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Native Trees to Plant this Fall

Fall is here, and now is the best time of year to plant trees. This year, we are celebrating our native trees, which not only offer beautiful fall foliage, but also provide a variety of fruits and seeds at this time of year that are an excellent source of nutrition for our local birds and wildlife. If you are interested in supporting our environment, planting a native tree is a great way to do so.

Here are some of our favorites that you can plant to support your local wildlife and ecology.

Oaks

Quercus alba (White Oak), Q. bicolor (Swamp White Oak), Q. coccinea (Scarlet Oak), Q. macrocarpa (Bur Oak), Q. palustris (Pin Oak), Q. phellos (Willow Oak), Q. rubra (Northern Red Oak)

These natives are a staple of our local environment, with a massive canopy and root system, they produce a lot of oxygen and sequester a lot of carbon. Oaks support over 500 species of moths and butterflies, in addition to the mammals and birds that eat buds, pollen, acorns, and insects that live in the tree. With many types of oaks available, there is an oak to fit any environment, no matter your local conditions.

Blackgum Fall Foliage

Blackgum

Nyssa sylvatica

These durable trees can flourish in tough environments. We have one growing in the back parking lot at our Fair Oaks location that has thrived even in the heavily trafficked area where it is planted. While we can appreciate the attractive fall foliage, the birds and insects will flock to the tree for its flowers and later, its fruits.

Eastern Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana

These drought-tolerant evergreens serve as a wonderful resource for birds, providing food and winter shelter to cedar waxwings and a wide variety of other local birds. What we commonly refer to as juniper berries are actually small female cones. Male trees develop a gold tint as their cones form at the ends of the tree branches. Many of our local wildlife species winter in stands of eastern red cedars in our region. Ornamentally, these make excellent screening plants. Shrub form and columnar forms are available in cultivated forms.

River Birch

Betula nigra

These relatively fast-growing trees can thrive in poor soils, wet soils and a variety of and even dry or compact soils. We know them best for their signature exfoliating bark. When in bloom, these trees attract a wide variety of insects and birds to feed before the leaves develop. Their fall foliage is yellow. Look for them locally in Great Falls Park.

Serviceberry

Amelanchier laevis

This small tree, also known as the Juneberry, is a vital species that provides an early source for nectar for bees when the weather is still warming up. The fruits arrive in June, and taste like blueberries – if you can get them before the birds do. Birds will flock to the fruits. In the fall, we can enjoy the bright foliage.

Maples

Acer rubrum (Red Maple) and Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple)

Maples are well known for their beautiful fall color, but they also produce blooms which are highly important for local wildlife in the spring. Red maples produce red flowers, and sugar maple flowers come in a yellow color. Once the flowers are done, local wildlife will come for the samaras, which are high protein, high fat seeds.

Sweetbay Magnolia, Tree, Native

Sweetbay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

This native is a great choice if you are dealing with poor quality soil or drainage issues. You will find them locally along woodland creek banks. Fragrant white blooms attract pollinators, and their red seeds attract wildlife as well. Since these plants are semi-evergreen, in a normal or mild winter they will retain 60-70% of their foliage, so you can use them as a native screening plant if you want something in the 10-15 ft. range that needs to handle poor soils.

American Beech Fall Foliage

Fantastic Fall Foliage: Native Trees

This post was originally published in September of 2017

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The changing weather transforms trees and shrubs  from bright green into a vibrant combination of orange, red and yellow. As this beautiful scene of color works its way across the landscape of our region, many customers come in wanting to know how they can enjoy beautiful fall foliage at home. One of the best ways to add fall color is by planting native trees. Each of the ones below has its own set of unique characteristics.

American Beech

One of my all-time favorite trees. American beech creates a stunning display each fall with its whitewashed bark and dark yellow foliage. Its foliage fades to a papery light brown or creamy white at the end of the season and remains on the tree through the winter, rustling in the wind and providing visual interest in the garden against the bare branches of other plants. Beech nuts are also a good source of food for animals during the winter.

Blackgum Fall Foliage

Blackgum

The vivid contrast between blackgum’s dark bark (almost black when wet) and vivid red or orange fall foliage creates a jaw-dropping fall display. This slow growing over story tree can reach 70 feet and is very strong. One of my favorite trees at our Fair Oaks location is an enormous blackgum that is surrounded by our parking lot. We literally drive directly over its root system every day and it’s still thriving!

Sassafras Fall Foliage

Sassafras

Sassafras is most notable for its display of orange, green, yellow and red foliage all on the same tree. As the foliage changes color, these trees may look like an artist threw several colors of paint over their leaves.  They are also well known for their fragrance. A fun fact about this tree: it is used in making root beer!

Silky Dogwood

Red on one side and white on the other, the foliage of silky dogwood creates a display of flickering colors as it moves in the fall breeze. After its foliage fades, the vibrant red color of new stems and branches provides winter interest. Older bark turns grey, but you can trim your dogwood back each season to keep the new growth coming, as it will grow very quickly.

Sourwood Fall Foliage

Sourwood

As fall arrives sourwood’s foliage turns yellow, then orange, and finally brilliant red. This is an excellent tree to pair with evergreens as the red foliage contrasts the deep green of evergreen to enhance the color of both plants. A two-season tree, sourwood also produces fragrant flowers in spring when it leafs out. Maxing out around 20 feet high, sourwood is a good choice for anyone looking for a large impact in a limited space.

Sugar Maple

A classic fall foliage tree, you can’t go wrong with sugar maple in your landscape. With a nice rounded look and a maximum height of 60 to 80 feet, the yellow, dark green and orange fall foliage make this tree a stunning addition to any landscape. It typically takes on a more orange color than its other maple relatives, so if you love orange foliage, this is good choice!

Source: Fine Gardening

Winterthur Viburnum

The most remarkable aspect of Winterthur viburnum is its berries, which come in a light pink and fade to dark pink and later blue as they mature. When most of the berries are blue, the foliage also transitions to vibrant red, creating a stunning contrast between the plants’ foliage and fruits. In the spring, this viburnum blooms with white clusters of flowers as it leafs out. I recommend pairing it with grasses and evergreen for a beautiful combination of texture and contrasting green color in fall.