“Trees of Strength” for South Carolina Landscapes

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Small Trees

(Up to 35 ft. high at maturity in the landscape) *Native trees.

Common Name
(Botanical name)

Where to plant, Site preferences

Landscape Remarks

Chastetree
(Vitex agnus-castus)

Piedmont to Coastal Plain; well-drained, acid to slightly alkaline soils.

Full sun to part shade. Deciduous, multi-stemmed large shrub that can be trained/pruned to produce a small tree with a single or multiple trunk. Bears long-lasting 3 to 8 inch long spikes of purple, pink, or white flowers in summer on new growth. Ht.: 15 feet.

Crapemyrtle
(Lagerstroemia hybrids)

Statewide; prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Sun (for best flowering). Deciduous. Showy display of flowers in summer; flowers come in all shades of white, pink, red, or lavender; exfoliating bark and attractive fall color. Dwarf forms are available. Recent crosses of crapemyrtle with Japanese crapemyrtle (L. fauriei) at the U. S. National Arboretum have led to the development of about 20 hybrids, most of which exhibit increased hardiness and better powdery mildew resistance than the species. Ht.: 30 ft.

For more information see http://www.clemson.edu/extension/horticulture/landscape_ornamentals/crapemyrtle/.

Foster’s Holly
(Ilex x attenuata 'Fosteri')*

Statewide; moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Dense pyramidal form with glossy green leaves. Showy small white flowers in spring are followed by brilliant red berries. Ht.: 30 ft.

Fringe tree
(Chionanthus virginicus)*

Statewide; moist, rich acid soil. Found in the wild along stream banks and along slopes above wetland areas.

Full sun to part shade. Deciduous, slow-growing, large mult-istemmed shrub or small tree. White, fleecy flowers emerge in mid to late April usually as the leaves unfold. Male plants offer a better floral display than females. Dark blue fruits are produce on females in late summer and early fall. Ht.: 15 ft.

Fortune’s Osmanthus
(Osmanthus x fortunei)

Statewide; prefers moist, well-drained acid soil.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Hybrid of Holly Osmanthus and Fragrant Tea Olive. Train/prune to produce a tree form. Bears extremely fragrant white flowers in October-November. Ht.: 20 feet. Devilwood (O. americanus)*, Fragrant Tea Olive (O. fragrans), and Holly Osmanthus (O. heterophyllus) are other desirable species.

Nellie R. Stevens holly
(Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens')

Statewide; prefers well-drained, slightly acid soil.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Lustrous green leaves and brief display of showy red berries. Fruit set can occur without pollination. Ht.: 30 ft.

Savannah holly
(Ilex x attenuata 'Savannah')*

Statewide; prefers moist, slightly acid soils.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Develops a narrow, open pyramidal to columnar form. Bears heavy crop of red berries that persist during fall and winter. Height: 30 ft.

Tall stewartia
(Stewartia monadelpha)

Statewide; well-drained acid to neutral soil. Found in the wild as an understory tree.

Best sited in partial shade. Deciduous. Beautiful branching habit with smooth, bright orange-brown bark peeling in thin flakes. Bears small, white cup-shaped flowers in spring for about a month in June. Leaves turn deep red in the fall. Ht.: 30 ft.


Small Trees

(More difficult to find, but worth the effort) *Native trees.

Common Name
(Botanical name)

Where to plant, Site preferences

Landscape Remarks

Black gum
(Nyssa sylvatica)*

Statewide; prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acid (pH < 6.0) soil, but can be found in the wild in wet or dry environments.

Sun or part shade. Deciduous. Brilliant orange, bright red to deep purple fall color. Ht.: 30 ft.

Carolina buckthorn
(Frangula caroliniana syn. Rhamnus caroliniana)*

Statewide; well-drained, acid to alkaline soils

Sun to shade. Deciduous. Multitrunked habit and form that requires pruning/training to produce a small tree. Lustrous green leaves turn orange-yellow or red in the fall. Attractive red fruits mature to black in the fall. Ht.: 15 ft.

Chinese fringe tree
(Chionanthus retusus)

Piedmont; prefers moist, rich, well-drained acid to alkaline soil.

Sun to part shade. Asian counterpart of our native fringe tree with shiny leathery leaves and exfoliating bark. Produces a blizzard of white flowers that emerge at the ends of the branches in spring after the leaves unfold. Females bear showy dark blue fruits. Ht.: 25 ft.

