University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
NATIVE TREES FOR NORTHERN
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
are a crucial part of, and often dominate, our landscapes. They
form not only the framework for our
outdoor living spaces, but also the overall theme of our
surroundings. While there are many good choices
of ornamental trees, those native to our northern region offer some
advantages when it comes to culture.
native trees evolved here they
are hardy, are able to tolerate the weather and pest populations
and can make our landscape
look like it "fits" into the bigger surrounding
landscape. They also provide food and shelter for our
birds and small mammals.
obvious choice, when choosing trees for a landscape, is their
size—both height and spread. By allowing
for the proper spacing and siting, trees wont be crowding overhead
grow too close to each other or buildings.
Another choice is whether you want an evergreen, one that loses its
leaves in winter yet provides shade in summer (termed “deciduous”),
smaller tree that is grown mainly for its flowers.
protect your property from wind and snow and provide year-round
also are very important for birds, both for nesting and winter
protection. Most evergreens prefer full sun for best
growth, particularly a factor while they are young, and reach 70 to
high eventually. For planting in masses, as a windbreak, for
cutting for Christmas trees, or at the edge of a refined landscape,
the balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Others for windbreaks or
screening— both wind and
visual— include the white spruce (Picea
glauca) or red pine
resinosa). White spruce and white pine (Pinus strobus)
make good specimen trees in landscapes,
used singly by themselves. White cedar (Thuja
occidentalis) is often used as a
hedge. Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is one native
evergreen that tolerates
shade, but does not tolerate windy sites well.
Similar to evergreens, deciduous trees prefer full sun,
although red maple (Acer
rubrum) and American hophornbeam (Ostrya
virginiana) also grow well in
light shade. Many native shade
trees develop good fall color such as the red maple, sugar maple (Acer
saccharum), and red oak (Quercus rubra). Except for
the American hophornbeam, which
makes a nice medium-size lawn tree about 40 to 50 feet high, most
reach 60 to 80 feet high eventually.
birch (Betula papyrifera), with its
attractive white papery bark, has drawbacks in that it is
susceptible to ice
damage in winter and pests in summer.
The white ash (Fraxinus americana)
has good fall color, makes an attractive shade tree, and has wood
many products, yet is susceptible to the emerald ash borer which has
into certain areas.
deciduous trees— 25 to 30 feet tall— for smaller landscapes include
striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum)
with its colorful striped, green and white bark, which is best grown
shade in or near wooded areas. The
American hornbeam or musclewood (Carpinus
caroliniana) is so named for its sinewy bark. Sparsely
branched in shade, it forms a dense
rounded habit in sun with red fall leaves.
trees—primarily smaller ones—are grown for their flowers or fruits.
Plant in full sun, and figure on 20 to 30
feet for eventual heights. Pagoda
dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) tolerates light shade, and
of small white flowers in June. American mountainash (Sorbus
produces clusters of small white flowers in June, followed in fall
fruits favored by many birds. Red Cascade is a cultivar (cultivated
you may find of this mountainash, being more compact than
the species and orange-red in fall.
addition to smaller trees— those generally considered with a single
a similar effect consider the large, multi-stemmed native shrubs
serviceberries (Amelanchier), chokecherry (Prunus
virginiana), and viburnums.
More on these, and other shrub and tree choices for native
can be found in Landscape Plants for
Vermont, available from the Vermont Master Gardener program