9 good trees to plant

November 10, 2013 

Jay Hayek is a huge fan of planting native trees and shrubs.

The forestry specialist with University of Illinois Extension notes that native species often are hardier under local conditions and better for the environment.

"Some of these (non-natives) are wreaking havoc on our ecosystem," he said. "They're invasive, and they're displacing native trees, shrubs and wildflowers."

Jay has been studying trees in the field for 16 years. He also receives many emails and phone calls from frustrated tree owners.

Jay recently came up with his list of "The Good, the Not So Good and the Ugly and Annoying," including both native and non-native trees and shrubs, to help people decide what to plant. -- Teri Maddox


Swamp white oak -- Large tree and fast growing for an oak; tolerant to urban conditions and a wide variety of soils and sites.

Shumard oak -- Large and fast growing; tolerant of alkaline soil conditions.

Kentucky coffeetree -- Underutilized medium to large tree; male and female specimens; unique and robust winter branching.

Blackgum -- Underutilized medium to large tree; intermediate growth rate and beautiful fall color.

Cucumbertree -- Underutilized medium to large tree; beautiful spring flowers.

Yellow popular (tuliptree) -- Large and fast growing; beautiful flowers and fall color.

Freeman maple -- Underutilized medium to large tree; not messy like silver maple or overplanted like red maple; fast growing and beautiful fall color.

Serviceberry -- Underutilized native shrub; pretty spring flowers and fall color.

Viburnum -- Underutilized small tree or large shrub; stick with native species and avoid European highbush cranberry, as it is a terrible invasive shrub.


Eastern white pine -- Lovely native conifer that is extremely fast growing and long-lived; I love this tree. But it requires loamy to course-textured soils and doesn't like to get its feet wet. For some odd reason, people love to plant this tree in heavy clay soils and subdivision embankments. Stop!

Pin oak -- Prefers acid soils and frequently displays chronic yellow-green foliage indicating chlorosis caused by iron/manganese deficiencies induced by alkaline soil conditions.

White oak -- Slow-growing and difficult to transplant; just doesn't seem to fair very well in yard and urban settings.

Red maple -- Grossly overplanted in subdivisions, parks and municipal right-of-ways; verticilium wilt issues.

Honeylocust -- Grossly overplanted in subdivisions, parks and municipal right-of-ways.

Littleleaf linden -- Modestly overplanted; Japanese beetles love the foliage.


Blue spruce -- I despise this non-native conifer. Two-thirds of all "sick-tree" calls and emails involve this problematic tree; prefers loamy to coarse-textured soils; not a fan of hot and humid Illinois summer weather.

Ginkgo (female) -- Nuisance fruit; highly offensive odor.

Sweetgum -- Nuisance fruits; everybody hates those little gumballs.

Ash -- Emerald ash borer, anyone?

Black walnut -- Nuisance fruit; two-thirds of all tree-removal questions involve black walnut yard trees.

Callery pear (Bradford) -- Low forks and narrow branching habits lead to frequent damage by ice, snow and high winds; invasive species.

Sugar maple -- Fast growing, but messy branches, limbs and fruit.

Norway maple -- Grossly overplanted and verticilium wilt; can be invasive.

Silver linden -- Messy tree; drops numerous twigs and branches.

Siberian elm -- Highly susceptible to bacterial wetwood and slime flux; not to be confused with the desirable lacebark elm (Chinese elm).

Willow -- Fast growing but messy trees; roots frequently cause septic and sewer-line issues.

Crabapple -- Premature leaf drop (i.e., fire blight) is a major problem.

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