American Trees

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Trees and Shrubs

This must be the season for trees here at Gardening Gone Wild.

Rake in the fall leaf foliage, tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica) in California garden

Rake in the fall leaf foliage, tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica) in California garden

Some of you may still be raking up leaves (and composting on site, right?), like I do with my Tupelo leaves – my most dependable tree for fall colors.  Nyssa sylvatica is native to the East Coast but is a great garden tree almost anywhere that gets 25 inches of rain.

In Fran’s wonderful article The Truth About Trees a few week ago she showed how trees depend on each other and I wrote How To Photograph Trees after my visit to Arnold Arboretum.

Juglans nigra - Black Walnut tree; Arnold Arboretum

Juglans nigra – Black Walnut tree; Arnold Arboretum

I just prepared a photo gallery of American Trees, growing in gardens, native to North America, for an editor recently, and in doing so found myself astonished at the variety even in my own small collection.  I was reminded in our vast country how different trees are, each adapting to its own ecosytem.

Mature trees indicate a sustainable habitat almost by definition, so please gardeners, if you have any space at all, plant a tree.  So very many other plants, animals, and insects depend of native trees that we can genuinely help heal the earth by planting them.  Read Doug Tallamys’ Bringing Nature Home to remind yourself of the importance of American Trees.

Plant a big tree if you can.  Plant a small tree too.

Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) flowering by pathway to woodland garden of Liriodendron tulipifera -Tulip tree with white flowering dogwoods in spring at Mount Cuba Center

Redbud and Dogwood tree flowering under Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera – at Mount Cuba Center

Tree planting is always a utopian enterprise, it seems to me, a wager on a future the planter doesn’t necessarily expect to witness.” – Michael Pollan

Let’s see what other writers have said about trees.

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

California native trees left to right - Juniperus grandis - Sierran Juniper; Quercus kelloggii (Black Oak); Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen); (Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm) at East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley.

California native trees in winter garden, left to right – Sierran Juniper; Black Oak, Quaking Aspen, and California Fan Palm

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.”  George Orwell

So, then.  Plant a tree for somebody else, for the next generation, for future habitats.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. Greek Proverb

But in truth trees grow quickly in their native habitats.  You will enjoy the shade of your own tree if you plant one native to your region – soon.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now” – Chinese proverb

Gleditsia triacanthos 'Imperial', Honeylocust Tree; Arnold Arboretum

Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Imperial’, Honeylocust Tree; Arnold Arboretum

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” – Kahlil Gibran

“The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Liriodendron tulipifera -Tulip tree, Tulip poplar, Budding with spring leaves emerging at Mount Cuba Center

Liriodendron tulipifera -Tulip tree, Tulip poplar, Budding with spring leaves emerging at Mount Cuba Center

“The trees, though not fully clothed, were in that delightful state when farther beauty is known to be at hand, and when, while much is actually given to the sight, more yet remains for the imagination.” – Jane Austen

“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Joshua Tree succulents, Yucca Palm (Yucca brevifolia), Walker Pass Road, Mojave Desert in Southern California

Joshua Trees, Yucca Palm (Yucca brevifolia), Mojave Desert in Southern California

“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it” – John Muir

Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) in California native plant garden around modern home on hill in evening light, Santa Barbara,

Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) in California native plant garden in evening light, Santa Barbara.

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in their way.” ~ William Blake

Chilopsis linearis - Desert Willow, Californa native tree in morning light at Leaning Pine Arboretum, California

Chilopsis linearis – Desert Willow, Californa native tree, morning light at Leaning Pine Arboretum

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican Palo Verde) yellow flowering drought tolerant tree, Los Angeles Natural History Museum

Parkinson aculeate, Mexican Palo Verde Tree, Los Angeles Natural History Museum

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” – Franklin Roosevelt

New England woodland in autumn

New England forest along Appalachian Trail in autumn

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” –  John Muir

Now – go hug a tree; then plan to plant one.




Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Debbiecz November 27, 2016, 8:35 am

Oh the guilt! My husband and I just spent the last four days cutting down five trees. They are large trees, all over 40 feet tall but except for a decrepit old Apple tree they are invasive: black locust and slippery elm. Our plan is to clear the bad and replant with oaks, hickory and whatever else I can find. But as I do this it’s hard to ignore the obvious signs that these trees, though nasty and invasive were also a part of the ecosystem: woodpecker holes, a mouse still in its nest in the hollow trunk, the moss growing on the bark. We know eventually it will look as it should for this habitat but I have to keep repeating to myself it will be good, eventually. We’ve already planted over 100 trees but it’s slow going. Everyone should plant at least one tree a year. Imagine what our world would look like!

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening November 27, 2016, 4:41 pm

This is such a lovely and informative post and I love your collection of american trees with labeling. I have been a landscape designer for over twenty years and feel like I am still learning the names of new trees I encounter…a never ending task, which is even more fun in an unfamiliar area! I am also enjoying your photography of each tree and how you have so beautifully captured each one. It’s always a pleasure visiting and reading your posts!

Saxon Holt November 27, 2016, 8:36 pm

Debbie –You should feel guilty at all ! You have planted so many trees and getting rid of the non-natives is a huge plus. After I read Doug Tallamy’s book I realized how important the native trees are for the insect populations which end up feeding the birds and critters. Check out his online resource, referenced in the post, you will be amazed how wonderful an oak tree can be.

Saxon Holt November 27, 2016, 8:38 pm

Thanks a lot Lee. You are absolutely right about the never ending task of learning about trees however, come to think of it it’s hard to collect a task. It’s a joy

Steve Mullany November 27, 2016, 10:47 pm

Thank you for this post Saxon. Its great to see some of our eastern, and western, natives in these gorgeous images, bathed in Wonderful light too. I agree the Tupelo is a great fall color tree in CA (much better than Liquidambar in most cases). I’m glad I was able to plant one, and a few other species, 20 years ago on the Santa Rosa Jr. College campus. Looks like I complied with your quoted Chinese proverb there…ha-ha.

P.S. I wonder if you have ever photographed the ancient bristlecone pines in the White mountains. I have been amateurishly photographing there occasionally since 1974. Though other pros have published, I would love to see your artistry applied to that subject sometime.

Saxon Holt November 29, 2016, 2:28 am

Steve – Thanks for dropping by. Isn’t satisfying to see trees grow to to provide shade ? Stick around long enough ….

I have never made the trek to White Mts and keep waiting for some excuse or another. Let me know when you next go…..

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