Ideal tree to plant?
June 20, 2010 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Can you help us choose a tree to plant (specs inside)?

We need to choose a tree to plant in Virginia to replace a dead and removed chestnut oak. Must be green (as opposed to something like a red Japanese Maple) and if it has blossoms or other salient features, they should be white. We prefer tall as opposed to wide and native is a plus. Due to the odor, Bradford pear is out. (We already have boxwoods.) We are currently considering dogwood, cherry and magnolia but are open to suggestion.
posted by Sissinghurst to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Maybe a star magnolia, which has pretty all-white poofy blossoms instead of the more common purple-white? It blooms very early, if that matters.
posted by dayintoday at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2010

I loooove Southern magnolias, but some people object to them due to the sheer volume of leaves that they shed in fall.

Our dogwood seems more squat than tall, about as wide as it is tall. I don't know if that's typical. I think it's a couple of decades old at this point.

I have a green ash tree that has gone way up, quite quickly, since we bought it. It's a pretty narrow tree. It doesn't produce a noticeable flower (apparently it flowers, but they're not what you'd think of as a flower). Because it's tall but narrow, and has pretty small leaves, it doesn't shed a whole lot.

Cherry trees are poisonous, FYI. That's not a concern for some people, a huge concern for others. We do our best to eradicate them here; the darn things take serious work to kill. If you want something that grows quickly, is amazingly resilient, and that will grow back from a stump every time you cut it down, a cherry tree is a good choice. Oh, and birds carry cherries to fencelines or other perches and drop the pits, so they spread all over the place once you've got one that produces fruit.
posted by galadriel at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2010

This, the Sweetbay Magnolia is my favorite Virginia tree (a native), the flowers look like the regular magnolia, but are much smaller, and the leaves are not large and waxy at all (they're like bay leaves.). They don't get as large as regular Magnolias (at least I've never seen one that big), but they are larger than dogwoods. Also, there are evergreen verities.

I also like dayintoday's Star Magnolias, and I don't think you can go wrong with cherries (there are almost hundreds of kinds and one to fit any spot.)
posted by Some1 at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2010

The serviceberry is a tough native tree with beautiful white flowers. The berries are delicious in waffles or muffins, but if you don't pick them the wildlife will enjoy them (robins LOVE serviceberries).

I would avoid ash trees. It is only a matter of time before the emerald ash borer will infest the tree and kill it.

Another tree to consider is the sawtooth oak. It's native to Asia, but it's a hardy fast-growing oak that is fairly narrow. We have one and it easily grows 3-4 feet per year. It does hold on to its leaves all through the winter and into the spring, and it does have small acorns eventually.
posted by Ostara at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2010

seconding serviceberry. the spring flowering aspect is breathtaking. my mom took a picture of hers in bloom like every spring and sent it to me which means I have like 20 identical pictures of a serviceberry in bloom (awwww). the tough and native parts are also really great.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:05 PM on June 20, 2010

We have American linden trees along the street in our neighborhood. It flowers, but they're pretty small and sort of creme color. They're not native to my state, but they seem to be native to the East.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:24 PM on June 20, 2010

How about a pecan tree? It's a little north of native range in Virginia, but they do well here anyway. They have green petal-less flowers, grow mostly up, and are pretty much the essence of tree. Also, you may get a handful of nuts out of it.
posted by anaelith at 1:33 AM on June 21, 2010

You should consider the space you want to plant in; first, if it's going into the same space as the chestnut oak, was the stump ground? Often there will still be roots radiating from the old stump or deeper parts that remain and make it difficult to plant in the area. How much space is there for what you're putting in, how much light will it get, what is the soil like, the drainage, etc. If you're planting yourself, go to this site for information on how to do it correctly.
Serviceberries are very nice, I'd suggest specifically Amelanchier laevis because they have wonderful reddish leaves only when they open with the white flowers, and because they have a nice small tree asymmetric form. Find a single-stem tree if you can, for some stupid reason the trade mostly produces multi-stemmed clumps that become a mess later on. The sweetbay magnolias are nice, too, there's a semi-evergreen subspecies that still seems to tolerate very cold weather and I think they look better.
Cherries are not really poisonous, the leaves in large amounts can be toxic to livestock. Dogwoods are wonderful trees, the native tends to grow about as wide as tall and is susceptible to anthracnose, a destructive fungus. A newer series of cultivars, the "Appalachian" series, are anthracnose resistant, and some are mildew resistant, and mildew is another common problem for the species.
There are so many possibilities, it may depend on what's available that you like, but you might look for a local plant guide put out by some group in your area. Maybe something like this?
posted by Red Loop at 3:20 AM on June 21, 2010

Cherries are not really poisonous, the leaves in large amounts can be toxic to livestock.

When cherry leaves wilt (when a branch has fallen from a tree, for example, or in fall) they produce cyanide. Cyanide is just as dangerous to people as it is to livestock. It doesn't take large amounts; a handful of wilted or dried cherry leaves can have enough cyanide to be really nasty.
posted by galadriel at 5:59 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: If you want something a little different from what all the neighbors have, a couple of gorgeous, underutilized natives that do well in the mid-Atlantic are Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea), which has striking pendulus racemes of white flowers in late May/early June; and fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), which is smaller, but definitely one of those trees that will have people stopping and asking.

One of the reasons I like these two trees is that they bloom somewhat later than the spring-blossoming trees, but before the crepemyrtle.
posted by drlith at 7:37 AM on June 21, 2010

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