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Chicagoland ETT Tree Planting Guidelines

White Oak
White Oak (Quercus alba) the Official State Tree of Illinois.

Good Species to Plant for Our Changing Climate

White Oak Quercus alba (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9) White oak, native to North America, is a massive, long-lived stately tree with wide spreading horizontal branches and wine-red fall color. This native tree provides shade for larger landscapes and parks. This species is native to the Chicago region.
    White Oak care: White oak is the majestic state tree of Illinois. It is a long-lived tree for large landscapes and parks. It does not tolerate wet conditions, so it is best planted in well-drained sites. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt. The roots are sensitive to soil disturbances, such as compaction and construction. It is difficult to transplant due to a taproot.

Swamp White Oak Quercus bicolor (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8) Swamp white oak, native to Northeastern North America including Chicago, is a striking tree with attractive peeling bark, which is especially prevalent on young trees. The lustrous, lobed leaves have a two-tone appearance, dark green on top with a silvery-white underside. Fall color is an orange-gold to yellow in mid-autumn. An excellent shade tree for any landscape.

    Swamp White Oak care: Swamp white oak is one of the easiest oaks to transplant and is more tolerant of poor drainage than other oaks. Plant in full sun. Avoid high pH soils or plants may develop chlorotic (yellowing) leaves. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8) Northern red oak is a Midwest native and is one of the faster growing oaks for the home landscape. The leaves are handsome throughout the year, emerging pinkish-red, turning lustrous dark green in summer, and changing to russet-red to bright red in autumn. Its tolerance of salt and air pollution makes it a good tree for more exposed areas.

    Northern Red Oak care: Northern red oak prefers a well-drained, rich, woodland site. It grows best in sandy, loam soil. This tree is tolerant of air pollution and salt. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa (USDA Hardiness Zone 3a-4) The stately bur oak, native to the Midwest, is a great choice as a shade tree and for specimen plantings in parks, spacious yards, and other large areas. Its massive trunk has gray to brown furrowed bark and its branches bear lustrous dark green leaves that turn yellow-brown in fall. Large acorns with fringed caps attract birds and small mammals.

    Bur Oak care: Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. This tree is adaptable to many soils and drought tolerant once established. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt. Oaks do not like compacted soils or having their roots disturbed, so protect the root zone .

Red Maple Acer rubrum (USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9) Red maple is a widely adaptable, large tree common to the woods of eastern North America. A red tinge can be found in its flowers, twigs, and seeds, but it is most notable for the scarlet of its leaves in fall. Red maple needs plenty of room for its dense, spreading root system. Fall color can be yellow rather than red, so select a cultivar bred for red fall color. This species is native to the Chicago region.

    Red Maple care: Chlorosis symptoms (pale green leaves with dark green veins) can be a problem in high pH soil and drought conditions. Maples are considered ‘bleeders’ and are best pruned in early winter or during summer. Red maple does not tolerate heavy pollution.

Bald-Cypress Taxodium distichum (USDA Hardiness Zone 4a-11) This stately conifer, native to the Midwest, is often found in groupings in parks and larger spaces, along streets, and around lakes. Unlike most cone-bearing trees, bald-cypress loses its needles each winter and grows a new set in spring. The russet-red fall color of its lacy needles is one of its outstanding characteristics. Hardy and tough, this tree will adapt to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, dry, or swampy.

    Bald-Cypress care: Bald-cypress is best grown in full sun in wet, dry, or swampy locations. Acidic soils are preferred as it may show chlorosis symptoms (yellowing) in high pH (alkaline) soil.

Redbud Cercis canadensis (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9) In April and May, many neighborhoods are brightened by the purplish-pink flowers lining the dark branches of redbuds before their leaves open. This Chicago-area native plant evolved in the understory and along the edges of forests. It works especially well among evergreens that contrast with its color and shelter it from intense sunlight. This species is native to the Chicago region.

    Redbud care: Redbud is best planted in part shade in the spring. In full sun, provide supplemental water in dry periods. Buy from a local or regional source to ensure hardiness. Plants benefit with a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch to protect the tree’s shallow root system. Relatively short-lived, it usually has a 20 to 25 year life span.

Chinese Chestnut Castanea mollissima (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8) Chinese chestnut is resistant to chestnut blight which has almost wiped out the American chestnut. This non-native species produces spikes of creamy white flowers in summer. The edible nuts develop in sharp, spiny husks. Not native to Illinois, but there are many cultivars of Chinese Chestnut crossed with American Chestnut.

    Chinese Chestnut care: The Chinese chestnut does best in full sun. It is tolerant of heat and drought and prefers acidic soil.

Pawpaw Asimina triloba (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9) Whether planted in full sun or part shade, the pawpaw tree, native to the Midwest, works well as a specimen or can be useful as a screen. Nodding, dark purple flowers in the spring, elongated edible fruit in the summer, and a yellow to yellow-green fall color add to the appeal of this small understory tree. Pawpaws may be difficult to find in nurseries. This species is native to the Chicago region.

    Pawpaw care: Pawpaw is a small, native, understory tree. It grows in low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines, and along streams. Its spreading habit forms colonies or thickets.



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