to 60 feet, making it a good specimen tree or tall windbreak.
- Red pine (Pinus resinosa) does well in full sun and moist to
dry soil. It can grow as tall as 80 feet high, which makes it a good windbreak
in situations where drought-resistance is important.
- White pine (Pinus strobus), which can reach heights of 80 feet,
makes a handsome specimen tree. It does best in a location with full sun
and moist to dry soil.
- White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) prefers sun or light shade
and moist soil. Under ideal conditions it can grow up to 60 feet tall,
so it makes a good hedge.
- Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) adds grace to the landscape
but does not tolerate drought or windy sites. It does well in sun or shade
and moist soil and reaches heights of 70 feet.
Shade trees provide shade in summer. All do best in moist soils and
full sun although Red maple and American hophornbeam also do well in light
shade. Many native shade trees develop good fall color. Here are some of
the ones I recommend:
- Red maple (Acer rubrum) grows 60 feet tall and develops excellent
red fall color. It tolerates wet spring soil.
- Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) with its attractive orange-red
fall foliage makes a beautiful large shade tree. Mature trees can grow
as tall as 75 feet.
- Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) grows 70 feet high, develops
striking white bark, and tolerates poor and fairly dry soils.
- American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) is a good tree choice
for naturalizing. It reaches heights of 30 feet and tolerates some periodic
- White ash (Fraxinus americana) makes a handsome shade tree as
it can grow to 80 feet and has good fall color.
- American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) develops into a good
medium-sized lawn tree (about 40 feet high at full maturity).
- Red oak (Quercus rubra) reaches 75 feet high and has good red
Flowering trees add seasonal color to our landscapes in the form of
flowers and fruits. Their small size makes them appropriate for any yard.
They do best in full sun and moist soil. Some of my favorites include:
- Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) produces clusters of small
white flowers in June. It tolerates light shade and grows 25 feet high.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus submollis) is a good choice for bird lovers.
Its red fruits in the fall attract a number of different species of birds.
This 30-foot high tree produces white flowers in June.
- American mountainash (Sorbus americana), another species that
attracts birds, produces clusters of small white flowers in June and orange
fruits favored by many birds in fall. It may reach heights of 30 feet.
(Adapted from the North Country Garden Calendar)
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