Green Ribbon Native Plant® - Trees

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2003 - Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

The eastern redbud is a small, deciduous tree reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet with an equal spread.  It is often multi-stemmed and has heart-shaped leaves, but perhaps its most noteworthy attribute is the abundance of pinkish flowers that adorn the branches before the leaves appear in the spring.  There are, however, several cultivars that are prized for other attributes including the purple-leaved ‘Forest Pansy’, the variegated ‘Silver Cloud’, and the white-blooming ‘Royal White’.

Able to grow in both sun and shade, redbuds are effective as forest edge trees or front yard specimens.  They are somewhat susceptible to insect and disease pests but can be kept healthy with regular watering and fertilization.

2004 - Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

The pawpaw is one of the more exotic looking trees native to this region.  This understory tree was once common across our landscape but years of clearcutting have all but removed it from its natural setting.  It is prized for a combination of traits that give it all-season interest.  In May, it displays showy, deep reddish-purple flowers that give rise to large, custard-like edible fruits by the end of summer.  It is in its full glory in fall as the green leaves change to bright yellow. 

Grown in moist, well-drained, fertile soil, the pawpaw spreads to form a grove.  It has soft wood and needs protection from the wind, making it an excellent choice as a woodland edge tree.  Planting these trees in full sun will enhance their fall color and allow for greater fruit production.

2005 - American Holly (Ilex opaca)

The American Holly is a native evergreen tree that can grow to 60 feet.  It has plenty to offer throughout the year, but is most spectacular in winter when its dark green leaves and red, berry-like fruits provide wonderful color and contrast to an otherwise leafless landscape.  These traits also make the American holly a popular choice for use in holiday decorations.  They are dioecious (having separate male and female plants) and only females can produce berries, thus requiring a male plant for pollination.  Though toxic to humans, the berries are an important food source for many native wildlife including squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, box turtles and several species of songbirds. 

An understory tree, the American Holly grows well in shade, but planting it in more sunny locations will allow for denser foliage.  These trees can tolerate extreme pruning and can be cut back to suit anyone’s vision.

2006 - Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

The silverbell is considered to be one of the best native trees for shady sites. It is a low-branching tree best used in shade or woodland gardens where it can reach heights of 30-40 feet with a spread of 20-35 feet.  The silverbell prefers moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil.

The Carolina silverbell is another plant that provides year-round interest.  In spring, before the leaves emerge, clusters of bell-shaped, white flowers bloom on the previous year's growth.   In fall, the leaves become golden yellow and persist for two to three weeks and, when they drop, unveil the winged seed pods that dangle from the branches.  The bark which, on younger trees, is dark with light yellow stripes provides winter interest.

2007 - Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

Sourwood, also called the sorrel tree, is a member of the heath family (Ericaceae) which includes azaleas and rhododendrons.  Like the rest of this family, it grows best in moist, acidic, well-drained soils and can be found growing wild along gravelly stream banks of eastern North America.  The Arboretum has several sourwoods, with the most spectacular specimen featured in the Green Ribbon Garden. 
It is a hardy, 25-30 foot tall tree that can be used in woodland gardens, shade gardens, open islands, or as a specimen plant.  The perfect, white, urn-shaped flowers are fragrant and appear from June to early July, but the sourwood really shines in fall when its leaves turn from dark green to brilliant orange-red.  The best color develops on plants that get the most. 

In addition, bees are attracted to the flowers and sourwood honey is highly prized.

2008 - Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

The sweetbay magnolia is a graceful, southern evergreen to semi-evergreen tree. It will tend to be more evergreen the farther south it is planted.  In nature, it is found most often in moist, acid soils near swamps or stream banks in the eastern United States.  It is a small, typically multi-stemmed tree, columnar in shape with a mature height of 20 to 30 feet in the northern and 60 feet in the southern ends of its range.  Its small size makes it an excellent tree for planting next to buildings or in urban areas with little space.

It is prized for its creamy-white, lemon-scented flowers that appear from June through September and are followed by small red seeds which are enjoyed by a variety of wildlife.  Sweetbay magnolia roots easily, is tolerant of droughts and floods, and will grow in part to full sun.

2009 - Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

The fringetree is a small tree or shrub ranging in height from 12 to 20 feet with an equal spread.  The common name refers to the slightly fragrant, spring-blooming flowers which feature drooping clusters (4-6” long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals that appear from May to June.  It is dioecious (meaning separate male and female plants) and the male flowers are the showiest.  The flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black color in late summer and become a food source for birds and other wildlife.  The wide, spear-shaped leaves turn yellow in the fall.

