Trees to Plant

NOTE: This list is not yet comprehensive. Special thanks to the National Resource Conservation Service’s Plant Guides Database!

American elm tree shades house.
American Elm Deciduous

Ulmus americana

For the first hundred or so years after settlement, American elm dominated community skylines across the state especially along streets where its tall, arching habit provided leafy canopies for blocks at a time. 

A closeup of the hornbeam's "muscular" trunk.
American Hornbeam (Musclewood) Deciduous

Carpinus caroliniana

American hornbeam, also known as musclewood or blue beech, is a small, slow-growing understory tree native to hardwood forests of the eastern US and Canada.

American Linden (Basswood) Deciduous

Tilia americana

American linden, also known as basswood, is native to the Missouri River basin of eastern Nebraska and extends along the Niobrara River reaching as far west as the Black Hills of western South Dakota. 

American plum tree in full bloom.
American Plum Deciduous

Prunus americana

American plum is native throughout much of the central US, including the Great Plains. Though typically a shrubby, multi-stemmed plant, it can become a small tree with age reaching up to 20’ tall.

American sycamore towers above home.
American Sycamore Deciduous

Platanus occidentalis

A tree that can warm your heart even on the  coldest day of winter is the American sycamore. American sycamore is also known as American planetree, buttonwood and buttonball tree. American sycamore is native to 36 states including Nebraska. Sycamore is one of our tallest trees often reaching to 90 feet or more.

Amur maple next to building.
Amur maple Deciduous

Acer ginnala

Amur maple is an introduced, deciduous large shrub or small tree. It can be grown as a multi-stemmed clump or trained into a small tree with a single trunk. It can also be sheared into a hedge.

Native ash trees are no longer recommended for plantings.
Ash Deciduous

Fraxinus sp.

Green ash is abundant in Nebraska’s native woodlands and was commonly planted throughout the state after Dutch elm disease. However, the introduction of emerald ash borer has left the species in peril. We no longer recommend planting any native ash trees in Nebraska. 

Bitternut Hickory tree.
Bitternut Hickory Deciduous

Carya cordiformis

Bitternut hickory is native to much of the eastern US and reaches its western limit in southeast Nebraska.

Black Locust flowering.
Black Locust Deciduous

Robinia pseudoacacia

Black locust is one of the most adaptable and easy-to-grow trees for the urban landscape. Due to its showy aromatic flower, it has often been planted as an ornamental, but this practice should be discouraged due to the potential for spread by root suckers.

Black Oak trees.
Black Oak Deciduous

Quercus velutina

Native to southeast Nebraska, black oak is similar in shape and form to red oak, the key differences being smaller, darker leaves and a darker, more furrowed bark. This is a great native tree deserving of greater planting!

Black walnut providing excellent shade over North Platte home.
Black Walnut Deciduous

Julgans Nigra

Black walnut is by far the hardiest and adaptable nut tree that can be grown in Nebraska.  The species is native to much of the central and eastern US and occurs naturally in river-edge woodlands of eastern Nebraska and follows the Niobrara River as far west as western Cherry County.

Black Willow in a river system.
Black Willow Deciduous

Salix nigra

Black willow is one of the most common tree-form native willows encountered in the Great Plains. As such, it evolved as an important food source and habitat for local and visiting wildlife.  

Close up of colorado blue spruce needles.
Blue Spruce (Colorado) Coniferous

Picea pungens

Because of its cold hardiness, form, and blue-hued foliage, blue spruce is widely planted in ornamental and general landscape settings. It is also used considerably for Christmas trees. 

Boxelder Maple tree in the summer.
Boxelder Maple Deciduous

Acer negundo

Boxelder maple is one of the widest occurring trees across North America, extending from Mexico well into Canada and from the east coast of the US to the west coast.

Bur Oak tree.
Bur Oak Deciduous

Quercus macrocarpa

Bur oak is considered by many to be the king of Great Plains native hardwoods.  It is the most common native oak in Nebraska occurring naturally along many rivers and streams in the eastern third of the state and can be found in pockets here and there as far west as Hitchcock and Dawes counties.

