Selecting the right tree for a given set of environmental conditions can result in a lifetime of happiness. Selecting the wrong tree species can prove a frustrating waste of money and result in the tree's death.
Many tree species can be successfully planted in central Illinois, but no one species will match the conditions of every site. Avoid planting the same species that your neighbors have. A wide variety is important so no single disease or insect problem can destroy a large percentage of the trees.
Before selecting a tree species know the site's conditions such as amount of sunlight, soil type and conditions, drainage of soil, and hardiness zone. Select tree species for mature height and spread, form, growth rate, longevity, resistance to insects and diseases, summer heat tolerance and winter cold hardiness, and ornamental characteristics. Also consider drought tolerance and salt tolerance.
Here's a short list of under-planted trees with some great characteristics that are adapted to our area:
Ginkgo or Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, is a prehistoric tree that has interesting fan-shaped leaves and reaches a height of 80 feet. This pest-free tree is easy to transplant and has a yellow-gold fall color. Avoid the female form of this tree, it produces an unpleasant smelling fruit.
Red maple, Acer rubrum, has a brilliant red fall color and reaches a height of about 50 feet. Young trees have a gray-tan colored bark that becomes darker and scaly with age.
Paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is another great maple selection. This tree is available in single and multiple stem selections. Mature height and spread is 20 feet. Fall color is a muted to brilliant red. Paperbark maples prefer well-drained and moist soil in full sun but can withstand part shade. Plant paperback maples in the spring.
Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a native tree to central Illinois. Flowering dogwoods grow to a mature height and spread of 20 feet. Flowering dogwoods are a great four-season tree with red and orange fall color, red fruit that may persist in the winter, and white, pink and red flower cultivars. This understory tree prefers partial shade and a cool root system.
Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is another native tree. This understory tree grows to a mature height and spread of 20 feet. This tree is easily identified by its reddish purple flower buds in the spring and heart shaped leaves in the summer. Cultivars also available with white flowers. Pea pod shaped fruits may persist into the winter.
Black gum or Tupelo, Nysaa sylvatica, is an excellent specimen tree. This pyramidal shaped tree reaches a mature height of 50 feet. Black gum has dark glossy green foliage in the summer and shades of yellow, orange, red and purple fall color. Black gum prefers to be planted in early spring in a moist, well-drained soil.
White oak, Quercus alba, is the state tree of Illinois. This majestic large tree has a mature height of 80 feet or more. This tree has a rounded form and a red to purple fall color. A white oak's growth is slow and it can be difficult to transplant.
It is best to purchase locally grown trees. They will be better adapted to our growing conditions. Next week's column will highlight tips for planting a tree.
For more information, visit The Morton Arboretum Web site at www.mortonarb.org.
A tree may have been witness to some of the greatest people and events in our history. If you would like to have one of the most unique trees in your neighborhood, consider purchasing an offspring of one of America's famous and historic trees available from the Historic Tree Nursery.
Each year the Historic Tree Nursery handpicks seeds from trees or takes cuttings from trees to produce authentic offspring.
Here's a sampling of what's available:
• The Frank Lloyd Wright Ginkgo, which stands in front of the Wright-designed home on Forest Avenue in Oak Park, Ill.
• The Minuteman Red Maple, from the site in Concord, Mass., where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired.
• The Gilbert Stuart Flower Dogwood, from the boyhood home of one of America's foremost painters. Stuart's painting of George Washington was the model for the dollar-bill portrait.
• The Abraham Lincoln Black Walnut and the Abraham Lincoln Persimmon trees, from Lincoln's boyhood home in Hardin County, Ky.
• The Wyatt Earp Black Walnut, which shades the birthplace of Wyatt Earp in Monmouth, Ill.
For more information, visit the Historic Tree Nursery Web site at www.historictrees.org