21 Different Types of Hardwood Trees For Homes and Gardens
Planting a hardwood tree can be difficult, especially if you don't know what you are looking for! There are many different types of hardwood trees, and not all of them are well suited to all climates. In this article, we look at our favorite types of hardwood trees, with picture identification of each!
Trees are all around us. They add visual improvements to properties, provide shade during the hot summer months, and can even serve as memorials to loved ones who have passed on. They can also brighten up just about any garden space, or home landscape area. Hardwood trees are becoming increasingly popular in landscape design, rather than their normal industrial uses.
While many hardwood trees do have plenty of industrial uses, for the tree lover, they can make an integral part of your home landscape. Some hardwood trees will flower, making them perfect additions to areas that may be a bit starved for color.
In this article, we take a deeper look at our favorite types of hardwood trees that you may want to add to your garden or home landscape. We will look at the trees that flower, those that don’t, and also help you find which ones may be a better fit for your climate or hardiness zone. Let’s jump in!
Scientific Name: Alnus
The Alder tree comes from the Birch family, which we’ll talk about more below. It’s an extremely fast-growing tree with thin bark and hard, light-colored wood. Though the alder tree is at the top of our list, we’d like to note that it’s one of the softest of the hardwood trees—just above pine.
However, the tree still produces excellent wood for making furniture. It’s also a popular choice in custom woodworking projects due to its straight grain patterns and light coloring. This deciduous tree sprouts dark green, oval leaves, has a slender, green flower, and grows cone-like fruit called strobile. Alder trees grow in hardiness zones 2-8 depending on the species.
Scientific Name: Tilia Americana
You can recognize the American basswood tree by its yellow-white flowers, dense foliage, and huge canopy. This large tree is common in North America. People often use it as an ornamental shade tree because of the coverage it provides, and the beauty of the tree’s yellow flowers.
Not only does it provide shade, but the beautiful, flowering tree also offers honey. The honey from this tree is so high-quality that it is specifically marketed as basswood honey.
This deciduous tree is one of the fastest-growing hardwood trees in the US, which makes it very popular as timber. While it is a hardwood tree, its wood is soft enough that it doesn’t split easily. Craftspeople often choose this wood for furniture and cabinet construction. The American Basswood grows in hardiness zones 2-8.
Scientific Name: Castanea Dentata
The American chestnut tree is common to most of us today, but it was almost eliminated in the 1900s due to an exotic fungus. Thankfully, under the actions of the US Forest Service and the American Chestnut Foundation, chestnuts have been widely restored in the country.
The large, deciduous tree is a member of the beech family. It’s often referred to by experts as the finest chestnut tree in the world, boasting hard wood and incredible heights of over 100 feet.
Perhaps the most common part of the American chestnut is its fruit. The tree bears nuts, each of which typically has three pieces inside that are safe for eating.
Chestnut wood is also a popular choice for furniture, fences, home construction, flooring, plywood, and much more. Its straight-grained wood is sturdy and easy to split, giving it commercial value. The American Chestnut is hardy to zone 3.
Scientific Name: Ulmus Americana
The American elm tree goes by many other names, including white elm, soft elm, and water elm. This elm tree is mainly found throughout Northeast America, as well as Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. You can also find the elm tree in southern states like Florida and Texas.
The average elm grows between 98 and 125 feet tall and can live up to 200 years. However, there are some today that are older than 300 years. Elms are susceptible to many insect attacks, though, which can have an impact on their lifespan.
Although the American elm is stunning enough to use in parks and yards, its wood is also very heavy and hard. It’s difficult to split elm, making it useful for sporting equipment like hockey sticks and baseball bats. Elm is also used for flooring and construction. The American elm is hardy to zones 4-9.
Scientific Name: Fraxinus
The ash tree stems from the olive family, which features many different species of woody plants. Depending on the species, an ash tree can grow anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall.
The various species in the ash genus are often named by color. They include trees like black ash, green ash, white ash, blue ash, and more. Overall, there are between 45 and 65 species of ash trees in the world. The ash will grow in hardiness zones 2-9 depending on the species. You’ll even see some geographic areas have come up with their own varieties, like the California Ash tree that’s native to the state.
Scientific Name: Populus Tremula
The aspen is a common deciduous tree native to North America. It goes by several names, including the American aspen, mountain aspen, and quaking aspen.
These incredible hardwoods have tall, narrow trunks that can grow to 82 feet high. The bark is smooth and pale with distinctive black markings.
The fascinating thing about aspen trees is that they propagate through their roots, so it’s not uncommon to find several in one location—all of which share a root system.
