Mid-Atlantic Native Trees

Canopy Trees

American Holly

40-50’ high, 18-40’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This evergreen has captivated plant lovers since the days of the Pilgrims with its lovely red berries. It is a slow grower with spiky leaves and creamy grey bark.  It has a low to medium growth rate adding less than 12-24 inches per year.  Full sun or partial shade is best for this tree and it is drought tolerant.  Birds love to eat the red berries in winter, but multiple plants are needed to produce the berries. This tree is great planted in your yard.  The foliage of the holly provides cover for songbirds and mammals and after frost; the fruit is choice food for grouse, quail, wild turkeys and songbirds.  The flowers are attractive to bees.


40-60’ high, 20-30’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This deciduous evergreen is very adaptable to moist soils, it will grow in standing water but does thrive in normal soils. It is narrow in shape so it can be planted in smaller spaces. This tree is long lived with beautiful bright orange fall color. It has soft needles that drape towards the ground. The tree grows at a medium rate with height increase of 13-24 inches per year.  Grow in full sun.  The seeds from the cones are attractive to wildlife. It is happy as a street tree and in your yard.

Black Gum

30-50’ high, 20-30’ spread, Rounded shape

A beautiful native tree, especially during fall when leaves explode into reds and purples. This slow grower is narrower than others and is adaptable to moist to normal soils. It leaves come out and point up vertically while its bark is creamy grey while young and gets worn with age. The tree will grow in full or part shade.  The small, bluish-black fruit that ripen in fall are attractive to many birds and wildlife.  The greenish-white flowers provide nutrition for bees in the spring.  This tree is happy planted in your yard or along the street.

Eastern Red Cedar

40-50’ high, 8-20’ spread, columnar shape

An evergreen with beautiful reddish-brown bark and small cones that are eaten by birds and other wildlife.  Red Cedars are very low to no-maintenance and can thrive in urban soils and are heat tolerant.  They prefer full sun.  The growth rate for this tree is medium, gaining 13-24” per year.  The trees produce gray or bluish-green rounded ¼ inch diameter fruit that resembles a berry but is actually a cone. Eastern redcedar twigs and foliage are eaten by browsers while the fruit is eaten most extensively by cedar waxwings.  Evergreen foliage provides nesting and roosting cover for sparrows, robins, mockingbirds, juncos and warblers.


40-60’ high, 30-50’ spread  Rounded shape

This tree of the elm family is tough and durable. It grows at a medium to fast rate in full sun. It produces small dry berries that taste like a date and are popular with birds, especially turkey and cedar waxwings, and humans alike. Its bark has a corky texture that develops as it ages.  The tree attracts many butterfly species. Lastly, it has a nice yellow color in the fall. This tree is happy planted in your yard or along the street.

Northern Red Oak

60-80’ high, 45’ spread, Rounded shape

A fast growing Oak with radiant fall colors of reds and orange. This tree is long lived and well adapted to urban lawns. Its bark stays mostly smooth and is a darker grey.  Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree.  Acorns from this tree are at the top of the food preference list for blue jays, wild turkeys, squirrels and other mammals.  It’s happy along the street, in the woods, or in your yard.


40-70’ high, 40-60’ spread, Oval shape

This birch can have multiple trunks and makes an attractive landscaping tree. Its shreddie, peally bark adds visual interest. Grow in full sun or partial shade.  It has fewer problems if purchased as a single trunk. The catkins of the river birch are used by redpolls and pine siskins.  The small but plentiful seeds are appreciated by a wide range of song birds. This tree is a fast grower and turns golden in the fall.


30-60’ high, 25-40’ spread, Rounded shape

Sassafras roots are used for medicines, tea and root-beer.  Leaves are mitt-shaped but variable in form, turning yellow and purple in fall.  Female trees have attractive spring flowers and blue-black berries (drupes) in the fall.  The fruit is eaten by a variety of birds.  In full sun to partial shade, the sassafras will grow at a medium to fast rate: 40 feet in height in 30-40 years.

Shingle Oak

40-60’ high, 20-30’ spread, Rounded shape

This tree’s wood was used to make roof shingles.  It is a medium-sized shade tree with beautiful rounded leaves that resemble a laurel leaf.  They prefer full sun and are slow-growing.  They will attain 30 feet in about 40 years.

Swamp White Oak

60-75’ high, 50-60’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This medium sized oak, has very cool shreddie bark. It is in the white oak family and has rounded leaves that are fuzzy on the underside. It turns yellow in the fall, but could be rich reddish purple some years. The growth rate is medium in full sun.  Can tolerate both flooding in spring and drought in summer.  Wildlife use its acorns and the tree provides cover for birds and mammals.  This is a very tough, adaptable tree for the yard or street.

