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Other Common Trees in Georgia

Narrow-Leaf Crabapple / Malus angustifolia

Narrow Leaf Crabapple TreeFamily: Rose/Rosaceae

Characteristics: Narrow-Leaf Crabapple is a deciduous, flowering tree featuring medium texture as well as a medium growth rate. The crown is broad at the top, rounded and also spreading. While not as showy as named cultivars, it is an appealing flowering tree when in bloom. Its flowers are pink, 1½ inches across, and borne in clusters. Flowering time ranges from late February in south Georgia to mid April in north Georgia. Fruits are yellow-green, approximately 1½ inches in diameter, can be consumed, and are very tart in taste.

Landscape Uses: Use Narrow-Leaf Crabapple as a specimen flowering tree in full sunlight. It enjoys moist soils but has moderate drought tolerance. This tree hasn't really been utilized in landscapes, so its full site tolerance is unknown. Avoid wet locations. It shows better disease tolerance than most cultivated varieties in Georgia climate and soil conditions.

Size: 25 to 30 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide

Zones: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Moist soils of valleys and lower slopes; also discovered in fence rows and old fields.

Native To: Maryland to West Virginia, south to Florida and west to Missouri.

Comments: Superb wildlife food.

Ogeechee Lime, Ogeechee Tupelo / Nyssa Ogeche

Ogeechee Lime TreeFamily: Nyssa/Nyssaceae

Characteristics: Ogeechee Lime is a deciduous tree featuring medium texture and a medium growth rate. Oval, red fruit mature in autumn. They are very tart and have been used as an alternative to limes or in making tart preserves and jellies. Its shape is variable. Autumn color also differs, ranging from yellow to red. This plant is named for the Ogeechee River, where it is typically found.

Landscape Uses: Use Ogeechee Lime as a specimen or small-scale street tree. It develops naturally in moist areas but shows good drought tolerance. It enjoys acid soils and full sunlight to partial shade. Provide irrigation in sunny locations.

Size: 20 to 30 feet tall by 15 to 25 feet wide

Zones: 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Wet, swampy areas and alongside small black-water drainage areas of the Coastal Plain.

Native To: Southeastern South Carolina to Georgia and Florida.

Comments: Fruit can be consumed by both humans and wildlife. The tree is a honey resource for bees. Reported to be rare, but it is fairly typical in south central Georgia.

Wild Olive or Devilwood /Osmanthus americanus

Wild Olive - Devilwood TreeFamily: Olive/Oleaceae

Characteristics: Wild Olive is a rather tiny evergreen tree featuring medium texture and a medium to slow rate of development. Its shape is oval to round. White flowers, borne in spring, are small, fragrant and bell-shaped. The fruits are purple and olive-like.

Landscape Uses: Wild Olive can be utilized in a naturalized landscape or as a foundation specimen. It shows good drought tolerance if planted in wet, well-drained soils. It establishes moderately well after being planted.

Size: 20 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide

Zones: 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Moist soils of river valleys to shady uplands and dunes in the understory of Coastal Plain forests.

Native To: North Carolina to Florida, and west to Mississippi

Comments: A great wildlife plant.

Eastern Hophornbeam / Ostrya virginiana

Eastern Hophornbeam TreeFamily: Birch/Betulaceae

Characteristics: Eastern Hophornbeam is a deciduous tree with medium texture and a slow rate of development. It is rounded in outline with horizontal or sagging branches. It develops as an understory tree on uphill areas having wet, well-drained, acidic soils. Autumn leaf color is yellow. Leaves stay on the tree throughout the winter months. This is an appealing tree with few bug problems. The fruit are reminiscent of hops, hence the common name. The trunk features gray-brown bark which is a little shaggy, looking like a cat scratching post.

Eastern Hophornbeam LeafLandscape Uses: Eastern Hophornbeam is best used as an understory tree in partial to full shade and moist soils. It has moderate drought tolerance but is sluggish to establish on dry sites. It is not tolerant of wet areas.

Size: 25 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide

Zones: 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: An understory tree found on dry slopes in upland hardwood forests.

Native To: Ontario to Minnesota, south to Florida and west to Texas.

Comments: The “hops,” or inflated bracts which enclose the seed, are irritating to skin if handled without care. It is a useful wildlife tree. It is sometimes infected by a fungus which causes “witches broom.”

