Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Native trees for poorly-drained areas

Native trees that tolerate a high water table and periods of saturated soil

House built on a poorly drained plain
This post is written with my sister and brother-in-law in mind. They've recently moved to their new house, and they will soon be doing landscaping and planting trees.

Their house is located on a very flat acreage in southwest Missouri. The building site is part of a large flat prairie that extends for several miles (or more) in all directions. I don't know the exact soil type, but it is a clay-like soil, rather than a sandy soil. All in all, it would be considered a poorly-drained, slow-to-dry site.

Here are some native trees of Missouri that might do well for them.

Larger trees to plant farther from the house
The following trees are resistant to wind and ice and will tolerate poor drainage:
  • Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
  • American elm (Ulmus americana)
  • Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)
  • Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Common honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
  • American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
  • Black maple (Acer negundo)
  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)
  • Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Post oak (Quercus stellata)
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
  • Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Smaller trees to plant closer to the house
The following trees are resistant to wind and ice and will tolerate poor drainage:
  • Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis)
  • Glossy hawthorn (Crataegus nitida)
  • Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)
  • Dotted hawthorn (Crataegus punctata)
  • Common hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata)
  • Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Rusty blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus)

Trees that will make a mess
The following trees are resistant to wind and ice and will tolerate poor drainage:
  • Black cherry, wild cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • Prairie crabapple (Malus ioensis)
  • Osage orange, hedgeapple (Maclura pomifera)
  • American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
  • Sycamore, American planetree (Platanus occidentalis)

Trees that will tolerate poor drainage but are often damaged by weather.
  • Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)
  • Tulip tree, tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • River birch (Betula nigra)
  • Cottonwood, eastern poplar (Populus deltoides)
  • Red mulberry (Morus rubra)
  • Willows (Salix)

I have eliminated ashes from my list even though they don't mind poorly-drained sites. The emerald ash borer is moving across the U.S., killing ash trees, and it will reach Missouri all too soon.

Remember, there is always the opportunity to create better drainage if you want to plant a tree that needs it (such as redbuds which my sister likes.) One of the easiest ways is simply to bring in a pile of dirt (from a nearby area so the soil is similar.) Let it settle for a while, and then plant the tree on the mound.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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