Chinkapin Oak
Chinkapin Oak Deciduous

Quercus muehlenbergii

Next to bur oak, chinkapin oak is the second most adaptable white oak that can be grown in Nebraska. It has a wide geographic distribution occurring naturally from Mexico to southern Canada and is native to the southeast part of Nebraska.

close up photograph of a chokecherry's fruit
Chokecherry Deciduous

Prunus virginiana

Chokecherry is common throughout much of the US and southern Canada and grows across Nebraska.  It is typically a suckering, multi-stemmed large shrub, but can be a small tree reaching up to 25’ tall.

Cockspur Hawthorn Deciduous

Crataegus crusgalli

The hawthorns are a diverse and confusing group of plants with at least 200 distinct species occurring throughout the Northern Hemisphere. There are dozens of species native to North America, including several that are grown as landscape trees.

Concolor (white) Fir needles
Concolor (white) Fir Coniferous

Abies concolor

White fir is a tree that has been planted in Nebraska for some time. It is becoming more popular as an alternative to some of the pines that are beginning to show long-term problems. 

close up photograph of a the tree's fruit
Corneliancherry Dogwood Deciduous

Cornus mas

Although the origin of the name “dogwood” is not completely understood, it had been referred to as the “dog tree” since the 1500s. Most dogwoods are shrubby in nature, but a few can become small trees.

Photograph of a douglas fir tree.
Douglas Fir Coniferous

Pseudotsuga menziesii

"Doug firs" are one of the most important timber trees in the United States. It is harvested for a wide variety of uses and is the backbone of the western timber industry. The wood has great strength and yet it is not very heavy. 

close up photograph of the tree's leaf
Downy Hawthorn Deciduous

Crataegus mollis

Native to the Midwest including eastern Nebraska and Kansas, where it can be found in the savanna understory and prairie edges.

Eastern arborvitae makes a nice hedgerow!
Eastern Arborvitae Coniferous

Thuja occidentalis

More than 120 named cultivars of northern white cedar have been named and used as ornamental trees and shrubs, where the name “arborvitae” is usually applied. This arborvitae is not native to Nebraska, but it can be grown around the state. In drier areas, it will require consistent watering. 

Eastern cottonwood tree.
Eastern Cottonwood Deciduous

Populus deltoides

Most people can relate nostalgically to large cottonwoods that shaded favorite camping or fishing spots, that whispered their rustling leaves in the slightest breeze, and which released their cottony seeds like a snow squall on late spring days.

Eastern Hemlock
Eastern Hemlock Coniferous

Tsuga Canadensis

Eastern hemlock can be used as a specimen, screen, or group planting. It can be pruned over time into a formal evergreen hedge, which is densely leafy all the way to the ground (due to its full shade tolerance), although as a hedge it must be repeatedly pruned to keep it in size.

Eastern Redcedar tree.
Eastern Redcedar Coniferous

Juniperus virginiana

Eastern redcedar is a native tree that has long been popular in windbreaks, shelterbelts, and conservation plantings. Due to lack of management and naturally-occurring wildfires, it has spread outside of its usual habitat into grasslands and riparian forests. Redcedar should be used with caution and planted only where needed for quick sheltering or where little else will grow. Management plans/practices should be in place prior to planting. 

photo of eastern white pine in the summer.
Eastern White Pine Coniferous

Pinus Strobus

An often-overlooked evergreen in Nebraska is the eastern white pine. Eastern white pine is native to the northeastern and north-central part of the United States. White pine is frequently used for windbreaks and screens along fields, new right-of-ways, and around campsites.

English Oak
English Oak Deciduous

Quercus robur

As its name implies, English oak is native to England and actually occurs throughout much of Europe extending into western Siberia, attesting to its tough and adaptable nature.

close up photograph of the tree's acorn
Gamble Oak Deciduous

Quercus gambelii

Gambel oak is a scrubby species native to southern Rocky Mountains and four-corners region of the southwestern US.  The oak can vary significantly in size and form from depending on its location.

