Weeping Flowering Cherry (Prunus subhertilla pendula)
The weeping Cherry is one of the first spring flowers to arrive. Pink or
White blooms appear in Mid – Late April and will persist for about 3 weeks.
These flowers are sterile and produce no fruit. The species is small to
medium in height and spread. Very old specimens can reach 30 -35 feet in
height and spread. This cherry makes a very attractive accent plant in the
landscape. There are few insect and disease problems. Some graft failures do
occur on some trees. The weeping form is typically grafted onto a 4-6 foot
standard cherry rootstock. Some sprouts on the trunk may appear and these
should be pruned off. These sprouts will grow quickly and completely
overtake the weeping form altogether. Grafts may also fail and the scion
portion of the tree will die. Do not plant in wet sites or poor drainage
areas. Cherries typically prefer well drained fertile soils.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)
This species is unsurpassed for ornamental value. Classified as a small species, it can reach 30-35 feet in height but is narrow maybe to 20 feet wide. The small size makes it a good choice for a small space. Sourwood needs acidic soil and thrives in combination with Oaks, Rhododendron, Azaleas, and Hollies. Flowering occurs in late summer and persists for several weeks.
The flowers resemble Lily of the Valley, and are borne on the terminal ends of branches. This tree blooms when most other flowering trees are long done. Fall color is a striking scarlet red. There are no major pests for this tree as long as soil acidity is maintained. The species also prefers partial shade, and does not hold up well as a street tree. Planting should be reserved for mulched areas such as shrub borders and other planting beds.
American Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea)
This is one of my personal favorites. The tree is medium in size at maturity around 40 feet in height and equal spread. The form of growth s typically multi- stemmed originating at one stump. The flowers are born in panicles, and are creamy white in color. Flowering occurs in May. The tree makes a fine specimen for the landscape. Yellowwood can also be used as park trees and along streets with wide tree lawn areas. The species also fits well on a small property. The wide canopy will provide adequate shade for a patio or play area. One point of interest is the bright yellow wood from which the name is derived. Insect and disease pests are few.
Weeping Ornamental Cherry- (Prunus subhirtella pendula)
Nothing defines spring more than this tree. Early flowering in late April with double pink or white varieties. The tree can attain heights of 30 feet and equal spread. The flowers will remain on the tree for a few weeks and are frost resistant. This tree will flower every year. Cherries in general like well drained soils as well as non compacted areas with some organic matter. The tree fits well in a small space and can be used as an accent plant, and is especially nice as a landscape pond feature. The main problem with the tree is graft failure after several years. Seedlings are available but difficult to grow because of the weeping structure. Grafting on a high standard is standard practice. This cherry produces no fruit, but is prized by song birds for nesting sites, due to the low dense crown. A very nice addition for any property.
Winter King Hawthorne (Cratageus viridis Winter King)
This small tree makes a striking fruit display throughout the fall and winter months. The abundant red berries will persist until spring or until birds begin to feed on them in late winter. The tree stays under 25 feet in height and 15-20 feet wide. Hawthorns are generally drought and salt tolerant making them versatile in dry areas. The crown is quite dense with thorns present throughout. Caution should be taken when using this plant near pedestrian traffic due to the thorns. A mass planting in a park or natural area is unsurpassed for vibrant color especially on a backdrop of snow. It is also quite showy against a background of evergreens. The dense crown provides good nesting space for birds with the thorns making them safe from predators.
The flowers are also a nice display in early May. The species is a member of the Rosacea (Rose) family and shares some common insect and disease problems. Hawthornes shoukd never be planted near junipers due to Cedar/Hawthorne rust disease.
Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
This species is mainly planted for fall color as shown in the photo. It is native to the Middle Atlantic and Southeastern US. It is somewhat cold hardy in our area provided they were grown at a northern nursery. Sweet Gum matures as a large specimen 85-90 feet tall. The tree is best suited as a park specimen, or lawn tree, but has also been used as street tree plantings. The fruit is a dry spiny capsule which can be nuisance to clean up, especially street trees. In northern areas the tree is susceptible to snow and ice damage. The root system is also quite aggressive and can cause sidewalk problems. Sweet Gum is best left for use in large open areas.
