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///10 Chesapeake-Native Trees and Shrubs to plant this Spring

10 Chesapeake-Native Trees and Shrubs to plant this Spring

It’s spring, and with the season comes the joys of gardening and landscaping. Are you planning to landscape with native plants this year? If so, don’t forget to include shrubs and trees in the mix! There are many benefits of adding natives to your property. The addition of native trees and shrubs into your landscape is rewarding for you, wildlife, and the environment. Trees (and especially healthy forest cover) keep pollution out of streams, create habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, maintain a steady flow of water in streams, and serve as a natural defense system from floods, windstorms, and other extreme weather events. Trees also substantially improve home values, can reduce energy costs by 25%, and can help prevent driveways from washing out and basements from flooding. In addition to these benefits, they attract birds,can provide delectable fruits and nuts for humans and wildlife alike, are a great way to increase privacy, and can produce gorgeous flowers and foliage.

Many homeowners look to the biggest trees to provide the most benefits, but our native shrubs and small trees are some of the most attractive and valuable species in the region. Below is a list of ten native small trees and shrubs to plant this spring. These trees and shrubs are robust species capable of growing anywhere across the watershed, and are guaranteed to improve your property!

Image by R.W. Smith 2011

1. American Wild Plum (Prunus americana)
Soil type: Loamy and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Dry and Moist.
Flowers: White; April-May
Fruit: Red, Fleshy, Edible; August-September
Light requirements: Full and partial sun.
Wildlife habitat: Red and gray foxes, deer, raccoons, squirrels, and birds.
Unique fact: Native trees in the Prunus genus support 456 species of caterpillars.1

Image by R.W. Smith 2011

2. Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium)
Soil type: Clay and loamy.
Soil moisture: Dry, Moist, and Wet.
Flowers: White; April-May
Fruit: Pink, to bluish-black, Berry, Edible; September-October
Light requirements: Full, partial, and shade.
Wildlife habitat: Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, skunk, deer, and beavers.
Unique fact: Black haw is still used for medicinal purposes today. It has antispasmodic properties, which relieves involuntary spasms in muscles. It is widely used to treat cramps and reduce heavy bleeding, and can even be used to lower high blood pressure.5

 

Image by Carl Fabre 2011

3. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Moist and Wet.
Flowers: Creamy white; July-August
Fruit: Green to brown; September-January
Light requirements: Full, partial, and shade.
Wildlife habitat: Pollinators, small mammals, and birds.
Unique fact: Buttonbush was used by Native Americans and the first European settlers for medicinal purposes. It was used to treat a variety of illness from kidney stones to malaria.4

 

Image by R.W. Smith 2012

4. Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Dry and Moist.
Flowers: White; May-June
Fruit: Dull red or green, Fleshy; August-January
Light requirements: Full or partial sun.
Wildlife habitat: Birds, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and deer.
Unique fact: Cockspur Hawthorn can be planted as single tree or can be used as a hedge when grouped together.

 

Image by Alan Cressler 2013

5. Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Dry and Moist.
Flowers: White; March-May
Fruit: Red to dark purple, Fleshy, Edible
Light requirements: Full and partial sun.
Wildlife habitat: Used by 58 wildlife species, including 35 species of songbirds.
Unique fact: Another name for the Downy Serviceberry is Shadbush. Their annual blooms coincide with the spawning migration of the American Shad fish.

Image by R.W. Smith 2011

6. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Soil type: Loamy
Soil moisture: Dry and Moist.
Flowers: White; April-May
Fruit: Red to orange, Berry; September-December
Light requirements: Partial sun.
Wildlife habitat: Songbirds, waterfowl, and small mammals.
Unique fact: At least 29 species of birds are known to eat the fruit of Flowering Dogwood including quail, evening grosbeak, cedar waxwings, cardinals, and robins.2

Image by Alan Cressler 2010

7. Red Chokeberry (Photinia pyrifolia)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Dry, Moist, and Wet.
Flowers: White, Purple-tinged; March-May
Fruit: Red, Berry; September-December
Light requirements: Full and partial sun.
Wildlife habitat: Songbirds and small mammals.
Unique fact: Red Chokeberry got its name from its bitter taste. The berries are used for baking, making jams and jellies, and flavoring beer and wine.8

Image by Sally and Andy Wasowski 1992

8. Smooth Alder (Alnus serrulata)
Soil type: Clay and Loamy.
Soil moisture: Moist and Wet.
Flowers: Purple; March-April
Fruit: Brown, Cone-like; August-February
Light requirements: Full sun.
Wildlife habitat: Waterfowl, small mammals, and songbirds.
Unique fact: Alders are nitrogen fixing plants, using special bacteria to take nitrogen from the air and depositing soil-based nitrates as a result.6

Image by R.W. Smith 2011

9. Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Moist and Wet.
Flowers: Greenish white; June-July
Fruit: Red, Berry; August-February
Light requirements: Full, partial, and shade.
Wildlife habitat: Songbirds, waterfowl, and small mammals.
Unique fact: Although the berries of this tree attracts mockingbirds, catbirds, robins, cedar waxwings, racoons, mice, and deer, beware of this shrub around your pets.3 The berries are poisonous to dogs, cats, and horses.3

 

Image by Alan Cressler 2010

10. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Soil type: Clay, Loamy, and Sandy.
Soil moisture: Dry or Moist.
Flowers: Yellow; September-December
Fruit: Tannish to brown, capsule; October-December
Light requirements: Partial sun or shade.
Wildlife habitat: Deer, rabbits, squirrels, songbirds, and game birds.
Unique fact: Native Americans, used this plant to find underground water through a process called dowsing. During this process, “the dowsing end of the forked branch would bend when underground water when detected by the dowser.”7 Early European settlers later used this technique to aid them in well digging.

Visit our Tree Planting Guide for tips on picking the right spot, time, and method for planting your new native tree or shrub, along with information on proper maintenance. To design your native landscaping, use the Alliance’s online Design your Yard Tool. Check out the Native Plant Center for more Chesapeake native plants.

  1. http://gardeningwithconfidence.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Doug-Tallamys-List.pdf
  2. https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/flowering-dogwood
  3. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1221&context=extension_pubs
  4. http://www.softschools.com/facts/plants/buttonbush_facts/1960/
  5. https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/black-haw
  6. https://www.highlandtitles.com/2014/09/tremendous-trees-the-alder/
  7. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/hamamelis_virginiana.shtml
  8. http://www.softschools.com/facts/plants/aronia_facts/1790/
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Laurence Claggett Chesapeake Forests Intern, Virginia Office