Florida maple
(Acer barbatum)*

Statewide; prefer moist, deep, well-drained soils. Grows as an understory tree in the wild along streams and swamps in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Attractive orange to yellow fall color. Ht.: 30 ft.

Hedge maple
(Acer campestre)

Statewide. Prefers rich, well-drained soil, but tolerates acidic to slightly alkaline (< pH 5.5 to 7.5) soils.

Sun or part shade. Deciduous. Round-headed, dense canopy. Yellowish-green to clear yellow fall color. Very tolerant of pruning. Ht.: 35 ft.

Ironwood
(Carpinus caroliniana)*

Statewide; prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soil ranging from acidic to slightly alkaline. Found as an understory tree in the wild along rivers and streams.

Sun or shade. Deciduous. Attractive smooth, blue-gray “muscled” bark. Orange or red to yellow fall color. Ht.: 35 ft.

Japanese Snowbell
(Styrax japonicus)

Statewide; moist, rich, well-drained acid soil well-laced with organic matter.

Part shade. Deciduous. Outstanding white bell-shaped flowers which literally cover the undersides of the branches in spring; ‘Emerald Pagoda’ is a most desirable cultivar with large fragrant flowers and dark green leaves. Red or yellow fall color. Grayish-brown bark on the trunk develops cinnamon-orange grooves with age. Ht.: 30 ft.

Japanese crapemyrtle
(Lagerstroemia fauriei)

Statewide; acidic to slightly alkaline soil.

Full sun to part shade. Deciduous. Showy summer white flowers (smaller than crapemyrtle) and peeling gray bark that reveals a sculptured cinnamon-colored trunk. ‘Fantasy’ (40 to 50 ft. tall) and ‘Townhouse’ (20 to 30 ft).

Paperbark maple
(Acer griseum)

Piedmont and Mountains; moist, well-drained acidic to slightly alkaline soil.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. A good patio-sized tree; purple-brown bark peels away in thin flakes to reveal cinnamon-orange bark beneath. Fall color is bright red and orange. Ht.: 35 ft.

Possumhaw
(Ilex decidua)*

Statewide; found along streambanks in the wild.

Sun to shade. Deciduous. Requires partial shade and training/pruning to maintain a tree form instead of a mult-istemmed, suckering shrub. Berries on females ripen to orange and red in early fall. Select cultivars such as ‘Warren’s Red’, which can reach a height of 20 ft. (Co-national champion in Richland County measures 42 ft. high and 43 ft. wide).

Red buckeye
(Aesculus pavia)*

Statewide; prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acid to alkaline soils.

Sun to shade. Deciduous. Bears 6-inch long spikes of red flowers in April-May which attract hummingbirds. Ht.: 20 ft.

Sourwood
(Oxydendron arboreum)*

Mountains and Piedmont; moist, acid soils high in organic matter.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Drooping white, lily-of-the-valley-like flower spikes in June to early July for about a month. Brilliant to deep red fall color. Ht.: 35 ft.

Winterberry holly
(Ilex x verticillata)

Statewide; prefers rich, well-drained acid soils (pH 4.5 to 6.5); native to swampy areas although will tolerate a range of soils.

Full sun (for best fruit display) to part shade. Deciduous shrub with weeping branches; females bear a bountiful display of red fruits. Several cultivars are available. The hybrids (I. verticillata x I. serrata) grow faster than the species. The U. S. National Arboretum introductions ‘Sparkleberry’ (female) and its male pollinating partner ‘Apollo’ are two exceptional cultivars. Ht.: 10 ft.

Trident maple(Acer buergerianum)

Statewide; well-drained, acidic to slightly alkaline (pH 6 to 7.5) soil.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Striking brilliant fall color (yellow, orange, and red) and peeling orange-brown bark year-round. Many cultivars are available. Ht.: 35 ft.


Medium and Large Trees

(More than 35 ft. high at maturity in the landscape) *Native trees.

Common Name (Botanical name)

Where to plant, Site preferences

Landscape Remarks

American Holly
(Ilex opaca)*

Statewide; prefers moist, acid to slightly alklaine, well-drained soil.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Wide pyramidal shape; grows picturesque with age; clusters of dark red berries persist from fall through winter. Many cultivars offer a variety of forms, sizes, and berry colors. Ht.: 50 ft.

Bald cypress
(Taxodium distichum)*

Statewide

Sun to part shade. Deciduous conifer which is tough and adaptable. Needlelike leaves. Can tolerate extremes of drought and wet conditions. Showy reddish-brown or russet to dull orange fall color. Ht.: 70 ft.