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
This is the most versatile oak to use in many landscape applications. This species attains a large size. Height and spread can reach over 100 feet for each. The tree grows in wet soils as well as drier sites. High ph or acidity will not deter the health of this tree. Quercus bicolor makes an excellent street or park tree provided there is adequate space for growth. It can also be used in wetland restoration areas. The wood is very hard and decay resistant. The leaves are shiny green and round lobed as with most white oaks. Fall color can be disappointing, as there is not much of a change. The acorns are prized by wildlife as food. This tree should be used more. The picture shows a 15 year old specimen that was planted as a 3 inch caliper ball and burlap nursery tree. Transplanting is extremely easy even as a bare root up to 2 inches in caliper. Most White Oaks are extremely difficult to transplant. If you are looking for a large specimen shade tree, this is one to consider.
Callery Pear varieties (Pyrus calleryanna)
This is without a doubt the most over planted tree of all time. The flowers are a magnificent display in early spring. The tree will reach heights of about 40 feet, with variable spreads depending on variety. The most popular variety is undoubtedly Bradford. Bradford Pear is a carefree specimen until the tree matures. At this time the tree structure will fail in storms and winter ice and snow. Then trees then become unsightly as well as unsafe. Better varieties include Chanticlear and Aristocrat. These varieties have better branch structure. All varieties have been overused in all places in the landscape. The species is becoming invasive along roadsides throughout the region. This is a very hardy tree abnd will survive in tough soils and dry sites. Fruit resembles a hard pea and can become a nuisance on sidewalks. The tree will produce heavy fruit thence the invasive nature. This would be a good candidate to not plant for 20 years or so in favor of other species. Bradford should not be used again. There are other flowering ornamentals.
Winter King Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis)
Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ This is probably th easiest tree to identify in Winter. The bright heavy fruit set makes for a striking statement. This variety grows to a height of 25 feet with an equal spread. The small height makes it useable under utility wires. There is one caution however. The branches are adorned with many needle like thorns. Extremely sharp! One should use caution on placement to avoid injury. Overall a very nice small specimen.
Pin Oak - Quercus palustris
Avery popular species widely used on streets, parks, and natural areas. This is a native species, thriving in wetland and riparian areas throughout Pennsylvania. The tree requires an acid soil and can also tolerate drier sites as well. The main problem with Pin Oak is the amount of maintenance pruning required. Young trees should be trained to form a central leader. Lower branched tend to point downward causing clearance problems as street trees, or even for lawn mowing. The lower branches need to be removed regularly to achieve a desired height. At maturity the crown opens up to a tall wide canopy with heights in excess of 100 feet and a spread slightly less. Dead wood removal is an ongoing maintenance task. Dead branches can be quite large creating hazards when they fall. The fall color is a good orange to rust color. Young trees will hold dead leaves until the following spring. This is a very good canopy tree for a park or wetland area. Overall this tree is worth the investment due to the durability and canopy benefits.
Little Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata)
Little Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata) This species is native to Europe, where it is used as a street tree and park specimen. These uses are why the tree was brought here. Tilia as a genus is a fast growing tree reaching heights of 90 feet or more (especially the American Linden). Lindens are tolerant of road salt, poor soils, and are drought resistant. The foliage is dark green and heart shaped, turning yellow in fall. The crown is extremely dense making a very good shade tree. Branch structure can be a problem with included bark at stem unions. The trees tend to be multi stemmed further aggravating the included bark problem. The overall form is pyramidal opening up at maturity. The tree is basically disease resistant, but will be attacked by Japanese Beatles and Aphids. Lindens are very tolerant of pruning. The species was widely used in Europe for pollarding. The main maintenance needs for this tree is crown raising occasionally and crown thinning. This tree has been somewhat overplanted, while the native American cousin is overlooked.
Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia)
The common name Mt Ash is deceiving because this tree is not an Ash. Korean Mt Ash grows to a medium height approaching 45-50 feet. The tree is cold hardy to zone 4 and is tolerant of poor soils and drought (somewhat). It is very rarely used, even though it makes a very nice street tree or specimen tree in the home or commercial landscape. The tree produces clusters of white flowers in mid May. The flowers persist for several days. The fruit is born in clusters similar to Elderberry in color. These berries are used b y songbirds especially in colder winter weather. I have seen Cedar Waxwings feeding heavily on the fruit. Fall color is orange to scarlet. There has been a shortage of growers for this plant, which is a shame as more should be used.
