Trees of the Prairies
and Great Plains

Attractive and Rugged



Are there really Native Trees of the Prairie?

Isn't this America's bread basket?

Yes and yes.

The prairies cover a vast region of the United States and Canada. The landscape varies as much as the people that live and farm there.

From the Great Plains To the Bad Lands. To mighty rivers, scrub and foothills all make up the Prairie region.

What remains the same are the trees.

Large and small, they are pretty much the same as those of the northeast and southeast regions of America.

Oak, maple, hackberry, dogwood, cottonwood, cedar and others make up the majority of the trees of the prairie.

Specimens of the prairie can be woodland areas or the lone survivor watching over an open field.

Either way you look at it, Natives are the way to go.

Ornamentals from Europe and Asia are taking over our yards and landscapes.

This isn't for you.

Many prairie birds depend on these native species as flyways and protection. Some birds nest in them and native trees offer up the food they need.

Some insects are dependant on certain species. No insects, no birds.

Plant natives in your gardens and landscapes for backyard birding and other wildlife.

Natives of the prairie are drought resistant and more tolerant to the extreme weather changes.

Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are native to the eastern third of the United States and portions of Canada.

This includes the eastern part of the prairie states.

These giants are known for their tulip shaped flowers, but the seed pods are a source of food for wildlife.

Give this specimen plenty of room to grow as the can reach heights of 150 feet.

Large species of the prairie include Cottonwood (Populus freemontii).

Cottonwood trees can grow to 80 feet.

The seeds are cursed by pool owners. Air-conditioning units need to be cleaned regularly when cottonwood seeds are in the air.

The Cottonwood is a valuable source for food and nesting materials for many bird species.

They grow best in moist soil conditions. Often found near lakes and streams.

Yet other species of the Prairie:

Mockernut (Carya tomentosa) and Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis).

Both nut trees can grow to 100 feet and provide nuts food for birds, squirrels, deer and other wildlife.

The thick foliage offers protection and nesting sights.

A Mockernut is pictured to your right.


Medium sized species of the prairie would include Sassafras (Sassafras albidum).

Sassafras are well known for their colorful fall foliage and grow typically to 30 to 40 feet.

They make wonderful groves and thickets in nature, making them perfect spots for game birds to nest.

They produce seeds as another source of food in the wild.

As kids, we would boil the roots and make a tasty sassafras tea (I miss those days).



If at all possible, include at least one conifer or evergreen in your native landscape.

Common juniper (Juniperus communis), the most widespread specimen in the world, covers most of the northern hemisphere.

Common junipers grow to 20 feet. They offer great protection and the bitter berries often are the last to be eaten by birds.

By the time winter really settles in, berry eating birds converge on junipers and strip them of their blue fruits.

I've seen hundreds of cedar waxwings make a meal of juniper berries.

Common junipers tolerate intense cold making them ideal for the harsh winters.

A cousin of the juniper is the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).

Red cedars are the most distributed conifer through central and eastern United States.

Red cedar is tolerant of dry conditions, grows well in mountainous terrain as well as the prairies.

A narrow conical shaped specimen that grows to 100 feet and offers blue berries as a source of food.

They also make a wonderful windbreak and protection for birds and other wildlife.

You may look for cultivars that may not grow as tall.

There are some spruce of the prairie as well.

Mostly in the northern regions

Black spruce (Picea mariana) and White spruce (Picea glauca) are the most common spruces.

Stretching from South Dakota, throughout most of Canada and the New England states.

Both species of spruce are rugged and a must in your gardens and landscapes.

Narrow conical shaped, both grow to 70 feet and have pine cones about 2 inches long.

Pine nuts are a staple for birds and small mammals in the winter months.

Often when The large forests of spruce and pine will have a bad year producing cones.

These are the winters we often see irruptions of Common red polls and Pine siskins.

Some smaller choices for the prairie are Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

Dogwoods are well known for the flowers in spring, but are a valuable food for bluebirds and other fruit eaters late in the year.

Eastern redbud (Cercus canadensis) is another small planting of the prairie and most

of the eastern half of the United States.

Redbuds are filled with small pinkish colored flowers in early spring that attract hummingbirds to your yard.

You will notice seed pods later on.

This species is a member of the Legume or bean family. A fast grower, it can be pruned to fit your needs in the garden.

Both dogwood and redbud are great understory specimens in your wildlife habitats (you will see this in nature).

There isn't a thing unique about trees of the prairie.

Well, maybe that they are low maintenance, hardy and rugged, much like the people and wildlife that call it home.

Be sure to look other regions as many species to cross barriers.

And always go native.

Turn Your Yard into a Wildlife Habitat

Emerald Ash Borers (EAB) They Are Coming Your Way.

Your Trees need Shrubs of the Prairies and Great Plains

Native Grasses of the Prairies

Native Flowers of the Prairie and Plains

Hummingbird Gardens

Feeding Hummingbirds, Plus Tips and Pests

Offer Fresh Water

A Butterfly Friendly Yard

Choosing the Right Bird Feeders

Share Your Passion with "Site Build It"


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