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