Large Native Trees for Payne County

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Fall tree planting season will be here before we know it. The Payne County Extension Office has received quite a few inquiries lately about good selections for trees native to this area. While selecting a native tree doesn’t necessarily insure its success, it can be a good start in the right direction. Some of these plants can be hard to find so it’s a good idea to start your search soon. This week we’ll focus on the larger selections and move on to the smaller trees next week.

  • Baldcypress. Taxodium distichum. This pine-like tree becomes a fantastic specimen as it matures. We say “pine-like” since it has needles, but it is a deciduous tree, meaning it loses its needles in the winter. If you are not familiar with this plant, the most striking examples are around Theta pond on the OSU campus. Those particular trees are noted for the root knees that stick up all around the trees. Not to worry, the baldcypress does not produce the knees in a landscape situation, unless excessive moisture is always present. In addition to being able to grow in water, this tree has proven itself to be very drought hardy.
  • Black hickory. Carya texana. Hickory trees can be hard to find in the nursery trade, but they are common to the hardwood forests of eastern Oklahoma. A large tree, hickory is most well known as a favorite for wildlife. It is a cousin to the pecan and the two can easily be mistaken for each other when young.
  • Black walnut. Juglans nigra. Another tree readily found in many of our undisturbed areas. A walnut is not a tree for the faint-of-heart landscape as the trees can be very messy. However, in big landscapes where diversity is important, this large tree should be a consideration.
  • Cedar elm. Ulmus crassifolia. This large elm, while not immune to Dutch Elm Disease, has shown good resistance to it. Becomes a classic shade tree as it ages. Cedar elms are most easily distinguished from other elms by their small leaves.
  • Chinkapin oak. Quercus muelenbergii. There are many oaks native to Oklahoma. The chinkapin is one that should probably get more attention. Not as big as some of the other oaks, this tree has a nice shape that fits well within the confines of many urban landscapes. Do not plant this tree unless you want to attract deer as they cannot resist the acorns.
  • Loblolly pine. Pinus taeda. This is the only pine we can recommend for our area. All others suffer from a variety of pest issues. The loblolly is a large fast growing pine that is most well-known for dropping its lower limbs as it matures as well as it’s lime green (sometimes yellowish) color in the winter.
  • Pecan. Carya illinoensis. This large Oklahoma tree needs no introduction. Another tree that needs a lot of room in the landscape, due in part to their tendency to self-prune, or drop limbs as they age.
  • River birch. Beula nigra. Payne County is the western limit for this tree but the cultivar ‘Heritage’ has shown to work well. Avoid this one if you have heavy clay soils. Birch trees are a fantastic tree to add interest to the landscape with their characteristic papery bark.
  • Sycamore. Platanus accidentalis. A very large tree most noted for its striking bark and the production of thousands of seed balls every year. These trees are like pecans in that they are weak wooded and have a tendency to self-prune. Another tree that should be sited carefully but it absolutely has its place in the Oklahoma landscape.
  • Water oak. Quercus nigra. Another underappreciated oak for Payne County, the water oak, while tolerant of many soils, thrives in wet areas. It’s (fast) growth habit tends towards pyramidal so it needs a lot of space to expand.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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