Home Info Native Trees of the Southeast
Southeast trees

Many trees of the southeast are the same as those that grow in the Northeast and Midwest. Certain oaks, hackberry, cedar, maple and others grow naturally throughout the eastern and middle portions of America.

While others specialize in certain regions or mini climates in the South. (The giant live oak is one of many specialized trees.) Even if your yard has but one native plant, nothing beats a natural or native habitat. Wildlife prefers native foods and some species will seek out a particular source for protection or nesting as well.

Fraser’s fir (Abies fraseri)

One of the specialized trees of the southeast. Fraser’s fir grow naturally in Virginia, North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It grows best at altitudes of 4,000 to 6,500 feet. It is a common tree of the Great Smoky Mountains.

  • True firs have a flat needle and look for a thin white stripe on the underside of the needle or leaf. 
  • A unique characteristic of true firs is the upright growing cone. Yes, fir cones grow pointing towards the sky, not hanging like a pine or spruce tree. You can always tell a true fir tree by the upright cones.
  • Fraser’s fir is a narrow conical shaped tree that can grow to heights of 65 feet.
  • Fraser’s fir make the best Christmas tree and for this reason are raised and farmed in other regions.
  • They make a wonderful landscape tree. Some pine trees of the southeast.

Slash pine (Pinus elliottii)

Slash pine

Also called a swamp pine or lemon pine, slash pines inhabit from the coast of South Carolina through Florida and along the Gulf coast to Louisiana and can grow to 100 feet in height.

  • They thrive in low-lying coastal and swampy regions and when the needles are crushed, they emit a lemon scent. So the name swamp and lemon pine.
  • Like all pine trees, the branches naturally die off as the tree grows showing a long tapered trunk. Needles are usually in clusters of three and can be 12 inches long.
  • Trees of the southeast also include cypress, trees like the swamp cypress and a few others.

Henry’s cypress (Chamaecyparis henryae)

A native that is localized in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

  • It is a medium sized tree that can grow to 70 feet. Narrow in shape it makes a good landscape tree.
  • These thick evergreens offer protection and nesting sight for several birds and the little irregular shaped one half inch cones offer food during the winter and early spring.
  • When foliage is crushed it gives off a fruity, citrus aroma.

Magnolia (Magnolia species)


Magnolias have found their way into many yards as a landscape specimen. Though some species are non native, Magnolia trees of the southeast rule.

Bullbay magnolia is native to the coastal regions of North Carolina through Florida and west along the Gulf coast to Texas.

  • Often grown as a shrub, this evergreen will reach heights of 80 feet if given the opportunity to grow.
  • When us folks up North think about trees of the southeast, we often conjure up pictures in our minds.
  • Spring in the South and Magnolia blossoms everywhere you look.
  • Best grown in elevations below 500 feet above sea level.
  • Red seedpods first appear in mid summer.
  • Several fruit eating birds depend on magnolias.
  • Magnolia trees of the southeast also include Sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), Umbrella (Magnolia tripetala), Large-leaved (Magnolia macrophylla) and (Magnolia ashei).
  • Ashe’s magnolia is a real specialist. Found only in certain parts of Florida. This small tree grows to about 35 feet tall. Often considered a large woodland shrub. It requires dappled shade and seems to prefer moist soils near streams.

Allegheny chinkapin (Castanea pumila)

Allegheny chinkapin

A nut tree that truly specializes in the southeast United States.

  • A small to medium size tree is distributed from New Jersey to Florida along the Atlantic coast and from Florida to Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
  • This hardy tree will through out sucker plants from the roots often resulting in a thicket (great for naturalizing)
  • The sweet nuts are craved by humans, critters and birds. Nuts are often harvested and sold at market.

American holly (Ilex opaca)

American holly

A true native American holly found in most of eastern North America.

  • Left alone, American holly will grow more than 60 feet tall and have a natural conical shape.
  • Like all hollies require both a male and female for the red berries. One male will pollinate from three to five females. Be sure to plant them close enough for the bees to do their job.
  • The thick prickly foliage offers protection for birds and the red berries provide winter food when little else may be available.

Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)

Yaupon holly

A small tree or large shrub holly that grows strictly in the southeastern United States. This holly truly fits the category “Trees of the Southeast”.

  • Hollies need a mate to produce the red berries. Be sure to buy one male for every three to five females.
  • Hollies offer protection from the weather and predation. The red berries feed several species of birds.

Some trees of the southeast truly are specialists and need certain climates to survive and thrive.

Basswood, Witch hazel, Black cherry, Pin cherry, Crab apple and Hawthorns though more widely spread all offer fruits and seeds for wildlife and of course, they offer up protection.

The woodland setting makes it ideal for wildlife. Nut trees of the southeast include American chestnuts, Red chestnuts, Ohio chestnuts, pecans, and several variety and oaks trees..

Protecting vital habitats is paramount to insure the continued survival of both plant and animal. Whether you live in the city, suburbs, a lavish estate or the country.

Your gardens can insure the survival and enjoyment for the next generation.

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