Norway Spruce: A Tree of Many Uses

Picea abies

Norway SpruceThe English resisted calling the Norway spruce by its name, instead referring to it as the “common spruce.” The Finnish claimed it as their own, calling it the Finn spruce, while others, the European spruce. Regardless of what you call it, the Norway spruce is a European staple. Best known for its durability and towering heights, the Norway spruce has spread its popularity across the Atlantic and into the U.S., becoming an American favorite.

What makes this tree even more likeable is its multiple uses. It is an important lumber crop in Europe, producing a strong light-weight wood with a straight grain, making it an ideal choice in construction. It’s a great landscape tree for its dense foliage and tall heights. The tree’s natural pyramidal shape and green color make it one of the most popular Christmas trees in the country.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Norway spruce to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Does well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist, sandy and well drained soils (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Does well in full and partial sun.
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing up to two feet a year and reaching 40-60 feet at maturity.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has dark green, one inch needles with squared tips, needles are retained for six to seven years before dropping.
  • Has a thin, reddish-brown bark that thickens and flakes off as the tree ages.
  • Cones start to form at age 30, with seeds dropping during the winter or early spring, providing food for wildlife.

Tag us in a photo with your Norway spruce!

Deodar Cedar: Himalayan Divine

Cedrus deodara

Deodar CedarDeodar—derived from Sanskrit to mean “timber of the gods”— is native to the western Himalayas and a staple in eastern forests. The Deodar Cedar is popular for its towering heights, reaching as high as 250 feet in its natural habitat. Tree expert Michael Dirr even referred to it “the most graceful cedar,” and by the look of its unique branching patterns and attractive coloring it’s understandable why.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Deodar cedars grow well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and well drained soils. They are also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 7-9).
  • Medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 40-70 feet in height at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a smooth gray-brown bark in its youth and develops short furrows with scaly ridge tops as it ages.
  • Has sharp-tip needles that shed in the spring as new growth appears.
  • Features bluish-green or silvery needles and a distinct layering branch pattern. This tree is a popular windbreak choice.

Tag us in a photo with your Deodar Cedar!

Scots Pine: The Survivalist

Pinus sylvestric

Scots-Pine_3-902[2]The Scots Pine was popular at the turn of the century on old farm fields. Early farmers were familiar with this species from its growth throughout Europe and knew it could tolerate poor, dry soil.

Eventually they found that the trees did not mature into the fine timber stands they envisioned, but often stagnated or had twisted trunks. It was the beginning of the realization that seed sources vary widely and must be matched to the planting site. There are more than 35 different seed sources commercially recognized.

The Scots pine also happens to be amongst the country’s most popular Christmas trees because of their excellent form and great needle retention.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Scots pine to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Scots pine grow well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained and well drained soils, they are also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 60 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has thick, scaly, dark grey-brown bark that thins out and turns reddish-orange near the top as the tree ages.
  • Dark green to blue needles extending one to three inches in length.
  • Scots pine seeds are popular among wildlife, owls are known to nest in the trees.

Tag us in a photo with your Scots pine tree!

White Fir: A Comrade to the Foothills

Abies concolor

White-Fir_2-839[1]If you’ve ever been hiking in the Rockies or the Sierras, then chances are you’ve crossed paths with the white fir. The white fir has the largest natural range of any of the western firs—with the exception of its cousin the subalpine fir. It is one of 40 members of its genus worldwide, and nine in North America. This mountain beauty has grown popular outside of its natural habitat as well for its tolerance to harsh conditions. While it’s native to the Sierra and Rocky mountain ranges, it is found as far east as Maine.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions:

  • White fir grow well in most soils including acidic, loamy, sandy and well drained (hardiness zones 4-7). Avoid highly alkaline or clay soils and areas that flood.
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 30-50 feet at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has blunt needles that display faint white lines on upper stomata.
  • Can take different crown shapes depending on how much space is available.
  • Has a thick, rough bark. Young bark tends to be whitish in color while older bark has resin blisters.

This tree is also a favorite Christmas tree amongst buyers. If you have one in your yard check out our DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, The Natural Way for ideas on decorating it for the season and tag us in a photo of the finished design.

Paper Birch: The Quixotic Novelty

paper birch

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr

(Betula papyrifera)

Before it became frowned upon as an act of vandalism, people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write on it as a novel way to send messages, hence the paper birch was born. This New Hampshire state tree is often associated with beauty and romance, and it’s understandable why. With its lean trunk and towering height, the paper birch stands out amidst any forest backdrop. In addition to its early beginnings as a source of paper, the paper birch was also the tree of choice for early canoes because of its light weight and smooth grain.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Paper birch grows in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and sandy soils, is also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 2-7).
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 50-70 feet high at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a distinctive, smooth, white, paper-like bark that curls and peels as the trees ages.
  • Exhibits rich, golden, fall foliage.
  • Note: peeling the bark off will scar the tree with a dark band around the trunk, the area will not grow back with its natural white bark, so resist peeling.

If you could write a message to the forest, what would you say?