Prariefire Crabapple (Malus “Prariefire”)
There are several hundred crabapple varieties to choose from. There are many sizes , forms, flower and fruit color, leaf color , and so on. When selecting a crab always use disease resistant varieties. Three main diseases make crabapple trees very unattractive and can kill them. These are rust, fire blight and scab. Most new varieties are resistant to all three. Prariefire is one of these selections. The tree will get to about 20 feet high and 20 feet wide, good for a shrub border or lawn specimen. This variety has a copper colored leaf which is a good contrast plant in the landscape. The flowers appear in early May. The buds start out bright red and the blooms become a deep pink at maturity. The flowers are truly spectacular on larger trees, but very young trees also flower. Fruit is a small pea sized, bright red miniature apple. The fruit will stay on during the winter months and will attract birds to feed on them. Prariefire should not be used as a street tree unless there is a large area to spread, due to its broad form. Branches will easily reach the street and hang over sidewalks. They can be used in parks as mass plantings or single specimens in mulched beds. This is a very nice tree for a small back yard or for planting under utility lines. This tree transplants easily as bare root or ball and burlap, and start to develop quickly. Do not plant in wet poorly drained soil.
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood - Cornus mas
Feature tree The earliest blooms of spring can be found on the Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas). This species stays small as a large shrub or small tree. Height can reach 20 feet with an equal spread. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood blooms in late March to early April. The flowers are small and yellow in color when no other plant is blooming. This creates a striking color against a barren background.
The fruit resembles a small red cherry, hence the common name Cornelian Cherry. This species is very cold hardy (including the flowers). It is also pest resistant and drought tolerant. Fall color is a light purple with a yellowish leaf margin. Cornelian Cherry is an excellent choice for a small space as a specimen, or it can be mass planted in large open areas or near larger buildings. I rate this tree as an excellent specimen for about any property. Definitely a feeling that spring has arrived.
Eastern Hemlock - Tsuga Canadensis
Eastern Hemlock, or Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) This one of the most magnificent evergreen trees in Northeastern North America. They are often called “Redwoods of the East” because of their large size and can age to well over 500 years. Old growth hemlocks are truly a sight to behold, but are very rare. These trees were harvested by the million in the 19th century for their bark. The bark is rich in tannic acid, a main catalyst in leather tanning. The wood from these trees was often left to rot where the bark was stripped. Wood from Hemlock makes very good outside lumber products such as board and batten siding. The lumber is rot resistant and very insect resistant. Hemlock is also the state tree of Pennsylvania. Landscape use includes specimen trees as well as hedges. Recently two invasive insect pests are decimating our native Hemlocks. Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, and Elongate Hemlock scale are killing most trees that become infected. These pests feed on sap and are often both present on the same tree. Spider mites also attack trees that are drought stressed. Hotter summer temperatures are also taking their toll on tree mortality. These pests can be controlled in the landscape but are very difficult to control in a forest setting. Treatments are costly and usually need repeated for several years. The use of Hemlock in landscaping plans have been diminished due to these pests. Hopefully this species will endure and remain for several more centuries.
White Pine - Pinus strobes
This species is probably the most recognizable native evergreen. It can be found in many locations both in planted landscapes and growing naturally. White Pine can grow to 150 feet high and usually produces an open crown when standing alone. In groups they tend to stay somewhat pyramidal. As a forest tree it was prized for ship masts for sailing ships. Today the uses include furniture, doors, and other construction products. As a landscape tree it is used in parks, natural area, cemeteries and other large open spaces. The large mature size makes it impractical for small properties. White Pine tolerates many soils and is often used to reforest mine soils. The tree does not tolerate wet sites. The blue green color and soft needles make it very easy to identify.
Douglas Fir - Pseudotsuga MenzeseiI
This species is native to high altitude in the Western US. The species is a major wood used in housing construction. The East Coast uses this tree as the most popular Christmas tree. Douglas Fir is not a true fir and is more closely related to Hemlock thus Pseudotsuga or false hemlock. Other than a Christmas tree the uses in the landscape are limited. This species thrives in high altitude, cold climates. It does not do well in our temperate but hot summer weather. Douglas Fir is a very good temporary evergreen, as it will survive for several years before suffering numerous insect and disease pests. Needle Cast is a severe defoliating disease that requires intense management for control. The best feature is as a Christmas Tree. The needles stay on for a long time. The tree is also quite fragrant, and grows relatively fast, reaching market size in about seven years. For landscape use other evergreens will make a better option. These will be featured at a later time.
