Charles Darwin’s theory that “only the fittest survive” is a strong foundation for tree recommendations in St. Louis. Native trees have been through the ultimate test of time and should be given strong consideration when selecting the best tree for the right place. When you plant a native species, evolutionary history is your stamp of approval.


Before the sale of trees and shrubs became big business, few exotics (or non-natives) were used in common landscapes. World travelers had the privilege of collections, but most homes relied on the use of natives or near natives.

Unfortanately, it is now sometimes difficult to find a good selections of natives at garden centers and nurseries. Often, it is a combination of factors which make it difficult for nurseries to carry native plants.

Fortunately, most nurseries are taking an active role in education. Species selection and recommendations are taking on a more native tone. Greenscape Gardens carries a larger selection of natives now than 10 years ago.

One reason for the reluctance to carry native trees is their difficulties in transplanting. Many of the natives have a terrible track record in surviving the move from grower, to garden center, to your landscape. During the transplanting process, up to 90% of a tree’s root system may be disturbed or lost.


DOWNY SERVICEBERRY (Amelanchier arborea) A small tree with elegant drooping clusters of white flowers in early spring. Typically flowers two weeks before the dogwood. A reddish-purple berry ripens in June and is a preferred food of many wildlife species. Full shade or partial sun. Good border plant. A great choice for early spring flowers.

HAZEL ALDER (alnus serrulata) A small tree that can gro3w by suckers and colonize an area. Excellent for difficult to plant areas that are wet and boggy. Nice show of yellowish catkins in early spring. The fruit is a very interesting, small wood cone like structure.

BLACKGUM (nyssa sylvatica) A medium to large tree (35-60 feet) with excellent red fall color. When low branches are pruned, the tree is excelent for strees and yards as a shade tree. If the low branches are left intact, the tree becomes a wide spreading specimen that literally glows red in the fall. Found on wet sites and dry rocky hillsides. Free of serious pests.

YELLOWWOOD (Cladrastis lutea) A 30-50 foot tall tree with a rounded outline. White clusters of fragrant flowers bloom in May. The bark is smooth and grayish in color. Nice ornament for medium sized planting space.

RIVER BIRCH (Betula nigra) Found along streams, this tree also does well in urban soils. An excellent alternative to white birches because it is resistant to the bronze birch borer. For those who prefer the whitish bark of the white birches a variety of river birch known as “Heritage” is widely available. It has a very white bark instead of the brownish tinge found in common river birches. The “Heritage” variety is also native to the St. Louis area. Another variety that does well in the St. Louis area is “Duraheat”. River Birch is grown as a single trunk tree or as a multi-stemmed clump.

SWAMP OAK (Quercus bicolor) A large growing shade tree that is easier to transplant than the white oak. It requires acid soil. Grows more rapidly than white oak.

These represent a just a very small sampling of native trees that can be employed in the landscape. Just remember these points: First, natives are a good alternative to what has become the normal choice for most homeowners. Consider using the river birch instead of the European white birch. The serviceberry is a wise decision over the common Bradford Pear, and the list goes on.

Greenscape Gardens carries many Missouri native trees and will continue to stock natives whenever available from the growers.

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