Arizona Cypress: The Southern Evergreen

Arizona Cypress

Tolerant of hot and dry conditions, the Arizona Cypress tree is an excellent tree for its native habitat, the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It makes a good windbreak, and it is also widely used for soil erosion planting. It is grown as a Christmas tree and used in the landscape as an ornamental.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding an Arizona cypress to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • The Arizona Cypress grows in acidic, alkaline, drought tolerant, loamy, sandy and well drained soils (hardiness zones 7-9).
  • Medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet high at maturity.
  • Does best in full sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Soft gray-green foliage.
  • Think, fibrous, coarsely shedding bark.
  • Has a pyramidal shape, serving great as an outdoor Christmas tree.

Tag us in a photo with your Arizona cypress!

Lacebark Elm: The Underdog

lacebark elm leaves

Photo Credit: Bri Weldon, Flickr

Considered a handsome and very durable tree, the Lacebark Elm is attractive as a street tree because of its ability to grow in adverse conditions and its relative freedom from the diseases that have ravaged many other Elm species. It earns its name from its distinctive bark that creates colorful patterns in its trunk resembling lace.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a lacebark elm to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • lacebark elm bark

    Photo Credit: Selena N.B.H., Flickr

    Lacebark elm grows well in rich, moist, well-drained, sandy, clay and loamy soils (hardiness zones 5-9).

  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet at maturity.
  • Full sun is ideal, but does well in multiple sun exposures.
  • Has some flood tolerance and drought resistance.

Physical Attributes:

  • Produces luscious, dark green leaves that change to yellow and red in the fall.
  • Has a distinctive bark that makes the tree stand out from others.
  •  Has a strong, rounded, crown making it ideal as a shade tree.

Do you have a lacebark elm? Tag us in a photo with it, we’d love to see!

The Butternut Tree

(Juglans cinerea)

butternutA cousin to the black walnut, and sometimes called the white walnut, the butternut tree is a North American native, especially popular in the eastern United States. Butternuts, as the name implies, is popular in baking for their oily, buttery flavor. This sweet nut is also enjoyed by deer, squirrels and birds.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a butternut tree to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Butternut trees grow well in acidic, alkaline, clay, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, salty and well drained soils (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Slow growing tree, growing up to one foot a year and reaching 40-60 feet at maturity.
  • Does best in full sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Produces a rich butternut used in baking, confections and fresh eating.
  • Has a rounded canopy shape, making it ideal as a shade tree.
  • Note: nut production will occur in 7-10 years; it is self-fertile, but plant two trees for best results.

Do you have a butternut tree in your yard? Tag us in a photo, we’d love to see it!

Sugar Maple: An American Classic

(Acer saccharum)

Sugar-Maple_2-870[1]Aside from its reputation of being a major source of syrup, the sugar maple is a source of other things as well. Historically, the ashes of sugar maple was used for soap-making, and consuming the syrup was said to aid in kidney and liver problems. Additionally, the hardwood from this tree made it a top choice in furniture making.

Best known for its syrup, the sugar maple supports one of the largest industries in the United States, producing nearly two million gallons of maple syrup every year valued between $29 and $42 million. This tree is so popular that several states have even claimed it as their state tree, including New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Vermont.

Interested in adding a sugar maple to your yard? Here are a few things to note.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Sugar maples grow best in acidic, alkaline and well drained soils and are drought tolerant (hardiness zones 3-8).
  • Slow to medium growing, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 60-75 feet at maturity.
  • Does well in full or partial sun exposure.
  • Note: Not ideal for planter boxes, confined spaces or compact soil.

Physical Attributes:

  • No showy flowers, but displays vibrant fall foliage.
  • Produces seed pods that attract wildlife, including chipmunks and squirrels.
  • Has a wide canopy, making it an ideal shade tree in the summer.

Tag us in a picture of your sugar maple!

Katsura: The Tree on the Moon

(Cercidiphyllum japonicum)

1024px-Cercidiphyllum_japonicum_JPG01bHave you ever noticed the shadow on the moon? Ancient Chinese and Japanese folklore says that the shadow on the moon was created when a man being punished by the gods was sentenced to cut down a giant Katsura tree on the moon. The shadow is said to belong to the magic Katsura tree which can’t be cut down. As for the man, he is trapped on the moon forever.

Although the Katsura is not native to North America, it has grown in popularity for its appealing characteristics. It isn’t susceptible to many pests, and requires little care. Additionally, the tree emits a caramelized sugar scent in the fall. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Here’s a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Katsura tree to your yard.

Environmental conditions:

  • Katsura trees grow well in acidic, loamy, clay and well-drained soil (hardiness zones 4-8). It is not drought tolerant, so water regularly.
  •  Medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 40-60 feet at maturity.
  • Has a shallow root system and some of the roots can grow to six inches in diameter or more above the soil. Does not do well in compact soil. Add mulch around the tree to maintain a cool root environment.
  • Tree grows in partial sun and full sun.

Physical Attributes:

  • Doesn’t have any showy flowers, but displays vibrant fall foliage with shades of crimson and yellow.
  • Relative of magnolia and tulip trees, producing heart-shaped leaves.
  • Releases sweet sugar smell in the fall, resembling brown-sugar or cotton candy.

Tag us in a picture of your Katsura tree!