The Need for Diversity

Insects and diseases affecting trees are not new; in fact, both occur naturally and help keep trees and forests healthy. But when invasive, non-native species are brought into the lifecycle, the results can be overwhelming. 

The overplanting of ash trees in the years following Dutch elm disease (DED) contributed to our state's current situation with the emerald ash borer. Drawing on the lessons from DED, the Nebraska Forest Service and our many partners are seeking to change that. 

Planting it forward, a mission driven through ten years of the ReTree Nebraska initiative, is critical to rebuilding our community forests and rural landscapes for the next generation.

When we focus on replanting with tree diversity, we continue to build on a tree planting legacy that Nebraskans will be able to enjoy for decades to come. 

Medium and Large Deciduous Trees to Replace Ash – typically over 25’ tall at maturity

Bur Oak - and related species (Quercus macrocarpa): Bur oak is an outstanding, majestic native tree with amazing drought tolerance; great for wildlife; 50-70’ x 50-75’. Related species to plant more of include Chinkapin Oak (Q. muehlenbergii), Swamp White Oak (Q. bicolor - limit to eastern Nebraska), and Gambel Oak (Q. gambelii) a species well-suited to western Nebraska.
Red Oak - and related species (Quercus rubra): Red oaks are generally less tolerant of high pH soils and are generally more suited to eastern Nebraska; closely related species include Red Oak, Shumard Oak, Black Oak, Buckley Oak, and Shingle Oak; most species tough and reliable with lustrous sharp-pointed leaves and beautiful fall color from russet to bright red in fall; 40-60’x 40-60’.
Linden (Tilia spp.): Includes American linden, littleleaf linden and silver linden; American linden is native to the region and favored by many bees and other pollinators; tough and adaptable; pyramidal shape; 60’x 40’.
Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus): Native; amazingly adaptable; coarse outline with beautiful winter form; females have fairly large seed pods containing the very hard “coffeetree” seeds; 50-60’x 40-50’.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): Beautiful tree that should be planted more especially in eastern Nebraska; nice fall color and attractive chalky bark; ‘Caddo’ is a drought tolerant cultivar from Oklahoma; 40-60’x 35-50’. Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) is a related species native to Rocky Mountains that is better suited for western Nebraska.
Pecan/Hickory (Carya spp.): Pecan and Bitternut Hickory are the most adaptable hickories for eastern Nebraska and both deserve to planted in much greater abundance; relatively upright and fast growing; transplant when small; 50-70’x 40-60’.
Elms (Ulums spp): There are several disease-resistant elms available now including American elm (Ulmus americana) cultivars ‘Princeton’ & ‘Jefferson’ that provide high-canopy shade growing 60-80’ x 60-80’.  David Elm is a tough, adaptable and slower-growing species from Asia growing 30-40’ tall and wide. Worthy hybrid elms include ‘Accolade’, ‘Cathedral, ‘Frontier’, ‘New Horizon’, ‘Triumph’, and ‘Vanguard’ that are mostly fast-growing, drought tolerant and easy to establish. 
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis): Great native with legendary adaptability; irregular habit when young but matures to stately rounded crown; great for a variety of wildlife; 50-70’ x 40-60’.
Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa): Native to region; upright and reliable; large, heart-shaped leaves, showy flowers and long seed pods; 50-70’x 30-50’.
Planetree/Sycamore (Platanus spp.):  Sycamore and it’s hybrid cousin the London Planetree are terrific choices for Eastern Nebraska; both are tough and tall growing with beautiful mottled and creamy/white bark; good on wet sites; up to 80’x 50’.
Buckeye (Ohio/Texas) - (Aesculus glabra): Native; tough & adaptable; low, rounded form; ‘buckeye’ seeds produced in spiny husks; good drought tolerance and good fall color in western Nebraska; 30’x 30’.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba): An ancient species dating to the age of dinosaurs; distinctive fan-shaped leaves that turn golden-yellow in fall; upright branching structure; slow growing; tolerant of poor soils; 60’x 40’.
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra): This tough native can be a bit messy, but it is a great tree that should be planted more; incredible drought tolerance and good yellow fall color; great for wildlife; good lumber tree; 60’x 45’.
Honeylocust (thornless) (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis): A very tough and adaptable tree that seems to thrive on neglect; graceful habit and feathery leaves that turn a rich golden yellow in the fall; 50-70’x 40-60’.
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides): Rounded tree with dense canopy casting heavy shade; drought tolerant and easy to grow; less reliable in western Nebraska; 40’x40’.  
Red Maple (Acer rubrum): Popular tree with red fall color; prefers moist sites and not as drought tolerant as other species; ‘Autumn Blaze’ is an overplanted, silver-maple hybrid that should be used sparingly; 40-60’x 40-60’.
Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera): Surprisingly adaptable to Eastern Nebraska; prefers some protection and consistent moisture; tulip-like orange-yellow flowers in spring; distinctive leaves can turn butter yellow in fall; 50-70’x 35-50’.
Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa): Native to western Nebraska; tough and reliable with great drought tolerance; with age and size, becomes a useful shade tree as lower limbs naturally prune off; 40-60’x 30-40’.
Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum): Western Nebraska relative of eastern red-cedar; amazingly drought tolerant; old trees become useful shade trees; great for wildlife; 30-50’ x 20-30’.

Download and print this list as a PDF, developed by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum!

Special thanks to all our partners!