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Native Trees of Nebraska

Updated on June 5, 2011

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:

Photo by cm195902
Photo by cm195902

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.

Photo by Mike Pedroncelli
Photo by Mike Pedroncelli

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.

Photo by Jamie Dwyer
Photo by Jamie Dwyer

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.

Photo by tlindenbaum
Photo by tlindenbaum

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).

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    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for an interesting hub. Just about every ranch in the sandhills has a cottonwood grove which serves as a widbreak for cattle in the winter.

    • kerryg profile image
      Author

      kerryg 8 years ago from USA

      We have a grove of them at the far end of our property. I love the rustling noise the leaves make in the breeze.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      This is a nice Hub and lovely trees. I just discovered ponderosa mushrooms the other day, having nothing to do with the tree. lol

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great hub and beautiful photos of the trees that do well in Nebraska. No matter where one lives, it is smart to use native plants as they are always hardier than other plants, on average.

      Never heard of a ponderosa mushroom...will have to look that up!

    • euro-pen profile image

      euro-pen 7 years ago from Europe

      Wow. These are really quite awesome trees. I did know some of the names but never saw these trees in nature (I'm living in Europe). Now, I have at least a mental image when I come across those names the next time while reading. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Nadine Brandes 5 years ago

      Thank you for all of this helpful information! It was so interesting and fascinating! I needed it for my novel I'm writing and needed some tree information in Nebraska. Thank you again! This was perfect!

    • profile image

      Jumpthegun 4 years ago

      I'm traveling across the southern part of Nebraska and used your excellent site to identify these trees. Cottonwoods are my favorite, their leaf is a spade shape.

    • profile image

      Mary 4 years ago

      I have a large tree dropping fan like leaves and seeda that look like small plums with large pits. Would like to know what kind of tree it is.

    • kerryg profile image
      Author

      kerryg 4 years ago from USA

      Mary, sounds like it may be a gingko biloba.

    • angel115707 profile image

      Angel Ward 4 years ago from Galveston, TX

      Very informative and can be a great reference for school research or projects. I really would love to have a black walnut tree, even with the juglone, because it is 10x healthier and tastier than the European walnuts they sell so cheap this time of year.

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