Top 10 Shade Trees

Featured Misc Trees

Top 10 Shade Trees

By Sheereen Othman | March 6, 2017

Spring shipping starts today! Looking for a great shade tree that will add beauty and benefits? Check out the top 10 shade trees sold through the Arbor Day nursery.

  1. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

The Quaking Aspen enjoys many claims to tree fame. Thanks to its tiny, fluffy seeds that are carried far and wide by the wind, and to its tolerance to many soil conditions, it is one of the first trees to spring up after forest fires. In Autumn, the stunning yellow foliage brightens the landscape and finds its way onto calendar pages and magazine covers.

2. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Aside from its reputation of being a major source of syrup, the sugar maple is a source of other things. Historically, the ashes of sugar maple were used for soap-making, and consuming the syrup was said to aid in kidney and liver problems. Additionally, the hardwood from this tree made it a top choice in furniture making.

The sugar maple supports one of the largest industries in the United States, producing nearly two million gallons of maple syrup every year valued between $29 and $42 million. This tree is so popular that several states have even claimed it as their state tree, including New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Vermont.

3. Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

The Paper Birch tree is steeped in the romance of the north woods, most notably for the use of its bark in canoe construction, as a fire-starter, and as a bearer of messages. Most recent uses include products that require a hard, close-grained wood that does not splinter easily. At one time people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write messages on it, thus the name Paper Birch.

4. Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)

The Baldcypress tree is the classic tree of southern swamps. There, in its native habitat, it displays a peculiar habit of raising conical “knees” from its roots. The function of these growths is something of a mystery, although some believe it is a way to help the roots get oxygen. This tree dwells in swamps because it out-competes most other trees on such sites. To the surprise of some people, when the Baldcypress is planted on the right soil in yards or along streets, it does quite well and is a beautiful specimen tree. It has been grown successfully in cities as far north as Milwaukee and on dry Texas hills.

5. River Birch (Betula nigra)

The River Birch is one of the 12 Birch species that extend southward from the Arctic Circle. It is the only one that grows naturally at low elevations in the southeastern part of the United States. Mud is a natural bed for the seedlings and the tree is excellent for holding stream banks and thus helping to keep erosion in check.

6. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

The Red Maple is one of the best named of all trees. There is something red in all seasons – buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer and brilliant foliage in autumn. This pageant of color, along with the tree’s relatively fast growth and tolerance to a wide range of soils, makes it a widely planted favorite.

7. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

The Dawn Redwood is a beautiful tree in parks, golf courses and other sites large enough to accommodate its size. On good sites, its growth is rapid, with one tree in Virginia having reached 120′ in 30 years! It is relatively care-free and is a tough and beautiful specimen tree in any large landscape. Always a conversation piece thanks to its history.

8. Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciose)

An excellent tree where fast growth is desired. Striking flowers that appear in early summer. Catalpas can withstand city conditions while adding interest to landscapes. Should not be planted where fruit and flowers can drop on sidewalks as they are slippery after they fall for a short period of time.

9. Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos form inermis)

The Thornless Honeylocust is a widely-planted landscape tree. Its tolerance to the stresses of urban conditions partially accounts for its popularity, especially its ability to withstand drought and to grow under a wide range of soil conditions. It is also said to be one of the most salt-tolerant trees, standing up well even along Chicago’s freeways. Another feature is its remarkable growth rate. Newly planted trees can be expected to add 2 feet or more per season for at least the first 10 years. Finally, the open crown of the Honeylocust allows enough light to filter through to favor the growth of grass beneath its branches.

10. Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

The Red Oak is an American treasure, and one easy to own. One of its many special features is that it is easier than most trees to transplant and it can tolerate the conditions of cities and towns amazingly well. In parks, along streets and in home landscapes, the tree provides cool shade from its dense crown, brilliant fall colors and a high degree of safety thanks to the superior strength of its wood.

What to expect when your new trees arrive

Each tree order comes with step-by-step planting instructions on planting your trees.

Watch Ask an Arborist: How do I Plant Bare-root Trees?

Our membership trees (the 10 free trees you received with a donation) are small seedlings extending less than 12 inches in length. They will be color coded with a guide to help you identify which tree is which. Nursery trees will have tags on the branches to help you identify them. Your trees are living organisms and should be planted as soon as possible.

Read Why it’s Important to Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place.

landscape treesprivacy treesShade trees



Sheereen Othman

Communications Associate, Marketing Communications

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