Trees for Ellis County

The following is a partial list of native or adapted trees that will grow in Ellis County.  Keep in mind that the information here is provided to point you in the right direction, and that you should seek complete descriptions of the trees you want to plant.  A local landscaper or nursery is a good source of information and can advise you about any potential problems.

Not all of these trees are recommended for planting near foundations, and some may be too large or even too messy for the average neighborhood yard.  Be sure that the trees you buy are labeled with the name, size at maturity, and water and fertilization requirements.  The cute little tree in the one gallon container may one day be 50′ tall and wide, and at that point it would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive to remove.

SMALL TREES (up to 20′ in height)

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Tree Size:            Miniature 3′ – 4′ High X 3′ – 4′ Wide

Semi-Dwarf 4′-5′ High X 4′ – 5′ Wide

Dwarf 5′ – 8′ High X 6′ – 8′ Wide

Tree 20′ High X 15′ Wide

Crape Myrtle is a deciduous tree with profuse spikes of flowers in shades of white, pink, red or purple through summer, and with reliable fall color.  It is a moderate grower with low water requirements and high heat tolerance.  Many sizes and shapes are available.  Although it is not a Texas Native, it has adapted well.

Problems:              Aphids and powdery mildew affect many cultivars.

Crabapple (Mallus sp) (Texas Native)

Tree size:              20′ – 35′ tall

Spring flowering deciduous tree with a slow growth rate.  Moderate water user, tolerant to  alkaline soils (pH >7.5).   Reliable fall color, showy or fragrant flowers, attractive seeds or fruit (seeds or fruit eaten by wildlife).  Many cultivars are available – be sure to choose one recommended for your area.

Problems:              Aphids, fall webworm, borers; scab, fireblight, and canker diseases.  The fruit can be messy.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) (Texas Native)

Desert Willow, Flowering Willow, Willowleaf Catalpa, Desert Catalpa, Flor de Mimbre, Mimbre, Bow Willow

Tree size:              15′ to 30′ tall

Desert willow is a delicate, small, deciduous tree native to west Texas and the Edwards Plateau. Its long narrow leaves resemble those of willows, although they are not related. Its snapdragon-like flowers occur in showy clusters at the tips of the branches and on new wood, occurring from late spring to fall, depending on the rainfall. They are trumpet-shaped, sweetly fragrant, and range from light pink to light violet, rarely white or red. Its ability to withstand arid conditions, beautiful flowers and long flowering period make it one of Texas’s best small native trees.

It is easily cultivated, requires full sun, a well-drained site and must not be over watered; in areas with more than 30 inches of annual rainfall, it must be planted in raised beds and watered carefully, especially in winter. Growth is irregular and requires attention to early trunk development. It can be pruned to a tree or shrub; since it blooms on new wood, the more it is pruned, the more it flowers.  Very tolerant to heat and drought, and is adaptable to many soils.

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

A small deciduous slow grower, the Japanese Maple tolerates partial to heavy shade and has moderate water requirements.  Fall color is brilliant copper, yellow, orange or red, followed by attractive seeds or fruit.  Protect from afternoon sun.

Comments:            Requires good soil drainage and pruning to develop form.

Problems:              Thin bark is damaged easily.  Salt-sensitive.

 Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana) (Texas Native)

Mexican Plum, Big Tree Plum, Inch Plum
Tree Size:              25′ High X 25′ Wide

Mexican plum is a beautiful, spring-flowering small tree with bark that eventually gets dark and striated, peeling off in patches. It grows in full sun or as an understory tree in the eastern half of the state, usually in deep rich soils of river bottoms, open woods, fencerows and well-drained prairies. Early in the spring it is covered with clouds of white fragrant flowers that are up to an inch wide. The dark red or purple fruit ripens late in the fall. Because it does not sucker from the base and is relatively drought tolerant, its rootstock is widely used for grafting. It grows singly and does not form thickets as many of our other native plums do.  It is somewhat heat tolerant, and has medium to low water requirements.

Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) (Texas Native) (Texas SuperStar®)

Possumhaw, Bearberry, Deciduous Holly, Meadow Holly, Prairie Holly, Swamp Holly, Welk Holly, Winterberry
Tree Size:              8′ – 12′ High (can occasionally reach 20′) X 6′ – 10′ Wide

Possumhaw is a truly outstanding, very low maintenance, small deciduous native tree, which drops its leaves in fall to reveal showy red or orange berries (on female plants) that remain throughout the winter. Attracts songbirds. Heat and drought tolerant.

Comments:            Not adapted to far west Texas. Wrap trunk first three years to prevent sunscald.

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) (Texas Native)

Prairie Sumac, Texas Sumac, Lance-Leaved Sumac, Tree Sumac, Limestone Sumac, Prairie Shining Sumac
Tree Size:              30′ High X 20′ Wide

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is a large shrub or small tree that grows to around 30 feet high, either as a single-trunked tree or suckering to form colonies.  It is extremely heat and drought tolerant, and its leaves are vivid red in the fall.  It is deciduous, heat tolerant, and has no special water requirements.

Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) (Texas Native)

Rusty Blackhaw, Southern Blackhaw, Blackhaw, Bluehaw, Nannyberry, Southern Nannyberry, Rusty Nannyberry

Tree Size:              30′ High X 35′ Wide

Rusty Blackhaw can be a small 30 foot tree or a 10 foot shrub, depending on its environment. Although it is generally an understory tree, it is most attractive in the open in full sun.  A deciduous tree, it has lustrous bright green glossy leaves, beautiful clusters of white flowers in spring, and attractive blue fruit in fall. The leaves turn pink to mauve to dark purple in autumn. Rusty Blackhaw can grow on almost any soil as long as it is fairly well drained. In shaded, moist areas, it usually occurs as a single tree, although there may be two or three in an area. In areas with less rainfall, however, it occurs on exposed calcareous hillsides in drifts and groves of sometimes up to 100 plants.  This is a very adaptable tree, with high heat tolerance and low water requirements.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana)

Tree Size:              20′ High

This small tree will be the first to bloom in the spring.  The deep pink tulip-shaped blossoms appear on the bare branches before the leaves return.  It can be grown in full sun or partial shade, in well draining soil.  Saucer Magnolia requires regular watering.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) (Texas Native)

Scarlet Sumac, Red Sumac, White Sumac, Shoe-make, Vinegar-tree, Senhalanac, Pennsylvania Sumac, Upland Sumac, Sleek Sumac
Tree Size:              20′ High X 10′ – 30′ Wide

Smooth sumac is a fast growing, strongly thicket-forming deciduous shrub or small tree, and has the most ornamental leaves of the sumacs. The leaves are dark green above and may be white beneath, changing to brilliant hues of orange to red in the fall. Red velvety hairs cover the clusters of somewhat spherical, grape-like fruit, which are enjoyed by wildlife.  It is heat tolerant without special water requirements.

Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana) (Texas Native)

Tree Size:              20′ High X 12′ Wide

Upright ornamental slow-growing tree for full sun.  Tolerates drought.  Fragrant tiny white flowers April – May.  Smooth gray bark will peel.  Small black fruits are eaten by birds and deer in summer.

Problems:              Bark is easily damaged.

Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) (Texas Native)

Tree Size:              15′ – 20′ High X 15′ – 20′ Wide

Texas redbud is a deciduous tree that grows on thin, calcareous well-drained soils west of eastern redbud’s native habitat. It is smaller and more drought tolerant than its eastern relative, with thick, leathery, much smaller leaves that have wavy margins, and pink to magenta flowers in the spring, followed by small pods and seeds. The waxy upper surface of the leaves helps retard transpiration. It is most commonly multi-trunked.  Plant in sun or partial sun, and protect from afternoon sun.

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus)

Vitex, Chaste Tree, Hemp Tree, Sage Tree, Indian Spice

Tree Size:              6′ – 25′ High X 10′ – 20′ Wide

The Vitex is a deciduous shrub or small tree that is widely adapted to Texas.  A showy summertime floral display blooms sporadically until early fall.  Grows best in full sun and in well-drained soils.  It will tolerate drought and less optimum soils, but growth and flowering will be limited. In moist soils, growth can be rapid, but blooms will not be as vibrant in color.  Vitex requires heat for best flowering and is a good candidate for planting in a xeric garden or large container.  The bark is smooth, brown, with multi-trunks.

