Trees to Plant in Nebraska
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Eastern arborvitae is a relatively common landscape tree in the eastern half of Nebraska often used in foundation plantings and as screens along property lines. Mature trees may reach 30-40’ in time, but in cultivation typically grow only 10-25' tall, depending on the cultivar used.
Douglas fir is one of the most important timber trees in the United States and is the backbone of the western timber industry. The Rocky Mountain variety is more adaptable to the Great Plains and has been grown successfully across Nebraska, primarily as a landscape tree but sometimes in shelterbelts.
Eastern hemlock is a shade-tolerant native of the eastern US growing from Minnesota to Maine and south to the higher elevations of Georgia. The tree is not abundant in Nebraska but is occasionally found in protected landscape plantings, especially where a shade-tolerant evergreen is desired.
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.
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. The tree is perhaps best known for its smooth and sinewy steel-gray bark and the muscle-like look of its maturing trunk and larger branches (thus one of its common names).
As its name implies, Rocky Mountain Juniper is a common evergreen throughout the Rocky Mountains, extending into the Pine Ridge and Wildcat Hills of the Nebraska Panhandle. RM juniper is widely used in shelterbelts, wildlife plantings and landscape plantings in the western Great Plains.
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.
Red maple’s attractive shape, clean habit, and 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 Newfoundland south to Florida and Texas, and most points in between.
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.
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.
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.
Pawpaw is a forest understory tree native to much of the eastern US, reaching its western limit in the oak-hickory forests of southeast Nebraska. It is best known for its large, edible, yellow-green fruits with custard-like pulp. It’s occasionally used as a landscape tree in southeast Nebraska.
Austrian pine is a medium to large conifer that is native to southeastern Europe, especially the higher elevations of the Balkans and Turkey. It has been used extensively in shelterbelts across much of the central and northern Great Plains and is also used in park and landscape plantings. Diseases are now limiting its use in eastern Nebraska.
Jack pine is a scrubby, northern pine native to much of Canada and south to the Great Lakes and northern New England. It grows further north in Canada than any other native pine. It is extremely cold hardy and drought tolerant and has been used in shelterbelts and conservation plantings in Nebraska where little else will grow.
Limber pine is a medium-sized evergreen native to the Rocky Mountains from Canada to New Mexico where it’s typically found at elevations of 5,000 to 12,000 feet, often reaching the tree line. A few disjunct stands reach out on to the western High Plains including the Pine Bluffs area of western Kimball County, making it one of only two pine species native to the state, the other being Ponderosa pine.
Pinyon pine is native to the Four Corners area of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona where it is typically found growing with junipers on drier sites. It has been used in landscape and screen plantings in western Nebraska, especially the southern Panhandle.
Scotch Pine, also known as Scots pine, is a fast-growing, conical to columnar, medium-sized conifer with distinctive flaking orange to red-brown bark. Once common and popular across the Midwest, scotch pine is being decimated by Pine Wilt and is no longer recommended for planting in Nebraska.
Eastern redcedar is a native tree that has long been used in windbreaks, shelterbelts, and conservation plantings across the Great Plains. Due to lack of management and naturally-occurring wildfires, it has rapidly spread 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.
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.
Colorado spruce (also called blue spruce) is a pyramidal conifer native to Colorado and the central Rocky Mountains. It has been extensively planted across Nebraska in shelterbelts and landscapes and is one of the most common evergreens in communities, especially in central and western Nebraska.
Norway spruce is a large pyramidal evergreen conifer native to the mountains of northern and central Europe (including Norway). It has been used extensively as a landscape tree in eastern Nebraska where it’s distinguished by its large size and its pendulous, droopy branches.
White spruce, also known as Black Hills spruce in our region, is an extremely hardy evergreen conifer native across the northern boreal region from Alaska and northwest Canada to Newfoundland, and dipping south into the US from Minnesota to northern New England. There is an isolated population in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which is where the common name Black Hills Spruce comes from. The tree has been planted in significant numbers across Nebraska where it is used in windbreaks, wildlife plantings, residential landscapes, and community plantings.
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.
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.
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.