Native Trees of Nebraska
Planting native trees has many benefits over naturalized and exotic trees in the harsh continental climate of Nebraska. Because native trees evolved in Nebraska, they are adapted to extreme heat, extreme cold, wind, drought, and even flooding. Once established, native trees will require little extra care or protection against the elements.
Nebraska native trees are also beautiful! Here is a selection of 5 beautiful and useful native trees that are also great landscape trees:
5. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
My personal favorite Nebraska native tree is the magnificent ponderosa pine. Unfortunately, the ponderosa is native only to the Western part of the state and will not grow well in Eastern Nebraska.
The ponderosa grows to a stately 100-160 feet, with some individuals reaching over 200. It is slow growing, but extremely long-lived.
Ponderosas are good wildlife trees and feature distinctive and highly ornamental bark. Often described as puzzle-like in texture, it is an attractive orange color that gives off the odor of vanilla.
Ponderosas also produce attractive and easily seasoned lumber.
4. Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
The official state tree of Nebraska, the Eastern Cottonwood is a tall and fast growing hardwood native to creek sides and other moist areas throughout the state.
Cottonwoods make great deciduous shade trees, though some people object to the copious quantities of fluffy white seeds female trees produce in late spring and early summer. They share the attractive shaking leaves of their relatives, the poplars and aspens, and turn a beautiful light gold in autumn.
3. Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry is a tall deciduous shade tree related to the American elm, and with a similar graceful growing habit. It is fast growing and well suited to urban environments; however, it is also relatively short lived. Although it prefers relatively moist sites, it tolerates drought well.
Hackberry is a valuable wildlife plant because it produces purple berries that persist late into the winter. Among the animals attracted to the fruits are wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, robins, cedar waxwings, quail, and many other birds.
2. Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Native to eastern and southeastern Nebraska, the Black Walnut is the tallest of the walnut family, and like its relatives, it produces a delicious nut beloved by humans and wildlife alike, and superb hardwood lumber.
It also has an attractive growing habit and a hardy constitution.
Gardeners should be aware, however, that black walnut produces a toxin called juglone that prevents many other plants from growing near them. Juglone-sensitive plants, including pine, cherry, lilac, blackberry, and many types of vegetable, should not be grown near black walnuts.
1. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa )
The oak is considered the king of trees in Europe and Great Britain, and North America is also blessed with a number of beautiful native oaks. The finest of these for Nebraska is the bur oak, which shares the stately growing habits of its better known Eastern and European relatives but is better adapted to life on the Great Plains. Slow growing and long-lived, it also does well in urban environments.
Bur oak produces fine lumber and is also an excellent wildlife plant, thanks to the copious numbers of fringed acorns it produces. The acorns are particularly popular with squirrels and game birds such as wild turkeys.
Other oaks native to Nebraska include the White Oak (Quercus alba), the Red Oak (Quercus rubra), the Black Oak (Quercus velutina), the Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and the Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica).