Growing up to eighty feet tall, shade trees are the backbone of the natural landscape, defining and framing outdoor spaces, providing welcome relief from the summer sun and channeling the breezes. Characterized by dense, leafy green foliage in the summer, shade trees often develop vibrant fall color, extending their seasonal interest into the autumn. The following list includes shade trees that perform well in our parks.
Acer x freemanii - Red Maple Hybrid (spring planting only)
Best known for its fiery red leaf color in the fall, the hybrid Red Maple also produces masses of tiny red flowers along smooth gray branches in early spring. The hybrid Red Maples have all the ornamental qualities of the species plus better hardiness in city conditions as well as a somewhat faster rate of growth.
Acer saccharum - Sugar Maple (spring planting only)
Sugar Maples provide some of the most spectacular fall color in the Midwest, turning brilliant red and orange. Moderately-fast growing, Sugar Maples tend to develop a broad, rounded head and furrowed gray bark with age.
Celtis occidentalis - Common Hackberry
Common Hackberry, a tree native to the forests of the Midwest, is rivaled only by Oaks in its potential longevity. Beautiful pale grey bark and clean yellow fall foliage make this tree an asset to the landscape year-round.
Ginkgo biloba - Ginkgo
One of the oldest known tree species, Ginkgo is regarded as a symbol of good luck and long life in many Asian cultures. Also known as Maidenhair Tree because of its interesting fan-shaped leaves, Ginkgo foliage is bright green in the summer, becoming luminous yellow in the fall.
Gymnocladus dioicus - Kentucky Coffeetree
An excellent city tree, Kentucky Coffeetree adapts well to tough urban conditions. Large ferny leaflets provide filtered shade in the summer. Fall color is a deep golden yellow; its deeply furrowed bark and unusual, contorted branching habit also provide exceptional winter interest.
Quercus rubra - Red Oak (spring planting only)
Red Oak, one of the fastest growing oaks and a native to the Midwest, withstands city conditions well. Deep green glossy summer foliage turn shades of muted red in the fall.
Tilia americana - American Linden
Also known as Basswood, the American Linden is a classic native Midwestern tree. Pyramidal in habit when young, it develops an open, somewhat rounded crown with age. Tiny creamy-yellow flowers cover the tree in June; although visually insignificant, they are highly fragrant.
Please note: Due to specific cultural requirements, some shade trees are dug by the nurseries only in the spring and may be planted only during the spring planting season. These trees, which are noted above as “spring planting only” cannot be planted in the fall.
Ornamental trees are characterized by spring or early summer flowering displays followed by ornamental fruit set and, often, showy fall color, providing year-round seasonal interest. Generally growing smaller than shade trees, most ornamental trees are available in both single and multiple stemmed forms. The following list includes ornamental trees that perform well in our parks.
Amelanchier x grandiflora - Apple Serviceberry
One of the earliest flowering of the ornamental trees, this multiple-stemmed Midwestern native produces masses of white flowers in early to mid-April. The small red fruit, which ripen in June, are a favorite with birds. Blue-green summer foliage changes in the fall to a spectacular range of yellows, oranges and reds, providing one of the best displays of autumn color.
Cercis canadensis - Eastern Redbud
Redbud’s flowers are actually bright purplish-red in bud, opening to rosy-pink. In mid-April the tiny flowers are born in profusion along the twigs and stems of this small, spreading tree. The new leaves, which appear as the flowers fade, are reddish purple, changing to a lustrous dark green in the summer.
Cornus mas - Corneliancherry Dogwood (spring planting only)
Very early flowering, Corneliancherry Dogwood produces an abundance of small, bright yellow flowers in early to mid-March, well before any other ornamental trees. Bright cherry-red fruit follow, ripening in July, and are very popular with birds and other wildlife. Oval to spreading in habit, this tree has dark glossy green summer foliage and muted purple-red fall color.
Crataegus crusgalli inermis - Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (spring planting only)
An excellent native Midwestern ornamental tree, this thornless Hawthorn is covered with white flowers in mid to late May. In the summer, lustrous dark green foliage provides a backdrop for masses of small deep red fruit, which ripen in September and persist through the winter. Fall leaf color is bronzy to purplish-red.
Malus var. - Flowering Crabapple (spring planting only)
The showiest flower displays of the Midwest’s ornamental trees belong to the Crabapples, which begin blooming in late April and continue through the end of May. Flower color depends on the cultivar and includes many shades of white, pink and red, even reddish purple. Many cultivars also have good fruit set, extending the ornamental qualities of the trees well into winter. When ordering a Crabapple, please indicate the preferred flower color and we will select a suitable cultivar.
Viburnum prunifolium - Blackhaw Viburnum
Native to the Chicago region and tolerant of urban soils, Blackhaw Viburnum flowers in May. The creamy white flowers are followed in September by small dark blue fruit, which make this tree a valuable food resource for migrating birds. Dark green summer foliage changes from purple to deep red and bronze in the fall.
Please Note: Due to specific cultural requirements, some ornamental trees are dug by the nurseries only in the spring and may be planted only during the spring planting season. These trees, which are noted above as “spring planting only” cannot be planted in the fall.