Tuliptree/Yellow Poplar

70-90’ high, 40’ spread, Rounded shape

This tree has a very straight trunk and was used to make canoes by Native Americans.  It has beautiful flowers in spring, furrowed bark and tulip-shaped leaves.  Tuliptrees do best in full sun.  This tree provides food in many forms for many animals.  The spring flowers provide nectar for ruby-throated hummingbirds.  The seeds provide food for birds and mammals including finches, cardinals, quail, squirrels and rabbits.  They are fast growers reaching 50 feet in 30 years.

White Pine

60-80’ high, 20-40’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This evergreen grows well in moist to normal soils and grows at a medium to fast rate. Evergreens are best planted in your yard on the north or west side to conserve energy, this allows shade during the summer months and sun to warm your house in the winter. It does lose its needles, just not all at once. Grow in full sun or partial shade.  Mammals and birds eat seeds from the tree.  Pines provide nesting sites for many birds including woodpeckers, common grackles, mourning doves, chickadees and nuthatches.  This tree is happiest in your yard or in the woods.

Willow Oak

60-80’ high, 30-40’ spread, Rounded shape at maturity

A fast growing oak with finger like leaves. This is a majestic tree built for the ages. It grows well in full sun in both moist to normal soils. It will provide nice shade and bark that stays smooth during its youth.  The acorns are a top food preference for a variety of mammals and some songbirds.  It is one of our most popular trees for park, street, and yard plantings. Homeowners like it for its small leaves that make mowing the leaves easy in the fall.

American Elm

60-80’ high, 30-50’ spread, Vase shape

A majestic tree grows into an upright vase shape and has leaves turning yellow in the fall. This extremely fast growing tree comes in many disease-resistant cultivars, like Delaware and Valley Forge. We hope that these trees will begin to replace the non-native Japanese zelkova that have been replanted since Dutch Elm disease decimated this tree. Fall brings a bright yellow color to its leaves. This tree is happy planted in your yard or along the street.

Scarlet Oak

40-60’ high, 30-50’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This is the official tree of the District of Columbia. Known for its spectacular fall red colors and initial red leaf out. This oak is able to tolerant poor soils and windy locations. Good for hilltops where rocky soils are abound. This oak is good for neutral pH soils. It’s happy along the street, in the woods, or in your yard.

Pin Oak

60-70’ high, 25-40’ spread, Pyramidal shape

This oak is a very common shade tree. It is strong and upright and grows pretty quickly. One way to tell it apart from other oaks in winter is its branching pattern. The lower third branches point down, the middle third are parallel, and the upper third point upward. This tree is happy planted in your yard or along the street.

Chestnut Oak

50-70’ high, 30-50’ spread, Pyramidal shape

A great tree destined for rocky, dry, well drained soils. Its bark at maturity is corky and provides winter interest. This makes a great landscape tree.  Fall colors can range from orange-yellow to yellowish-brown. This tree is happiest in your yard in a well-drained location.

Understory Trees

Hop Hornbeam

25-40’ high, 20-30’ spread, Rounded shape

Also known as ironwood, the tree is named from its seed resembling hops used in beer production and its extremely hard wood.  This graceful tree has yellow fall foliage, a compact shape and is valued by wildlife for shelter and food.  It is a small, slow-growing tree reaching 20 feet in 30 years.  It prefers light shade, but will also thrive in full sun.


20-30’ high, 25-35’ spread, Vase shape

This tree blooms in a profusion of rosy pink flowers in April.  The leaves are heart shaped, emerging reddish in the spring, turning dark green in summer and then yellow in fall.  The early blossoms draw in nectar-seeking insects, including several species of butterfly.  Songbirds eat the seeds.  Grows in full sun or partial shade at a medium rate of 13-24 inches per year.


15-25’ high, 15-25’ spread, Vase shape

This tree blooms in March and April with delicate white clusters of flowers.  In fall the leaves turn vivid shades of red and gold.  The berries ripen in June, changing from green to red to purplish black.  Birds love the fruit.  Grows in full sun or partial shade at a medium rate.

Sweetbay Magnolia

10-20’ high, 10-20’ spread, Vase shape

This magnolia blooms late in spring, avoiding the frost that can spoil a bloom.  It produces creamy white flowers 2-3” in diameter with a light lemon scent.  Typically multi-stemmed.  Clusters of red fruits are eaten by squirrels and a variety of songbirds.  For best bloom, plant in full sun.

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