By Sherie Shaffer, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
Planting a new tree is a great thing to do, but planting an underused tree is even better! For one, it increases the biodiversity around us. Having a variety of plant and animal species increases the overall health of an ecosystem.
Another thing to consider, is the positive effects using an underused tree would have if there were a pest outbreak. Right now, we are dealing with the potential of the Emerald Ash Borer coming to Pueblo, and many places around the state are currently dealing with EAB outbreaks. Where the EAB is present, there is a potential to lose a whole lot of Ash trees. Since Ash trees have been widely planted for decades this could cause many of our neighborhood trees to be gone. If we had a greater variety of tree species, one pest could not wipe out such a large number of trees.
If you are thinking of planting a tree, look around and don’t choose a tree species that you see already planted near your home. Here are some ideas, from CSU Extension PlantTalk scripts, for underused trees and shrubs you can plant to increase the tree biodiversity in your neighborhood:
- Aesculus flava (octandra) or Yellow Buckeye- Has an oval shape at maturity and can grow up to 50 feet tall. Yellow flowers appear around May. Has a great orange color in the fall. Ideally it would like a moist, well-draining soil, and it can adapt to our alkaline soils.
- Quercus muehlenbergii or Chinkapin Oak- Grows up to 45 feet tall and can spread just as wide if not wider. The leaves have a nice rust color in the fall. Being an oak, it will have an acorn that will mature in the first season.
- Pyrus calleryana ‘Whitehouse’ or Whitehouse Callery Pear- Has a columnar/pyramidal form. The leaves are glossy green, and long and narrow. Leaves turn reddish-purple earlier in the fall than other clones. The white flowers are a little later than other clones of Callery Pear.
- Crataegus x lavallei or Lavalle Hawthorn- It grows 15-20 feet tall and has a round to oval crown. The leaves are glossy green in spring and summer and copper red in the fall. It has white flowers that bloom in May or June and a red fruit that will last through winter.
- Maackia amurensis or Amur Maackia- Grows to about 20-25 feet tall and wide and has a round crown. The interesting bark peels when mature. It blooms in June and July with fragrant white flowers.
- Lacebark Pine Pinus bungeana- Lacebark pine has attractive exfoliating bark in patches of green and brown which makes it a good single or multi-stem specimen tree.Needles are medium to dark green about 3 inches long. It tolerates moderately alkaline soils and is hardy to zone 4 to 5. This tree will reach a mature height of about 30, with a 15 foot width.
- Harvest Gold® Linden Tilia x ‘Harvest Gold’- This hybrid of littleleaf and Mongolian linden develops reliable yellow/gold fall color and is more resistant to linden aphids. As a younger tree itis less prone Harvest Gold Lindento winter sunscald than other lindens. When mature, the bark becomes mottled. You can expect this linden to reach approximately 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It is hardy to zones 3-4.
- Crimson SpireTM Oak Quercus x
‘Crimschmidt’- This hybrid of white oak and columnar English oak is a good
choice where there is a need for a tall, narrow tree. Crimson Spire™ oak has
attractive blue-green leaves that are resistant to powdery mildew. Leaves turn
rust-red in October for 2 weeks. The leaves then turn brown and persist into
early spring. Hardy to Zone 5, you can expect this oak to reach 35 to 40 feet tall
and 12 to 15 feet wide. It has shown
some intolerance to wet soils.
In addition to these great underused trees, native species are always a wise choice. You can find a list of Colorado native trees here: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/native-trees-for-colorado-landscapes-7-421/ , and a list of native shrubs here: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/native-shrubs-for-colorado-landscapes-7-422/