Fringetree grows in moist, fertile soils across hardiness zones 3 to 9. It is best planted as a front lawn specimen or as a shrub or woodland borders.  It is also tolerant of pollution and adapts well to urban settings in both full sun and partial shade.  The fringetree is terrific in native plant gardens or near streams.  In all cases, it is spectacular in full bloom.

2010 - No selection

2011 - Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)

The American born botanist, John Bartram discovered this unique understory tree in 1765 and named it in honor of Benjamin Franklin.   This amazing tree was seen only along the bank of the Altamaha River in Georgia and today no longer exists in the wild.  As the sightings of the Franklinia became more and more rare, the ones in Bartram’s home garden in Philadelphia flourished.  The cupped, bright white-petaled fragrant blossom has a yolk yellow center resembling a fried egg.  Nearing summer’s end, our Franklinia,tucked in along the white pine trees blooms down by our Pond, blooms profusely and is often smelled before seen.  And the deep ruby red fall color is stunning.  Truly, an award winning tree.  Found in Zones 5 to 8.

2012 - Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Known primarily for its spectacular spring floral display, the Flowering Dogwood shines as a small understory tree in the native landscape.  Reaching up to 30 feet tall, this Green Ribbon Native tree grows well in shade, but will flaunt even more white blossoms in full sun. Not only does this small tree provide interest in spring but also presents striking red berries and maroon foliage in fall followed by architectural lines and interesting bark in winter.  While this tree grows well in many locations, it prefers to grow in moist, acidic soils and in full sun. Flowering Dogwood is a perfect native specimen tree for the home landscape or can easily integrate in a native woodland setting. 

2013 - Alternateleaf Dogwood
(Cornus alternifolia)

The Alternateleaf Dogwood is a small flowering tree that grows 25-30ft tall. It is named for its alternate arrangement of leaves which differs from other dogwoods which all have opposite leaves. The tree may also be referred to as the Pagoda Dogwood. This name describes the horizontal branching pattern of the tree which resembles the architecture of a pagoda and gives the tree a structural form that stands out in the landscape.

This dogwood’s small white flowers are more delicate than that of Cornus florida  (Flowering Dogowood), but they are numerous and arranged in large clusters that can be 2-3” across. The glossy leaves in summer will eventually turn to maroon in fall, and the small fruit grown throughout the summer will ripen to dark blue drupes and serve as a coveted food source for wildlife. This tree is frequently wider than it is tall, and can be used to fill an area with its interesting form. With horizontal branching structure in the winter, white clusters of flowers in late spring, glossy green foliage in the summer, and good maroon color in fall, the Alternate Leaf Dogwood is a tree with multi-season interest that can be used as a stand-alone specimen or as part of an understory planting.

The Alternateleaf Dogwood is a partial shade plant that grows best in moist soil. While the tree will produce more flowers and stronger fall color in more sun, too much sun will stress the tree and increase the risk of pests and disease. Powdery Mildew, Leaf Spot and Dogwood Blight are some of the diseases that can be found on this dogwood, however, these are not typically devastating, and should not steer you away from this highly ornamental native.

2014 - American Hornbeam
(Carpinus caroliniana)

American Hornbeam is a small, slow- growing understory tree that generally grows to 25 feet tall. It is so named because of the hardness of the wood which reminded settlers of a horn and an Old English term for beam which means tree. Another name for this tree is “Musclewood”. While looking at the plant’s trunk and branches they look like a flexing muscle because of the structure of the wood and the coloring of the bark. That “muscular” feature is perhaps its best identifying characteristic.
American Hornbeam is a member of the Betulaceae or Birch Family. Its flower is a non-conspicuous catkin, and the plant is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are present on the same plant. The foliage is nice and clean throughout the season with not many pest problems. The tree is best suited for growing in moist, well drained soils in partial sun to moderate shade, although it is adaptable and will acclimate to less than ideal situations. This tree’s true beauty is revealed in the autumn when its deciduous foliage turns varying shades of yellow and orange, and then eventually drops to expose the muscular branching structure in winter.  American Hornbeam is a great selection for the woodland garden. It is a species that has changed very little with cultivar selection like so many others. So when an American Hornbeam is planted in the landscape, there is a piece of pure natural beauty in the garden.



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