Trees for Organic Gardens

Native trees can cope with native pests, survive in extremes, and have interesting color.

By Guy Sternberg


Planting a tree can be a deeply satisfying act, a commitment to the future of the place where it will grow. Choose a tree that's native to the region, and your rewards multiply.

Natives are likely to thrive in your conditions with minimal attention after the first two or three years. They provide the food and shelter local wildlife depends on. And you needn't worry about introducing an invasive species like the Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).

Many natives are trees you're already familiar with. The following six genera, or groups, of North American native trees include a variety of species for different conditions; have interesting foliage, flowers, and bark; and become more beautiful with every passing year.

When thinking about a tree to plant, consider that hundreds of the finest shade and ornamental species evolved right here in North America. They have survived thousands of years of climate extremes, they have reached equilibrium with their environment, and most of them learned long ago how to cope with native pests or they would not still be here. This is truly organic!