Cabbage Palmetto
(Sabal palmetto)*

Sandhills and Coastal Plain; although it can tolerate a broad range of soil pH, salinity, and drainage, prefers neutral to alkaline soils.

Sun to part shade. State tree of South Carolina. Ht: 50 ft.

Carolina silverbell
(Halesia tetraptera var. monticola)*

Mountains and Piedmont; rich, moist, well-drained, loamy soil that is acid (pH 5.0 to 6.0), although it can tolerate neutral pH (7.0) soils. Found in the wild as an understory tree on slopes of hills, ridges, and mountains.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. White, bell-shaped flowers in two to five-inch long clusters in April to early May; yellow fall color; exfoliating (peeling) bark. Ht.: 40 ft. Halesia carolina, H. parviflora, and Two-winged silverbell (H. diptera) would be better suited to the Coastal Plain.

Chinese pistache
(Pistacia chinensis)

Statewide; moist, well-drained soils but highly adaptable. Tolerates poor, dry soils.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Brilliant red to orange fall color. Attractive exfoliating bark that reveals orange inner bark. Ht.: 40 ft.

Chinese elm
(Ulmus parvifolia)

Statewide; prefers, moist, fertile well-drained acid to alkaline soil, but tolerant of tough, urban conditions.

Sun to part shade. Beautiful peeling bark revealing mottled patterns of gray, green, orange, and brown. Ht.: 50 ft.

Dawn redwood
(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Statewide; prefers moist, deep, moderately fertile, slightly acid soil, but can tolerate urban conditions.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous conifer with a pyramidal growth habit and orange-red to brown trunk with showy orange to yellow fall color. Ht.: 90 ft.

Eastern red cedar
(Juniperus virginiana)*

Statewide; surprisingly adaptable on a wide range of soils.

Tough and dependable. Best in full sun. Berries, borne on female plants only, are blue. Attractive reddish bark, peeling off in long strips, is most visible on mature specimens. Varieties of the eastern red cedar are too numerous to mention. The most popular ones are narrowly upright with grayish to bluish needles. Ht.: 50 ft. May be local restrictions when planting near commercial apple orchards because it is the intermediate host for cedar-apple rust.

Green ash
(Fraxinus pennsylvanica)*

Statewide; rich, moist well-drained alkaline to acidic soil; however, adapts to wet or dry sites, especially clay or sandy or silty soils. Native to moist bottomlands or along stream banks.

Sun. Yellow fall color. Select male, seedless cultivars. Ht.: 60 ft.

Japanese Cryptomeria
(Cryptomeria japonica)

Statewide; rich, moist, well-drained, acid soil.

Sun to part shade (dwarf and year-round variegated cultivars). Evergreen. Elegant pyramidal form that ages to an irregular narrow oval. The reddish brown bark on mature trees peels off in long strips. Ht.: 60 ft. Good selections include 'Ben Franklin' and 'Yoshino.’

Giant Arborvitae
(Thuja plicata)*

Statewide; rich, moist, well-drained, acid to alkaline soil; native to the West Coast where it occurs naturally on river banks, swamps, and bogs.

Sun to shade. Evergreen conifer. Upright, conical to pyramidal habit with strong, horizontal branching. Fragrant needles. Resists deer-browsing. Ht.: 70 ft. Numerous desirable cultivars, particularly 'Excelsa,' 'Hogan,' and 'Virescens.' Thuja 'Green Giant' (T. standishii x T. plicata) adapts to a wide variety of climate conditions and tolerates a wide range of soil types, from sandy loams to heavy clay soils.

Live oak
(Quercus virginiana)*

Piedmont to Coastal Plain.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Statuesque, broad-spreading tree that’s tough and longlived; tolerates salt spray. Ht.: 80 ft.

Loblolly pine
(Pinus taeda)*

Statewide; best growth is on deep, moist, acid soils.

Sun. Evergreen. Coarse reddish brown bark, long green needles; pyramidal when young but loses it lower limbs as it grows older and develops an open spreading crown with age. Ht.: 60 feet. 'Nana’ is a dwarf cultivar that reaches only 20 feet after 30 years.

Longleaf pine
(Pinus palustris)*

Statewide; well-drained, acidic soil. Native to a wide variety of sites; tolerates poorly drained clays or deep, coarse, quick-draining sands.

Sun. Beautiful evergreen conifer with an open habit and 14-inch long, flexible needles. For the first 3 to 7 years young seedlings look like pompons of long, slender and drooping needles. Once they become established and develop a sturdy root system, they start to grow out of this "grass" stage to look more like trees. Ht.: 80 feet.