Aspen isn’t a great choice to fuel your fireplace in the winter, but its hard wood is easy to find and affordable. Because the wood is lightweight, aspen is excellent for panel products. It’s also often used to make pulp for paper, boxes, and books. Aspens are hardy to zones 2-6.
Scientific Name: Fagus
The beech tree family includes many different species, some of the more popular ones being the American beech, the copper beech, the European beech, and the tri-color beech.
Beech trees are ubiquitous in parks, neighborhoods, and campuses because they’re pleasant to look at and provide plenty of shade to people and buildings. They also live for a very long time—some as long as 300 years—making them sustainable ornaments for various properties.
The American beech, for example, is native to Eastern North America and usually grows around 80 feet. Beech trees are hardy in USDA zones 3-9, depending on the species.
Scientific Name: Betulaceae
Birch trees are easy to recognize by their tall, thin, white trunks that boast black markings from top to bottom. There are many species in the birch family, and some of them have silver, gray, or even yellow bark.
Birch trees have shallow root systems, but that doesn’t stop them from growing 30 to 50 feet tall. On average, a birch can live up to 100 years. Some of them can reach 200 if they are located in prime conditions.
The birch family of trees is known for having very strong, highly flammable wood. It’s lightweight and waterproof, making it excellent as firewood. It’s also a fantastic choice for woodworking, carpentry, and even medicinal purposes. Birch trees grow in hardiness zones 2-7 depending on the species.
Scientific Name: Prunus Serotina
Black cherry trees are large deciduous trees native to the Midwest and the Eastern United States. Because this tree blooms gorgeous white flowers, it’s often planted in parks and on residential properties.
And, of course, the flowers come closely followed by dark cherry fruits in the summer. These black cherries are the largest native cherry in the US, which means you can add some sizable trees to your home or garden space.
The bark from a black cherry has medicinal properties. Professionals strip the bark to use for things like tonics, sedatives, and cough medicines. But overall, black cherry trees look amazing in home landscapes and garden areas. Black cherry trees grow in hardiness zones 2-8.
Scientific Name: Robinia Pseudoacacia
The black locust tree flirts with the line between invasive and advantageous, with only pure opinion separating the two sides. This tree has become a native across the US, Canada, Europe, and parts of Asia.
The reason some call it invasive is that it grows very quickly. It spreads by seed and can quickly take over an area if it’s not managed properly.
But the black locust has a lot of great qualities that are very useful. They’re the perfect trees for splitting property lines. They also make excellent windbreakers and provide shelter for animals—both wild and domestic. This tree can grow anywhere from 40 to 100 feet. It sprouts sharp spines on each leaf, and its bark, seeds, branches, and leaves are toxic. Black locust is hardy to USDA zones 4 through 8.
Scientific Name: Juglans Nigra
The average black walnut tree you see in your area’s local park may grow as tall as 75 feet—which is pretty massive. However, this tree can grow to 150 feet when left in the wild or on plantations.
The massive trunk sprouts low-hanging branches that grow long and far. It seems that this tree grows in all directions, as its roots run very deep as well. Black Walnut trees are quite popular, and are commonly planted in UDSDA zones 4-9 and are considered a fast growing tree.
Scientific Name: Populus Deltoids
The cottonwood tree is a deciduous, hardwood tree that divides into three species:
- Eastern cottonwood
- Fremont’s cottonwood
- Black poplar
These tall, hardy trees mature rapidly. Combined with its hard wood, the quick pace makes them an excellent choice for lumber. Though the tree is hardwood, it has a soft density that makes it easy to split and saw. The lumber is also highly affordable.
As its name suggests, cottonwood trees produce a fluffy, white substance around their seeds. It can be quite a sight to see this snow-like material early in the summer months. However, only the female trees produce this cotton-like substance. These trees can grow between 50 and 80 feet tall. They offer plenty of shade with long, full branches. Cottonwoods are hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9.
Scientific Name: Cornus
Dogwood trees are stunning ornamental trees that display gorgeous white flowers and berries of all colors. Most flowering dogwood species are perennial plants, so they are prevalent in gardens and campuses due to their yearly gift of eye-catching flowers.
Dogwoods can be very small to medium in size. Some grow to just 10 feet, while others can reach around 25 feet in height. Their single trunks are narrow, but they reach maturity fast. Dogwood trees are hardy to USDA zones 5 through 9.
Scientific Name: Celtis Occidentalis
The hackberry tree may not have a very familiar-sounding name, but the truth is that this hardy tree can be found all over both North America and Canada. The hackberry tree is very tolerant. It survives well in a wide range of soils and can take on a varying set of temperatures.
