Fairmount Park provides a “Recommended Street Tree List” that consists of both native and non-native trees. I modified that list by removing the non-native trees. The original list contains more trees that are suitable to harsh urban conditions of pollution, soil compaction and lack of water. Native trees are the best choice in boosting and somewhat restoring the city’s ecosystem.
The best results will come from matching the tree to the situation.
If you are concerned about a tree falling, perhaps a smaller tree would be best in that situation. Small and medium trees will work best under power lines.
Taller trees will work best with no overhead power lines, as they may not need to be trimmed. Trees that have a broad open canopy will provide wide-spread shade. If your tree will be planted on a street, a tall canopy tree needs to grow strong enough to withstand a car backing into it.
Tree Philly gives away free trees to Philadelphia residents each spring and fall. You order your tree, pick it up and plant it on your property or at your curb. National Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April, plant a tree to celebrate and thank the gift of the trees.
PECO Tips for Planting Trees in Philly
Here is a tip I learn from PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company), the folks in charge of trimming street trees here in Philly. The tips probably work in other urban/suburban areas, too.
Look at the power lines that run across your property. If there are three or more lines running above the street, this is a major power line and trees under these lines will be cut (mangled) to insure power. You may want to plant a tree underneath these wires or carefully prune a small tree to let the wires pass freely through the trees.
- If you have no power lines or only one line above where you want to plant, then you lucked out. Busy PECO won’t cut those trees as they don’t interfere with important power lines.
- If you want to plant a tree by a curb, it has to be big and strong enough to survive being backed into. A small thin, delicate dogwood, will have a hard time surviving being parked under.
- Trees that have a broad open canopy will give wide-spread shade. It takes a tree ten to fifteen years to grow enough to give shade. Even smaller forty-foot tall trees can give shade and cut summer cooling bills.
A List of Native Trees
The following list only has trees that are native to Philadelphia. All the native trees listed will tolerate harsh urban conditions of pollution, soil compaction and lack of water. The studier and taller ( 40 feet or more) trees useful street trees.
Small Trees – (mature height under 30 feet)
Amelanchier x grandiflora — Seviceberry
Carpinus caroliniana — American Hornbeam
Cercis canadensis – RedBud
Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis — Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn
Prunus virginiana — Common Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana — “Shubert” — Canada Red Chokecherry
Medium Trees – (mature height 30 feet to 40 feet)
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis — Thornless Honeylocust
Ostrya virginiana – Hop Hornbeam
Large Trees – (mature height over 45 feet)
Acer rubrum “Autumn Flame” — Autumn Flame Red Maple
Acer rubrum “Red Sunset” — Red Sunset Red Maple
Acer saccharum “Green Mountain” — Green Mountain Sugar Maple
Fraxinus americana ” Autumn Purple” — Autumn Purple White Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Marshall’s Seedless” — Green Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Patmore” — Patmore Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Summit” — Summit Ash
Quercus shumardii — Shumard Oak
Acer rubrum “Armstrong” — Fastigate Red Maple
Acer saccharum “Goldspire” — Goldspire Maple
Quercus palustris “Pringreen” — Green Pillar Pin Oak
Boulevard or Park Trees
Carya glabra — Pignut Hickory
Carya ovata — Shagbark Hickory
Juniperus virginiana — “princeton Sentry” — Eastern Redcedar
Liquidambar styraciflua — Sweetgum
Nyssa sylvatica — Black Tupelo
Quercus alba — White Oak
Quercus bicolor — Swamp White Oak
Quercus palustris — Pin Oak
Quercus phellos — Willow Oak
QUercus rubra — Red Oak
Ulmus americana “Delaware” — Delaware American Elm
More About Native Trees
Common trees of PA is a free, downloadable identification key of native and naturalized tree species.
Books on Native Plants for Pennsylvania, the MidAtlantic, and the Northeast – links to Amazon.com
Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded by Doug Tallamy – this book started it all. Professor Tallamy explains the scientific reasons insects need native plants to support the ecosystem. Professor Tallamy focuses on native (indigenous) trees. Don’t miss this one.
Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Donald Leopold – my favorite book on native plants. I refer to it often. There is an entire chapter on native trees.
Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide by Heather N. Holm
Gardening and Landscaping with Native Plants
Landscaping with Native Plants in PA
More on Native Trees and Plants