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It’s hot out there. Last week, over 40 million people across 18 states from Montana to Georgia were under some type of heat alert. What can help? Trees. Particularly shade trees. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, here are 12 fast-growing ones.
1. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). With the widest natural range of any tree in North America, the quaking aspen is also the largest living organism, growing in clones that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. In fact, a clone in Minnesota has been estimated to be thousands of years old. While not a tree for all places, planted in the right location, the quaking aspen is a delight of color, movement, and sound. Zones 1-7
2. Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Dubbed “one of the handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick, the northern red oak is valued for its adaptability and usefulness, including its hardiness in urban settings. This medium to large tree is also known for its brilliant fall color and great value to wildlife. Zones 3-8
3. Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) This is a tree that demands attention. White, showy flowers. Giant heart-shaped leaves. Dangling bean-like seed pods. Twisting trunk and branches. While not ideal for every location, this unique and hardy tree is a fast grower that finds a home in parks and yards throughout the country. Zones 4-8
4. Red Sunset Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Franksred’). One of the best red maple cultivars, this tree delivers on color. Winter buds, clusters of small winter/spring flowers, leaf stems, twigs and winged summer fruits all carry a red hue. And in fall, it’s breathtaking. The coloring, a good branch structure, and a faster growth rate make the red sunset maple an enhancement to any property. Zones 4-8
5. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) The hackberry, while often forgotten by consumers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.” Found on a wide range of soils east of the Rockies from southern Canada to Florida, these trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14″ to 60″ of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution. All of this hardiness adds up to a good landscape choice, particularly if you’re looking for an energy-conserving shade tree that doesn’t require watering. Zones 3-9
6. Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) Lauded for: strong wood; dense shade; tolerance of many soil conditions, heat, soil compaction and air pollution; free from most major pests; pleasing to the eye in all seasons; and easy to plant. Needless to say, this faster-growing oak is a common sight in yards, along streets, and throughout parks. Zones 4-8
7. River Birch (Betula nigra) As its name suggests, the river birch naturally grows along riverbanks. But as a landscape tree, it can be planted almost anywhere in the U.S. The species is valued for its relatively rapid growth, tolerance of wetness and some drought, unique curling bark, spreading limbs, and relative resistance to birch borer. This tree also puts on a nice fall show, adding a splash of brilliant yellow fall color. Zones 4-9
8. Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima) The sawtooth oak is an attractive and durable shade tree that adapts to a wide range of soil and climate conditions. The leaves add to the visual interest — opening a brilliant yellow to golden yellow color in the spring, turning dark lustrous green in summer, and yellow to golden brown in the fall. Its wide-spreading habit also provides great shade. Zones 5-9
9. American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) The American sweetgum — with its star-shaped leaves, neatly compact crown, interesting fruit, and twigs with unique corky growths called wings — is an attractive shade tree. The glossy green leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple in the autumn. Zones 5-9
10. Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) With “tulip” shaped leaves and cup-shaped flowers, the stunning tuliptree is the state tree of Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. It is the tallest of the eastern hardwoods — and a rapid grower in right conditions. It also doesn’t suffer from many pest problems. Zones 4-9
11. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) An impressive tree by any standard, the dawn redwood is relatively carefree and fast-growing. Its fine, feathery leaves are certainly a standout feature, and even though this tree is deciduous, it produces rounded cones. The dawn redwood was long thought to be extinct — with evidence of its existence found among dinosaur fossils — until it was discovered alive and well in a rural, mountainous area of China. It is now grown worldwide. Zones 5-8
12. Sun Valley Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Sun Valley’) Wanting the quick-growing shade and fall beauty of a maple tree without the “helicopters”? Look no further. The sun valley maple offers brilliant red fall color and a symmetrical oval crown — but it won’t produce any seeds. This tree is also a low-maintenance choice that is easy to grow. Zones 4-7
This was condensed from an original article by the Arbor Day Foundation, which can be found here.
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