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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - September 27, 2011

From: Alexandria, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Small native trees for northern Virginia
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I am looking for a native alternative to a Japanese Red Maple in northern Virginia. I would like a small tree that I can put in my front garden that will not pose a security risk my being overgrown and too large. We thought the Japanese Red Maple would be nice, because it is a smaller and more contained tree, but I do not want to introduce a non-native plant. PLEASE HELP! Thank you!

ANSWER:

You will find a list of small native trees suitable for your area at the following Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web site.  Browsing through the list you may find just the ideal tree for your site.  I can from personal experience recommend certain species, including Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood), Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud), Aesculus pavia (Scarlet buckeye), Chionanthus virginicus (White fringetree), Frangula caroliniana (Carolina buckthorn), Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), Ptelea trifoliata (Wafer ash), Sorbus americana (American mountain ash) and Viburnum rufidulum (Rusty blackhaw viburnum).  Click on the species name to view a description.

Most of these species have attractive flowers and/or fruit.  Only one, Yaupon, is truly evergreen, but some others hold their leaves well into the autumn.  I attach images of the species mentioned above from the Wildflower Center's Image Gallery.

 

From the Image Gallery


Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Scarlet buckeye
Aesculus pavia

White fringetree
Chionanthus virginicus

Carolina buckthorn
Frangula caroliniana

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

American mountain ash
Sorbus americana

Rusty blackhaw viburnum
Viburnum rufidulum

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