Oak, White
(Quercus alba)*

Statewide; prefers acid (> pH 5.5), moist, deep, well-drained soil.

Sun. Deciduous. Red to yellow fall color; scaly light ash gray to white colored bark. Ht.: 80 ft.

Oak, Willow
(Quercus phellos)*

Statewide; prefers rich, moist, deep, acidic (4.5 to 5.5), well-drained soils but highly adaptable.

Sun. Deciduous. Tough tree well-adapted to urban conditions. Scarcely recognized as an oak with graceful willow-like leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Faster growing than many oaks and much easier to transplant since it doesn’t have as deep a taproot as most of its cousins. Ht.: 60 ft.

Oak, Scarlet
(Quercus coccinea)*

Statewide; prefers acidic, well-drained soils.

Sun. Deciduous. Leaves turn bright scarlet in the fall. Ht.: 75 ft.

Oak, Southern Red
(Quercus falcata)*

Statewide; rich, moist, well-drainined soil although it is highly adaptable-found in the wild growing on dry, sandy or clay upland soils and along stream banks in fertile bottoms.

Sun or part shade. Deciduous. Tough, durable drought-tolerant tree; leaves turn brown in the fall and remain attached for extended periods into the winter. Ht.: 80 ft.

Red Maple
(Acer rubrum)*

Statewide; grows best in slightly acid, moist soils.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Noted for brilliant fall color displays of red, orange, or yellow. Choose cultivars for consistent fall color. Ht.: 60 ft.

River birch
(Betula nigra)*

Statewide; prefers moist, fertile, acid (< pH 6.5) soil. Found in the wild along stream banks and other wet areas.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Attractive reddish-brown peeling bark; resistant to bronze birch borer. Single-trunked trees are less prone to breakage. Ht.: 50 ft. Heritage® has a salmon-white trunk. ‘Moonshine’ (Dura-Heat(tm)) has smaller leaves and a denser canopy.

Southern Magnolia
(Magnolia grandiflora)*

Statewide; prefers rich, acid to slightly alkaline well-drained soils.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Native of the southeast and symbol of the Deep South. Numerous cultivars offer a variety of heights, forms, leaf sizes, and other features. Ht.: 80 ft.

Japanese Zelkova
(Zelkova serrata)

Statewide; prefers deep, moist, acid to slightly alkaline soil.

Sun. Deciduous. Showy copper, orange, red, or yellow fall color. Bark is cherrylike on younger trees and exfoliates on older trees, leaving an attractive mottled pattern. Purchase trees with branches spaced along the trunk so they can develop a secure hold on the trunk. Ht.: 80 ft.


Medium and Large Trees

(More difficult to find, but worth the effort) *Native Trees

Common Name (Botanical name)

Where to plant, Site preferences

Landscape Remarks

American beech
(Fagus grandifolia)*

Statewide; moist, loamy, well-drained, acid (pH 5-6.5) soil.

Sun to part shade. A majestic tree with smooth gray bark and nearly horizontal branches that create a wide-spreading crown as it matures; leaves turn golden-brown in the fall. Ht.: 70 ft.

American hophornbeam
(Ostrya virginiana)*

Mountains and Piedmont; prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acid (4.6 to 5.6) soil. In the wild it can be found on the drier rocky slopes of woodlands as an understory species.

Full sun to part shade. Yellow fall leaf color; grayish-brown peeling bark. Rugged tree that’s well-suited for difficult urban conditions. Deciduous. Ht.: 40 ft.

Cedar, Blue Atlas
(Cedrus atlantica)

Statewide; moist, loamy, well-drained, acidic to slightly alkaline soils; tolerates sandy or clay soils.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. A picturesque tree with silver-blue needles that becomes more beautiful with age. Ht.: 70 ft.

Cedar, Deodar
(Cedrus deodara)

Statewide; acidic to slightly alkaline soils.

Sun. Blue-green to silver needles. Graceful, pyramidal form with nearly horizontal, drooping branches. Not as longlived as C. atlantica; some horticulturists speculate a lifespan of 20 years as a result of general decline and death of the top. Height: 60 ft.

European hornbeam
(Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata')

Mountains and Piedmont; well-drained soil; tolerates light to heavy, acid to alkaline..

Sun to shade. Deciduous. Yellow fall color; attractive smooth, gray, rippling bark. ‘Fastigiata’ is the most commonly available cultivar which has upright-growing branches Ht.: 40 ft.