Ginkgo tree's brilliant yellow leaves.
Ginkgo Deciduous

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo is a very unusual tree. Often referred to as a living fossil, ginkgo leaves appear as fossils dating to more than 200 million years old.  Some of these fossils have even been found in Nebraska.

Common hackberry in the forest.
Hackberry Deciduous

Celtis occidentalis

Hackberry may be the king of hard working trees.  It can provide a canopy of shade for decades at a time, and ask for almost nothing in return. Additionally, its deep root system makes common hackberry useful for preventing soil erosion on disturbed sites.

Closeup of honeylocust leaves.
Honeylocust Deciduous

Gleditsia triacanthos

Honeylocust is a very tough and adaptable tree that is native to woodlands, pastures and fence lines of the eastern Great Plains. Thornless and fruitless varieties have been developed by the horticultural industry and are used extensively in landscaping. The trees are very hardy and are often used in parking lot islands and along sidewalks

Jack Pine pine cone.
Jack Pine Coniferous

Pinus banksiana

Jack pine is important timber species in the Lake States of the United States and Canada. These trees produce pulpwood, lumber for construction, telephone poles, fence posts, mine timbers, and railroad ties. Jack pine is used as Christmas trees and for stabilization of watersheds.

Kentucky Coffeetree has nice golden leaves in the fall.
Kentucky Coffeetree Deciduous

Gymnocladus dioicus

Kentucky Coffeetree is one of the best trees for Nebraska. This native, pest free tree is an alternative to ash and elm which have been ravaged by insects and disease. It also has a nice golden-yellow fall color, don't you think?  

Northern Catalpa white flowers.
Northern Catalpa Deciduous

Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa is primarily used today as a large ornamental shade tree. It is widely planted in urban areas as a street and lawn tree. Conservation uses include plantings in mined-land reclamation projects and shelterbelts.

Northern Red Oak stand at Horning State Farm Demonstration Forest.
Northern Red Oak Deciduous

Quercus rubra

Red oak is Nebraska’s second most abundant native oak occurring on the bluffs of the Missouri River from about South Sioux City to Falls City and extending a few dozen miles westward along some of its major tributaries.

Norway Maple leaf in grass
Norway Maple Deciduous

Acer platanoides

Norway maple is native to central and northern Europe including parts of Norway, indicating its significant cold tolerance.

Ohio Buckeye
Ohio Buckeye Deciduous

Aesculus glabra

The buckeye tree is named for its round, shiny-brown nuts born in a spiny capsule that somewhat resembles a “buck's eye”.

Osage Orange fruit is roughly the size of a softball.
Osage Orange Deciduous

Maclura pomifera

Osage orange was first cultivated in the south in the early 1800’s. It was brought north by Professor Jonathan Turner, a biology teacher at Illinois College, and promoted as a living fence by John Wright, editor of The Prairie Farmer

A row these shrubs while flowering adorn bench seating
Pagoda Dogwood Deciduous

Cornus alternifolia

The species is native to forest edges in the northeastern US from Minnesota to Maine and south to the mid-Atlantic states. 

Pin Oak leaves closeup.
Pin Oak Deciduous

Quercus palustris

Pin oak is a moderately large tree with normal heights ranging from 70 to 90 feet with diameters between 2 and 3 feet.

Ponderosa pine is a rapidly growing tree.
Ponderosa Pine Coniferous

Pinus ponderosa

Ponderosa pine is a rapid growing tree with the ability to firmly anchor into most soil types. For this reason, it is one of the best evergreens for windbreaks. It can also be used with other natives to provide cover and erosion control on rehabilitated sites. 

Red Buckeye Deciduous

Aesculus pavia

A red-flowering shrubby species of the southeast US. The tree grows much like horsechestnut but with red flowers. It can be prone to significant foliar diseases in humid summers.