Sourwood / Oxydendrum arboreum

Sourwood TreeFamily: Heath/Ericaceae

Characteristics: Sourwood is a deciduous, flowering tree featuring an oval form, medium texture and a medium to slow rate of development. Its flowers are white, urn-shaped, ¼ inch long and borne on four- to 10-inch drooping spikes in early to mid summer. The flowers make an attractive display when nothing else is blooming. Autumn color is pink to red or red-purple. Its trunk features bark which is grayish-brown-black, blocky and attractive as the tree grows older.

Sourwood LeafLandscape Uses: Sourwood is an all-season ornamental which grows more appealing with age. It is best planted as a young tree or from a container plant since it is difficult to transplant when it becomes larger. Sourwood requires moist soils with good drainage and sunlight to partial shade. It has moderate drought tolerance. As Sourwood ages in the understory, it can produce picturesque shapes in its quest for sunlight.

Size: 25 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide

Zones: 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b (8b with good culture)

Habitat: Well-drained, gravelly soils on ridges and on upland slopes. It is found most often in the mountains and Piedmont and occasionally in the Coastal Plain of the Southeast.

Native To: New York to Florida, west to Louisiana, Arkansas and Illinois.

Comments: The flowers are the source of sourwood honey.

Red Bay / Persea borbonia

Red Bay BranchFamily: Laurel/Lauraceae

Characteristics: Red Bay is a rather small evergreen tree with medium-coarse texture, medium growth rate and an upright-oval shape. The leaves are aromatic when crushed and can be used as a substitute for bay leaves when cooking. Flowers are about ¼ inch in size, yellow and not showy, but the dark blue fruit are moderately showy in the autumn months.

Landscape Uses: Use Red Bay as a specimen tree or potentially for screening. It enjoys moist, acid, well-drained soils and full sunlight. It will tolerate wet soils and is salt tolerant.

Size: 20 to 40 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide

Zones: 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Moist, acid, wet, sandy soils.

Native To: Delaware to Florida and west to Texas.

Comments: In shaded locations in its natural habitat, the foliage tends to be infected with a gall, which makes them look swollen and watery. Plants not growing in a swamp do not endure this issue. An attractive specimen can be seen next to the famous arch on the University of Georgia’s Athens campus. Ambrosia beetle and an associated fungus are killing native populations in coastal Georgia.

Cherry Laurel / Prunus caroliniana

Cherry Laurel TreeFamily: Rose/Rosaceae

Characteristics: Cherry Laurel is an evergreen tree featuring medium texture and a medium to fast rate of development. Its shape is oval to round. Fruits are berry-like, borne in clusters, green when young and turning black in autumn. Leaves have a cherry-like odor when crushed.

Landscape Uses: Cherry Laurel can be utilized as a specimen tree or screen plant. It enjoys moist, well-drained soils and full sunlight to partial shade. However, it adapts to a wide array of landscape sites.

Size: 15 to 30 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide

Zones: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Moist, sandy stream banks.

Native To: Coastal Virginia to northern Florida, and west to Louisiana.

Comments: Re-seeding can be an issue in flower beds. The species is not landscape quality, but there are a number of improved cultivars which are landscape quality available.


Georgia Oak / Quercus georgiana
Red Oak Sub Genus: Erythrobalanus

Georgia Oak TreeFamily: Beech/Fagaceae

Characteristics: A small, deciduous oak connected with rocky soil, granite outcrops and dry slopes in the Piedmont. It has a rather compact crown and a slow rate of development. Some trees have a single trunk while others have multiple trunks. Foliage has three to six lobes and are shiny on the upper surface, pale on the lower surface and look like miniature Red Oak leaves. Leaf size is smaller than the large oaks, befitting its small tree status. Leaves turn bright red in autumn.

Landscape Uses: Georgia Oak is currently being used as a street tree or specimen tree and under power lines in the Georgia Piedmont.

Size: 20 to 40 feet tall and 15 feet wide

Zones: 7a, 7b, 8a

Habitat: Rocky, dry areas with Chestnut Oak, Blackjack Oak and Post Oak in oak-pine forests. Discovered on granite outcrops.

Native To: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama.

Comments: Acorns are an essential food for wildlife.

Turkey Oak / Quercus laevis
Red Oak Sub Genus: Erythrobalanus

Turkey Oak LeafFamily: Beech/Fagaceae

Characteristics: Turkey Oak is a distinctive, rather small, deciduous tree featuring crooked branches. Some trees grow as multi-stemmed (multiple trunks) shrubs. Its three-lobed leaves are thought to look like a turkey foot, hence the common name. Turkey Oak’s red autumn color brightens the landscape of the sandhills.

