Your Shade Tree Advisory Committee (STAC) strongly suggests planting native trees, but we’ve included some non-native species that are not invasive for your consideration. The following list of trees has both common and scientific (Genus species) names.
Tall Shade Trees
These trees take many years to mature to heights of 45 to 80+ feet. Their branches and roots can take up a good deal of space. These large trees provide the most environmental benefits.
American Sycamore (Platinus occidentalis) – native; very tall & wide, showy peeling bark.
Birches: River birch (Betula nigra) & Sweet birch (B.lenta) – native; both have showy bark.
Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) - native; tolerates wet soil & when grown in sun has great red fall color.
Lindens: American linden/Basswood (Tilia americana) - native; very fragrant small flowers in June.
Silver linden (T.tomentosa) & Littleleaf linden (T.cordata) – two non-native species; fragrant flowers.
Maples: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) & Red maple (A.rubrum) – native; excellent fall color.
Oaks: (Quercus + species) - Pin, Red, Scarlet, Sawtooth, Shingle, Southern Red, Swamp White, Willow & White oak; all native; Willow oak has smallest acorns; Red, Scarlet & Pin oaks have red fall color.
Sweetgum (Liquidambar) – native; excellent fall color; the cultivar ‘Rotundiloba’ has very few seeds.
Tuliptree, Tulip poplar (Liriodendron) – native; a tall straight trunk, showy tulip-like flowers high up in canopy are easy to miss; can be messy; good gold color in the fall. Must provide water in a drought.
Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea) – native with fragrant clusters of cream flowers & gold fall color.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) - prehistoric deciduous ‘conifer’ with separate male & female trees; in the fall all its golden leaves fall quickly; Female trees produce malodorous Ginkgo nuts; we plant only male trees.
Katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) – non-native; colorful foliage; needs ample moisture in youth.
Medium Flowering or Ornamental Trees (25 to 40 feet tall)
Dogwoods (Cornus florida & C.’Steller’ series) - native & hybrid trees with showy “flowers” (bracts) of white or pink followed by red fruit and red fall foliage.
Goldenrain Tree (Koelreutia paniculata) –non-native; yellow showy summer flowers
European hornbeam (C.betulas) – non-native; the cultivar ‘Fastigiata’ is good for narrow spaces.
American Hophornbeam, Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) - native; interesting bark, tolerates shade.
Persian Parrotia (Parrotia persica) – non-native, very showy bark, tiny red flowers in late winter, colorful foliage in spring & again in fall; a multi-trunked tree is a lovely sight but needs lots of space.
Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra) – native with showy fruits & brilliant yellow fall foliage.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – native with wonderful fall colors; difficult to transplant, so only small container-grown plants should be transplanted; found at specialized ‘native plant’ nurseries.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadeneis, A.arborea) – native; white spring flowers, edible blue fruit, red fall color.
Small Flowering or Ornamental Trees (10 to 30 feet tall)
American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) – native; tolerates shade, muscular bark, gold fall color.
Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina) – native understory (shade-tolerant) tree with white flowers.
Corneliancherry (Cornus mas) – non-native; late winter small yellow flowers; red fruits; showy bark.
Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) - non-native popular in the south; showy flowers and bark. Use winter-hardy cultivars.
Japanese Snowbell (Styrax japonicus) – non-native; white bell-like flowers, good understory tree, not drought tolerant.
Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) - non-native; creamy white flowers, lustrous brown bark.
Magnolias: Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) – non-native; white to dark pink fragrant blooms or Star magnolia. (M.stellata) – non-native; very early white flowers or Sweetbay magnolia (M. virginiana) – native; fragrant white flowers; tolerates wet soil, light shade.
Purpleleaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera) - non-native; dark reddish-purple foliage & white flowers.
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) – native; bright red bottle-brush flowers, yellow fall foliage.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) – native; tiny pink flowers put on a show before leaves appear.
Seven Sons Flower Tree (Heptacodium) – non-native (from China), peeling bark, fragrant white flowers in autumn & showy red calyces after flowering.
Sourwood (Oxydendrun arboreum) – native with creamy white “lily of the valley” flowers and rich scarlet autumn foliage. Must be planted as small, young specimen.
Smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus) –native with smoke-like puffs of bloom and wonderful fall color.
Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis’Winter King’) - native; fall color; showy red berries in winter.
Witchhazel: (Hamamelis virginiana) - Common witchhazel is a native multi-trunked small tree with fragrant yellow thread-like flowers and golden fall foliage in autumn.
American Holly (Ilex opaca) – a native species with dark green glossy leaves; berries on female trees only if pollinated by a male tree in the neighborhood. (Ilex species have separate male and female plants.)
Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) – a native with dense sprays of flat feathered foliage; both male & female cones occur on this species; can slowly grow to 50 feet; tolerates moist soil.
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) - native; flat, soft needles that turn rusty orange in fall and drop: a deciduous conifer. Reaches 50 to 70 feet tall. Tolerates very wet soils.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) – Originally from China, now extinct in the wild; flat soft needles turn copper in fall and drop: fast growing deciduous conifer will reach great heights, eg) 100 feet in 80 years.
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) – native; shade-tolerant, graceful, evergreen; protect from winter wind & watch for possible Wooly Adelgid infestation; it can be sprayed to protect it from this pest.
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) – native Juniper that grows fast; naturalized; many are growing from seeds dispersed by wind and animals. Junipers have separate male/female trees; female Eastern Red Cedars have tiny aromatic blue fruits that birds eat.
Leyland Cypress – a hybrid mainly used for screening & hedges; in the wild can grow to 70+ feet.
White Pine (Pinus strobus) – the largest native conifer in the northeast, this has long soft needles in bunches of 5; mature pine cones can be 6-8 inches long.
Japanese Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica) – non-native, Japan’s national tree, 50 - 60 feet tall at maturity, very short soft needles hug stems; highly wind tolerant.
Trees to Avoid
Ash – do not plant until further notice. All Ash trees are being killed by EAB (Emerald ash borer).
Bradford & Callery pear (Pyrus species) – invasive; hazardous as brittle wood causes tree to fall apart.
Fringetree – do not plant until further notice; vulnerable to EAB (Emerald ash borer).
Norway maple – a non-native which has become extremely invasive in the northeast USA.
Zelkova – a non-native which has been over-planted in NJ and which has become invasive.