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DIVERSE TREES : NATURES PALETTE

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Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Highly regarded for their extraordinary beauty and majestic stature, white pines are also favored to do well in a changing climate.  They grow well in full sun and are also somewhat shade tolerant, and as long as they have well-drained soil can be planted in many locations.  White pines grow quickly and can eventually reach 100 feet tall!  Their bark and seeds are eaten by a variety of wildlife species.  Particularly damaging to white pine are deer, and in heavy deer (and rabbit) areas, strategies like fencing and bud capping are recommended to protect young trees until they reach around 6’ tall. 

towering White pine
Red pine-cone cluster

Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)

Red pine towering majestic
Red pine tree

Red pines are stately trees and have been a dominant species in the Arrowhead region, often growing to 80 or even 100 feet.  Unfortunately, the expectation is that the red pine will have a reduced habitat in a changing climate.  Nonetheless, they are a highly valuable species and are particularly resistant to wildfires due to the “plating” and resin in their bark. They also create ideal conditions for blueberry patches, and provide cover and seed for a variety of mammals and songbirds.  Plant red pines in sunny locations, and they especially prefer dry, rocky or sandy soil.

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Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana)

People either love jack pines or they hate them!  Often growing with a scraggly or unusual shape, they can still reach up to about 60 feet tall.  They do require full sun (and are often found in areas recently burned as a result both for their need for sun, and the fact that their cones only open with the heat of a wildfire).  Jack pines thrive in poor soil and can be planted in areas too marginal for a white or red pine.  Unfortunately, the expectation is that the jack pine will have a reduced habitat in a changing climate.  However, their ability to thrive in areas after a wildfire means that they will continue to be a species to keep planting to ensure diversity of species and habitat.

monster jack pine near water

White Spruce (Picea glauca)

White spruce in natural setting

Widely considered to be a beautiful tree, white spruce have been suffering from an outbreak of the spruce budworm in recent years in the Arrowhead region.  White spruce are the second-choice food of the SBW (second only to balsam fir).  With the ability to grow up to 60 feet in either full sun or light shade, and with either moist or dry soils, they are an attractive option but should be planted away from other white spruce or balsam firs, to reduce the SBW transmission between trees.  Unfortunately, the expectation is that the white spruce will have a reduced habitat in a changing climate. A variety of mammals and songbirds enjoy white spruce as a source of food and cover.

Red Maple Leaf closeup of tree

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple Leafs held in hand
Red Maple Blooming tree

Best known for their colorful displays in the fall, red maple seedlings will establish themselves easily and grow quickly, provided they are planted in a moist spot with adequate sunlight.  Red maples can be distinguished from their sweet cousin, the sugar maple, by the leaf.  A red maple has a serrated edge, while sugar maples have a smooth edge to the leaf.  Growing to an adult height of 60-90 feet, red maples are also expected to live at least 100 years if planted in a good location.  They are also expected to do well in changing climate conditions.  Red maple seeds and flowers are favored by a variety of wildlife.

Maple leaf

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Maple leaf tree
Big beautiful colorful sugar maple

For all those maple syrup lovers, we can’t overlook the sugar maple!  Shade tolerant and also adapted to partial sun, sugar maples are favored by a variety of wildlife.  They can grow up to 80’ tall and prefer cool locations with moist but evenly drained soil.  Sap from sugar maples is harvested beginning in late winter, when the days are above freezing, and the nights are still below freezing.  The sap is boiled down (reduced) to make maple syrup which can be done on a small scale at home or on a much larger scale by commercial operations.  It does take 30-40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, but it is worth the effort!

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Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Growing to up to 80’ tall, the bur oak is somewhat shade tolerant, and expected to do well in a variety of conditions with regard to climate change.  Bur oak typically grows wider than tall, and is one of the most common trees in Minnesota.  They prefer moist, well-drained soil.  They are slow-growing, but this also allows them to grow stronger and withstand wind storms better than many fast growing species.  So, have patience with your bur oak and they will reward you with a beautiful tree that produces their distinct acorns (with the “burr” on them – these are the largest acorns of all the native oak species) which are a valuable food source for forest mammals.
 

Bur Oak wide

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

majestic Northern Red oak

Somewhat shade tolerant and growing up to 80’ tall, northern red oak is another species that is expected to do well in a variety of conditions with regard to climate change.  Preferring moist, rich soil, the northern red oak will also tolerate dry site conditions.  This fast-growing species is unfortunately susceptible to oak wilt fungus, but this seems currently to be more of an issue in the southern half of Minnesota.  The acorns of the northern red oak are a valuable food source for forest mammals and songbirds.

Birch seeds on branch

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

flowereing Yellow birch tree
yellow birch branches

Yellow birch is expected to do well in a variety of conditions with regard to climate change, and while it prefers full sun, it is also modestly shade tolerant. Yellow birch is also relatively fast growing compared to many other species.  Growing to 60-70’ in height, yellow birth prefers cool, moist soils. Yellow birch can grow to be some of the oldest trees in Minnesota, reaching ages of 150-300 years old!  An aromatic tree, the yellow birch is known for the oil of wintergreen which can be distilled from the stems and bark.  Yellow birch provides important habitat for game birds, songbirds and pollinators.

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Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)

As one of the four sacred plants of the Ojibwe medicine wheel, Northern white cedar is a very special tree species in Minnesota!  Known for its medicinal and purification capabilities, white cedar is also used as a construction material as it is resistant to decay.  A slow-growing species, Northern white cedar is also a very long-lived tree, up to 400 years!  They prefer moist soil and can often be found in bogs and along lake shore.  They are moderately shade tolerant and expected to do well in a changing climate.  Plan to fence or otherwise protect your Northern white cedars as they are a favorite food source for deer and other wildlife.

White Cedar trees
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