Turkey Oak TrunkLandscape Uses: Use Turkey Oak as a specimen understory tree. Its attractive branching, glossy leaves, attractive fall color and dark, blocky-patterned bark add a beautiful element to landscapes.

Size: 30 to 40 feet tall and variable width

Zones: 8a, 8b

Habitat: Sandhills of the upper Coastal Plain, associated with Longleaf Pine, Bluejack Oak and Sand Post Oak. These species are well adapted to drought stress and also fire.

Native To: South Carolina to Florida, and west to eastern Mississippi.

Comments: The acorns are an essential food source for turkey, deer and little rodents.

Sassafras / Sassafras albidum

Sassafras TreeFamily: Laurel/Lauraceae

Characteristics: Sassafras is a deciduous tree featuring medium texture and a medium rate of development. Foliage is three to seven inches long and two to four inches wide. Leaves vary in design from unlobed (oval) to two-lobed (mittenshaped) or three-lobed. Autumn color ranges from bright yellow to fiery orange or vibrant red. Its ridged, reddishbrown bark and attractive branching make an interesting winter time silhouette. Yellow flowers develop in terminal racemes in late March, before the leaves emerge. It commonly occurs along fencerows in poor, dry soils.

Sassafras LeavesLandscape Uses: Use Sassafras as a specimen tree. Older trees are tough to transplant since they have a tap root and sparse lateral roots. It is a durable plant, preferring moist, acidic soils and full sunlight to partial shade.

Size: 25 to 30 feet tall with a spread of 15 to 20 feet

Zones: 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Disturbed sites, particularly acidic, rocky soils of uplands. It is commonly discovered in old fields where it is a pioneer species throughout the South. Occurs in forest openings and along fencerows.

Native To: Maine to Ontario and Michigan, south to Florida and west to Texas.

Comments: Plants tend to spread from suckers. During autumn migration, birds eat the seeds rather quickly. Crushed dry foliage is used for flavoring gumbos. It is prone to dieback in south Georgia.

Buckthorn Bully / Sideroxylon lycioides
(Syn. Bumelia lycioides)

Buckthorn Bully TreeFamily: Sapodilla/Sapotaceae

Characteristics: This tiny deciduous tree or shrub hardly ever grows over 20 feet tall and typically has short, twisted stems. Leaves are alternate, elliptical to lance-shaped, with an acute tip. They are conspicuously veined on the top and bottom surfaces. When bruised, the leaves emit a foul odor. Twigs are reddish-brown to gray in appearance, with ¾-inch-long thorns. The twigs are pubescent in youth and become smooth as the tree ages. Sap is milky. Clusters of white flowers develop from the leaf axils in early summer months. The drupe-like berry is purple-black, appearing in autumn.

Landscape Uses: Buckthorn Bully is an appealing small tree that could be used for naturalizing in wildlife habitats. It is especially beautiful when flowers are present.

Size: Up to 20 feet tall and wide

Zones: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: A variety of locations along the borders of streams and sandy soils of the Coastal Plain. It is also a hardwood understory tree on slopes and upland sites in the Piedmont.

Native To: Virginia and Kentucky, south to northern Florida, west to Mississippi.

Comments: The fruit are eaten by many types of birds. This plant is endangered in Florida.

Bigleaf Snowbell / Styrax grandifolius

Big-Leaf Snowbell TreeFamily: Storax/Styracaceae

Characteristics: Bigleaf Snowbell is a small deciduous tree, generally single-stemmed, with fragrant, white flowers, ¾ to one inch in size. The flowers develop in racemes, four to eight inches long, in May and June. The foliage is dark green above with pubescence underneath and have no noticeable color change in the autumn months. Bigleaf Snowbell is not used very much since it is rare in the nursery market.

Big-Leaf Snowbell LimbLandscape Uses: Bigleaf Snowbell is a fine, fragrant understory tree for moist woodlands.

Size: Up to 20 feet tall by 10 feet wide

Zones: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b

Habitat: Deciduous mixed woods, usually in well-drained areas.

Native To: Virginia to Florida, west to Louisiana, Arkansas and eastern Texas.

Comments: It can be mixed up with with American Snowbell (Styrax americanus), a multi-stemmed and tinier shrub which bears flowers from leaf axils, not in racemes, and develops commonly along sandy stream banks in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont areas.

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