Top Five LI Native Trees

Lost trees thanks to the blustering winds of Tropical Storm Isaias and wondering what to replace them with? Here are our top five suggestions of Bay Friendly Yard trees – all of which are native to Long Island.  According to Frank Piccininni, Director of Habitat Restoration at Save The Great South Bay, the key to helping them weather future storms is to plant them in clusters so the roots graft together to form a strong underground root system. Cluster planting also helps limit canopy size making them less vulnerable to winds. Many thanks to our colleagues at the Long Island Natives Nursery in Eastport for the descriptions below.

#1 Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple is a handsome shade tree, named for its often red autumn leaf display. This popular ornamental tree grows 40-60 ft. in cultivation. Young, vigorous trees have smooth, silvery gray bark which provides winter interest. Roots in a dense, fibrous network, often preventing other plants from growing near its trunk. Fall foliage is quite variable, ranging from the brilliant red for which the species is known, to yellow or greenish-yellow.  Very tolerant of most soils, but prefers slightly acid, moist conditions; tolerant of ozone and intermediately tolerant of sulphur dioxide.

#2 Red oak (Quercus rubra)

This 75-100 ft., deciduous (sheds it leaves annually) oak has a straight trunk clear of branches for some distance above the ground and supports a wide canopy, commonly 3/4 that of height. The dark bark is striped with long, smooth plates separated by deep furrows.  Fall color can be crimson, golden-orange, or russet. A rapid-growing & popular handsome shade and street tree, with good form and dense foliage the red oak transplants easily and endures cold.

#3 Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)

Large tree with a rounded, open crown of glossy foliage, best known for its brilliant autumn color. Scarlet oak is a 75 ft., deciduous (sheds its leaves annually) tree, occasionally reaching heights of upto 150 ft. A somewhat pyramidal crown develops from stout, ascending branches. Bark brown with fine fissures and scaly ridges, inner bark is red to orangish-pink. Twigs are smooth reddish-brown; clustered terminal buds are ovoid and reddish-brown.

#4 American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American beech is a sturdy, imposing tree with a rounded crown that typically grows from 50-80 ft. tall. Its bark is very smooth and light gray, remaining so as the tree ages.  Dark-green, glossy, prominently veined leaves turn copper-colored in the fall and hold on most of the winter. A handsome shade tree, the American Beech is a handsome shade tree and bears edible beechnuts, which are consumed in quantities by wildlife. Unlike most trees, beeches retain smooth bark in age. The trunks are favorites for carving and preserve initials and dates indefinitely.

#5 White Oak (Quercus alba)

Popular and long-lived shade tree, the Northern white oak is an imposing, deciduous tree that grows 80-100 ft. tall. It features a straight trunk, a wide (when open-grown) crown, and numerous horizontal branches. Bark light gray, shallow furrows forming scaly ridges or plates. Twigs slender to stout, gray to reddish-green twigs with star-shaped pith; buds are reddish-brown and broadly oval and hairless.

#6 Pitch Pine (ok we couldn’t help ourselves)

Pitch pine is a 40-70 ft. evergreen with an irregular, globular form; twisting, gnarled, drooping branches; and scaly, reddish-brown bark which eventually becomes black. Stiff, yellow-green needles, in clusters of three, eventually turn dark-green. Medium-sized tree often bearing tufts of needles on trunk, with a broad, rounded or irregular crown of horizontal branches. Cones occur in whorls of 3-5.  The hardy Pitch Pine is suitable for planting on dry rocky soil that other trees cannot tolerate.

For more information on native planting and Bay Friendly Yards, visit www.savethegreatsouthbay.org.