It’s even tough against high winds, heavy rain, and pollution.
This mid-sized tree can reach a mature height of up to 60 feet. It has spear-like leaves and small, dark red berries on its broad crown and arching branches.
Hackberry trees are hardwood trees, indeed, and some prefer them over even common elm trees. This is because hackberry trees have a similar look but are not as susceptible to disease as the elm. Hackberry trees grow in hardiness zones 2-8.
Scientific Name: Carya
The hickory tree comes from a family of trees that has about 18 different species. Some species are native to the US, while others are found in India, China, Mexico, Canada, and Indochina.
These handsome trees are ideal for landscaping. They can grow up to 80 feet and boast a tall spread with high branches. They also produce nuts in the fall that are good for eating. Hickory trees are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Grandiflora
While the southern magnolia tree is most common in the southern regions of the US, many other varieties exist that grow up and down the coast. This stunning tree is easily recognizable in the spring when it blooms large, pink flowers.
Because of these eye-catching blooms, the magnolia tree is frequently used as an ornamental addition to yards, parks, gardens, and other public properties.
There are eight different varieties of magnolias—two of which are evergreen. But most of them have similar features. For example, magnolia trees are very disease and pest-resistant and can live 100 years or longer. Magnolias grow in hardiness zones 7-10 depending on the species.
Scientific Name: Acer
The maple tree is one of the most prevalent trees not just in the US but around the world. The family is made up of about 128 different species, with the two most common being the sugar maple and the red maple.
Most of the maple species are native to Asia, but there are plenty that can be found commonly throughout North America, Europe, and even Africa. They are quite common in the northeaster part of the United States, but can be found in southern states like Texas.
Maple trees are most recognizable by their prominent leaves. Their loved leaves change to many different colors in the fall, and Canada even uses one as their national symbol. The tree can grow up to 150 feet tall and produce sweet sap used in maple syrup. Maple trees are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9.
Scientific Name: Quercus
There’s nothing quite as majestic as an old oak tree. These large trees can grow as tall as 148 feet, but what’s most impressive is their age. The oldest oak trees have lived over 1,000 years on this earth, and a single oak tree will produce around 10 million acorns in its lifetime.
The oak family of trees is the most common species in the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 70 different oak species that grow in North America alone and over 500 in the world.
Oak trees are not only beautiful in landscaping, towns, cities, and parks. Oak trees are hardy in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.
Scientific Name: Populus
Poplar trees are very large, deciduous trees with many different species—most of which you can identify by the color of their bark. A poplar tree can have black, gray, or white bark, and it will stem small clusters of flowers along with triangular leaves.
Regardless of the species, all poplar trees grow very quickly. They can stand as tall as 165 feet, and some can be 70 feet wide. The species provide large canopies, which offer tons of shade. They continue growing for about 50 years, during which time their shallow root system can become invasive. Poplars are hardy in zones 3 through 9.
Scientific Name: Plantanus Occidentalis
The sycamore tree is a very common hardwood tree that grows in North America. It’s one of the largest tree species in the continent, growing anywhere from 75 to 100 feet tall and boasting large, 10-inch leaves.
The most distinguishing feature of the sycamore tree is its mottled bark. The bark is brown on the outside, but it peels each year to reveal fresh, light-colored bark. As the bark peels little by little, the tree’s trunk displays almost a spotted, blotchy pattern that stands out from other trees.
Sycamore trees are also known for their fuzzy, round seed pods that fall to the ground in the fall. Sycamores are hardy in USDA zones r through 9.
Scientific Name: Salix Alba
The white willow is a species of the willow family that is native to central Asia and parts of Europe. This medium-sized deciduous tree can grow up to 98 feet tall and is known for the white undersides of its finger-like leaves.
The white willow lives best in wet areas or poorly-draining soil, which is why you often see it and its other species positioned near lakes or rivers. It has very wide-spreading roots that grow rapidly.
The willow tree family has many varieties and hybrids created for specific purposes. For instance, the cricket-bat willow is grown in Britain to make cricket bats. The golden willow is grown for decorative purposes, as is the golden hybrid weeping willow. The willow will grow in hardiness zones 4-10 depending on the species.
As you can see from our list above, many of the most popular hardwood trees have several uses, and they certainly don’t all turn into kitchen cabinets. Many of them can make excellent additions to your home or garden, depending on your climate and hardiness zone. Hopefully with a little planning, one of these trees will be the perfect addition to your landscaping plans!