Black Gum- Nyssa sylvatica
This native hardwood tree has an incredible tolerance for many soil types. It can be found in wetlands as well as on high ridge tops. Black Gum prefers an acid soil but will tolerate soils around neutral. There are no insect or disease pests of this tree. The main problem is that transplanting can be difficult resulting in limited supply at nurseries. This species should be transplanted in small caliper size. Black Gum is sought out by birds for its grape like fruit and dense branching habit. Fall color is unsurpassed, being a crimson red. Uses are for wetland planting, street trees, park trees. and habitat. This is one native tree that should be used more, due to its adaptability.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Red Maple is one of the best trees to plant for fall color. The species in native to a large portion of the US and Canada. This tree is tolerant of wet soils as well as drier sites. Mature height could reach 90 feet with a spread of 50-60 feet. Red Maple makes a good shade tree for parks, lawns and other large open areas. Use as a street tree is ok as long as salt use for de-icing is not heavy. There are several varieties of this tree. They range from narrow and upright (Bowhall, Karpick) to wide spreading (October Glory) . Many varieties will guarantee a good red fall color. These include; October Glory, Red Sunset, and Autumn Flame. The flowers are also a good red color in very early spring.
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Feature Tree American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) This native tree can be seen along rivers and larger streams throughout PA and many other states. It grows very large attaining heights of over 100 feet and also spreads of 50 -75 feet. The uses for this tree include riparian plantings or park plantings, especially natural areas. A hybrid of American and Oriental Sycamore is much better suited for landscape plantings or used as street trees. This is the London Plane (PlatanusXAcerifolia). The native Sycamore usually will leaf out quite late due to a fungal leaf disease called Anthracnose. This disease seldom harms the tree but can cause an unsightly appearance at times. A variety of London Plane , called Bloodgood is highly resistant to this disease. All Sycamore species are highly resistant to road salt, drought, and insect pests. They are very long lived, but older trees may suffer some storm damage. This species also transplants quite easily and are available in bare root or balled and burlap forms. Fall color is non-existent as leaves will turn brown with frost and fall. The leaves are slow to decompose. Only plant these trees where you have adequate room below ground as well as overhead. The growth rate is relatively fast. If you have a demanding site with a lot of space this is an excellent choice.
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Truly one of the most striking of all large shade trees, the American Elm can attain heights of over 120 feet and spread over 150 feet. The typical form is vase shaped and spreading. These elms were used as street, park, and estate trees for many decades. The introduction of Dutch Elm Disease, in the 1930’s has all but eliminated the importance of American Elm from urban plantings. This species will tolerate many soil types and is very drought tolerant. The upright form lends itself for use as a street tree. No wonder it was used so widely. Recently another disease organism Elm Yellows, or phloem necrosis is devastating collections of elms. There is no control for this disease and tree removal to prevent the spread is the only alternative. There is hope, however for using elms as a specimen tree again. There are several varieties such as Homestead, Accolade, Frontier that are disease resistant. These trees are genetic crosses with Asian Elms such as Ulmus parvifolia. Another variety known as Triumph is also resistant to Yellows as well. I would not suggest widespread planting of these by any means, but a few specimens can be used for street and park planting. Some native seedling trees are also showing some disease resistance as well. Maybe in the future American Elm can once again shade our streets, parks, and school yards.
Serviceberry (Amalanchier Canadensis)
This small native tree is very useful in the landscape. It is one of the earliest to flower before any leaves have appeared. It stays relatively small especially as a multi stemmed specimen. Height will max out at 25-30 feet with a spread of 20-25 feet. The tree produces a large amount of berries in June which leads to another common name Juneberry. These fruits start out red and turn blue. Many species of birds will not let the fruit mature as they gobble them up as soon as they start to turn color. Amalanchier makes a choice tree for a bird lover’s garden. The fruit is also prized by squirrels and Chipmunks as well. Fall color is a striking orange to red. The bark has visible stripes and the buds are very sharp pointed giving some winter character as well. The Serviceberry likes partial shade and good soils and is a fine addition to any garden even the smallest space.
Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
This tree is probably the most widely planted evergreen being used. It makes a fine specimen tree with dark green foliage and strong pyramidal form. It maintains this form at maturity, as do most spruce and fir species. Norway Spruce, grows to be quite large. Height can easily top 100 feet with a 40 foot spread. This large size requires a large planting site. The tree is often squeezed into too small of a space which causes problems with buildings and other infrastructure. This species is resistant to storm damage, is quite cold hardy, and is relatively free of insect and disease problems. Norway Spruce is best used as screens, specimens, wind breaks, and possible reforestation planting. The wood makes good construction lumber, but has little value as fuel. Norway Spruce is a fine tree to plant where a large evergreen tree is needed.