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Exploring Ash Tree Alternatives- Littl’a This Littl’a That

Row of Princeton American Elm

In the third installment in our ash tree replacement series, it’s time to zoom out and look at multiple genera that would make great additions to your landscape. Afterall, we’ve been reminding you to plant a diversity of trees, so here’s a post that celebrates just that!

Elm (Ulmus sp.)

The elms are back in town! Thanks to careful selection, there are several Dutch elm disease resistant varieties to choose from. These fast-growing, formidable shade trees create incredible coverage with their beautiful broad shape. With their quick growth rate, elms are a perfect choice where you would like to get your shade back in a hurry. Due to their toughness and adaptability, elms are also a good choice for narrow boulevard plantings with less root space and other less than ideal sites.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

This tough as nails MN native is a great choice where you have space for a large tree. They’re especially useful in tough sites, but just as at home in average yards. Hackberries are known to withstand almost any stressor thrown their way. Drought, flooding, clay soil, road salt, cold; they’re sturdy enough to rise to the challenge. They’re great wildlife trees too since they produce berries that attract birds and provide excellent nesting sites as well. The deeply ridged, corky bark is something to behold.

Beautiful hackberry photo courtesy of Garden Bite with Teri Knight

Blue Beech  (Carpinus caroliniana)

These trees are also commonly called Musclewood; a name derived from  the sinewy appearance of the bark. They rarely suffer disease or insect problems and are particularly resilient. They make fantastic trees where pollution is a concern and they also tolerate a bit of shade. Moderately sized, they would be the perfect choice for a site where something as big as an ash might not be needed but some shade and structure would be appreciated. This is a tree for those who appreciate interesting undulating structure, unique bark, and vibrant fall color.

Blue beech in fall
Blue beech has marvelous fall foliage

Ironwood/American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)

If you need to replace a tree in an area where there is still some canopy present, an ironwood is a good choice. Named for their incredibly strong wood, these are native understory trees and they’ll perform beautifully planted in a bit of shade. Their unique, hop-like fruit is incredibly charming, and explains another one of their common names: hop hornbeam. Ironwoods work well in native landscapes and gardens with a natural feel. As they mature, they develop exfoliating bark that adds winter interest. They’re not usually bothered by pests or diseases, making them a particularly attractive choice.

Aspen (Populus sp.)

Looking for a completely different flavor and need it quick? Try an aspen. Aspens grow at lightning speed, and would make a good choice for immediate coverage in areas left bare. Known for their handsome silvery grey bark and rustling, shimmering leaves, aspens offer delights for several senses. These trees tolerate a host of sites including dry, clay, and alkaline soils, but grow best in moist, rich soil. Newer varieties have been developed to minimize suckering if space is a concern.   

We’re here to help!

Replacing ash trees might be a bittersweet experience, but there are many excellent options when you’re ready to plant. By focusing on a diverse canopy, available space, and the soil preferences of your new tree, you’ll be set up for years of success. We’re always here to help you pick the best trees for your landscape, so come on down!