Red Maple has brilliant red leaves in the fall.
Red Maple Deciduous

Acer rubrum

Red maple’s attractive shape, clean habit, and brilliant red fall color have made it one of the most commonly planted trees across the eastern United States including eastern Nebraska.  The tree has a remarkably wide native range occurring from Minnesota to New Foundland south to Florida and Texas, and most points in between.

Redbud Deciduous

Cercis canadensis

Redbuds are best known for their magenta-pink pea-like flowers that bloom profusely before leaves emerge in the spring. It’s a beautiful small tree with a very naturalistic form, often multi-trunked and wider than it is tall.

birch tree growing in front of a house.
River Birch Deciduous

Betula Nigra

Most birch species do not grow well in Nebraska, preferring more northerly locations where summers are cool and moisture is more consistent.  River birch, however, is the most heat-tolerant of birches and can grow quickly when well-sited in eastern Nebraska. 

Rocky Mountain Juniper
Rocky Mountain Juniper Coniferous

Juniperus scopulorum

All of the native junipers are valuable ornamental species, and many horticultural varieties have been developed. Rocky Mountain juniper is widely used in shelterbelts and wildlife plantings.

Scotch pine is no longer recommended for planting in Nebraska.
Scotch Pine (Scots) Coniferous

Pinus sylvestris

Once common and popular across the Midwest, scotch pine is no longer recommended for planting in the eastern part of Nebraska due to the prevalence of Pine Wilt. We expect Pine Wilt to spread westward so any use of this tree requires careful consideration.  

Serviceberry Deciduous

Amelanchier sp.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp), is a small forest tree that gives the promise of spring. It is one of the first to bloom with delicate white flowers. There are many varieties of serviceberry including Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), Autumn Brilliance Apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'), Downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), and Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). There are others but these seem to be the most popular in the Nebraska/Iowa area.

Shagbark Hickory
Shagbark Hickory Deciduous

Carya ovata

Along with bitternut, shagbark hickory is one of two native hickories in Nebraska’s eastern woodlands where it is often found growing on relatively moist slopes in association with oaks and lindens.

Silver Maple tree.
Silver Maple Deciduous

Acer saccharinum

Silver maple was heavily planted as an ornamental in many urban areas because of its ease of transplanting and establishment, adaptability to a wide range of sites, rapid growth, and good form. More recently, the tree has fallen out of favor and new plantings are rare. 

Sugar Maple at Wilderness Park in Lincoln, NE.
Sugar Maple Deciduous

Acer saccharum

Sugar maple is one of the most important trees of New England where it is tapped to make maple syrup and is a primary component of that region's beautiful fall color.  Though not quite native to Nebraska, sugar maple has proven to be a reliable grower when given good care and favorable site conditions.

Swamp White Oak tree.
Swamp White Oak Deciduous

Quercus bicolor

Swamp white oak has become one of the most popular oaks for planting in recent years. The swamp white oak is an excellent tree for planting in the yard or as a woodland tree. The tree is native to much of the eastern US, extending from New England into central Iowa.

Tulip Tree in bloom.
Tulip Tree Deciduous

Liriodendron tulipifera

As can be guessed by both its common and scientific names, tulip tree is named for its tulip-like, yellow-green flowers that are born at the end of branches shortly after leaf emergence each spring.

Washington Hawthorn Deciduous

Crataegus phaenopyrum

Best known for its attractive flowers, good fall color, and small, bright red fruits that are borne in tight clusters and which are retained on the tree well into winter.

White oak provides wonderful shade for this rural home.
White oak Deciduous

Quercus alba

White oak is abundant across much of the eastern US reaching its western limit at about the Missouri River where it just reaches into southeast Nebraska. It's an excellent ornamental tree because of its broad round crown, dense foliage, and purplish-red to violet-purple fall color.

Winterberry tree, looking good!
Winterberry Euonymus Deciduous

Euonymus bungeanus

Also known as spindletree, winterberry euonymus is best known for its fall colors of pink, orange, and red found in both its leaves and fruit capsules.