Ginkgo
(Ginkgo biloba)

Statewide; well-drained, acid to alkaline, moderately moist soil, but grows in almost any situation.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Longlived and durable; gorgeous yellow fall color. The sexes are on separate plants. Female gingkoes are cultivated for their seeds. ‘King of Dongting Mountain’ is the cultivar that produces the largest nuts; however, the ripe fruits have a disagreeable vomit-like odor. Male cultivars are used in landscapes, such as ‘Autumn Gold’, ‘Fairmont’, or ‘Fastigiata’. Ht.: 75 feet.

Oak, Bur
(Quercus macrocarpa)*

Statewide; adapts to a variety of soils and acidic and alkaline conditions

Sun. Deciduous. A majestic oak that develops a massive trunk, stout branches, and a broad crown. Ht.: 80 ft.

Oak, Overcup
(Quercus lyrata)*

Statewide; moist, acid, well-drained soil; tolerates wet or poorly drained sites which match its native habitat.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Forms a uniform, rounded crown; attractive rough grayish-brown bark; rich brown fall color. Ht.: 50 ft.

Oak, Ring-cupped
(Quercus glauca)

Piedmont to the Coastal Plain; moist, acid, well-drained soil; tolerant of a wide range of soils, including heavy clay.

Sun. Evergreen. Glossy green leaves, smooth gray bark, and an oval to round crown. Ht.: 40 ft.

Oak, Sawtooth
(Quercus acutissima)

Statewide; acid to slightly alkaline, well-drained soils, but will adapt to most soils.

Sun. Deciduous. Develops a wide-spreading oval-round to broad-round crown as it matures. Bright yellow to golden brown fall color. Heavy crops of large (one-inch long) acorns are favored by wildlife. Ht.: 60 ft.

Oak, Shumard
(Quercus shumardii)*

Piedmont to the Coastal Plain; moist, rich, well-drained acid to slightly alkaline loamy soils; however, adapts to clay or sandy soils and wet or dry conditions.

Sun. Deciduous. Wide-spreading, rounded crown; deep green, glossy leaves that turn red to orange in the fall. Ht.: 60 ft.

Oak, Turkey
(Quercus laevis)*

Piedmont to the Coastal Plain; found in the wild in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain on dry sandy soils of ridges and pinelands.

Sun. Deciduous. Fall color is red to reddish-brown. Acorns major food source for wildlife. Ht.: 40 ft.

Persian parrotia
(Parrotia persica)

Piedmont and Mountains; well-drained, loamy, slightly acid to alkaline soils.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Brilliant orange, red, or yellow fall color. Attractive peeling bark reveals silver, green, and cinnamon. Ht.: 40 ft.

Pond cypress
(Taxodium ascendens)*

Statewide; moist, acidic to slightly alkaline (< 7.5 pH) soils, although very adaptable.

Statewide; moist, acidic to slightly alkaline (< 7.5 pH) soils, although very adaptable.

Spruce pine
(Pinus glabra)*

Piedmont to the Coastal Plain; moist, fertile, acid to slightly alkaline soil; tolerates poor dry soils and wet sites better than other pines.

Sun to part shade. Evergreen. Bushy canopy with a trunk that often becomes twisted and curved with age. Becomes picturesque with age. Height: 60 ft.

Sweetgum
(Liquidambar styraciflua)*

Statewide; rich, moist, acid to slightly alkaline (< pH 7.5) soil; however, tolerates a wide range of soils across the state.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Brilliant fall color: orange, purple, red, or yellow. Ht.: 75 ft. ‘Rotundiloba’ is a fruitless form with yellow to dark red fall color.

Sweetbay magnolia
(Magnolia virginiana)*

Statewide; flourishes in moist, acid soil; naturally found in swamps and along stream banks.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous, semievergreen, or evergreen. Light to dark green leaves with silver undersides. Creamy-white lemon scented flowers appear from May-June thru September. Ht.: 50 ft.

Winged elm
(Ulmus alata)*

Statewide; moist, well-drained soil but can adapt to heavy clay and drier, sandier soils.

Sun to part shade. Deciduous. Open airy canopy; young twigs and branches have flattened corky outgrowths or "wings"; pale yellow fall color. Ht.: 40 ft.


[ Small Trees | Rare Small Trees | Medium/Large Trees | Rare Medium/Large Trees ]

Heartfelt thanks to the following individuals for their helpful suggestions: Dorie Eckard, Bill Head, Bob Head, Patrick McMillan, Ph.D., Greg Reighard, Ph.D., Beth Richardson, and Paul Thompson.