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) (Texas Native)

Cassine, Evergreen Cassena, Emetic Holly, Evergreen Holly, Indian Blackdrink, Cassio Berry Bush Tea
Tree Size:              10′ – 20′ High X 8′ – 12′ Wide

Yaupon is probably the most versatile evergreen holly for general use in Texas. It grows in almost any soil type and in sun or shade, although it is found naturally in low, moist, acid woods. It is drought tolerant but can also survive temporary poor drainage. In the wild it is a thicket-forming large shrub or small tree. In landscapes it can have single- or multi-trunks; it has attractive pale white to gray bark. The fruits that appear in late summer and fall are very ornamental, generally red but sometimes yellow to orange, and are eaten by many birds, especially after freeze-thaw cycles.

Comment:             Some individual can range from 4′ to 30′ in height.


MEDIUM TREES (20′ to 50′ in height)

Aristocrat pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’) spring flowers, fall color

Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’) spring flowers, fall color

Tree Size:              20′ to 35′ tall

Deciduous tree with moderate growth and moderate water needs.  Tolerates drought and alkaline soils (pH>7.5).  Reliable fall color with showy or fragrant flower, seeds or fruit eaten by wildlife.  Excellent fall color: red, orange, and purple.  Relatively pest-free.

Problems:             This is a short-lived tree; susceptible to ice and wind damage.

Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) (Texas Native)

Sabinal Maple, Western Sugar Maple, Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, Canyon Maple, Southwestern Bigtooth Maple
Tree Size:              50′ High  X 40′ Wide

Bigtooth maple is one of the most attractive and interesting Texas trees. Native to the sheltered canyons of the Edwards Plateau (these are the maples of Lost Maples State Park), the Lampasas Cut Plains and the high country of the Trans-Pecos, it is a small tree up to 50 feet tall. It grows in limestone and igneous soils in sun or partial sun, and is relatively drought tolerant. Mature trees have beautiful red and yellow fall color.

Canaert Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) (Texas Native)

Eastern Red Cedar, Pencil Cedar, Virginia Juniper, Red Juniper, Carolina Cedar, Baton Rouge, Red Savin
Tree Size:              Usually 20′ – 35′ tall, but it is possible for it to reach 70′ high X 45′ wide

Eastern red cedar is an evergreen with a high tolerance to heat and cold, and somewhat tolerant to drought.  It grows in almost any soil type, but thrives in ones that are deep, moist and well drained.  An upright conifer, it can tolerate shade only when very young, otherwise it should not be planted on shady sites.  It is a good choice for screening. Trees are either male or female: the male produces the yellow pollen that can be a major contributor to allergies in some people; the female produces dark blue fruit from late fall to early winter.  Birds and mammals are attracted to it.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) (Texas SuperStar®)

Tree Size:              40′ high X 30′ wide.

Winter hardy to central Kansas, the pistache forms a spreading, umbrella-like canopy, which at maturity is 40-50 feet high with a width of 30 feet. This is an ideal size to provide shade and background for single-story homes.  The fine textured foliage creates a light-textured shade pattern and remains an attractive, deep green color during the growing season, even in the rocky, highly alkaline, horribly abused soils common to many new home sites across Texas.

Spectacular fall color in shades of orange, red-orange and even crimson, this tree is one of the most dependable sources of fall color in the lower South.

Chinese Pistache is the first shade tree to receive the coveted “Earth-Kind® ” designation from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service for its high levels of genetic resistance to insect and disease problems.   It has superior drought, heat, and wind tolerance after 2 or 3 growing seasons.

Fruit, only on female trees, consists of clusters of small, round green berries which turn red to reddish-purple in the fall.  The fruit is inedible for humans, but relished by birds.

Fan d’Arc Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera “fan d’ arc”) (Texas Native)

Osage Orange, Bodark, Bow Wood, Hedge Apple, Horse Apple, Naranjo Chino, Yellow Wood
Tree size:              To 40′ high X 20′ – 40′ wide

The bois d’arc is native to the rich limestone clay soils of the Great Blackland Prairies, where annual rainfall averages 32-35 inches. However, it is very adaptable to poorer soils and lower moisture levels. It blooms in spring, and its fruit is a large, green ball 4 to 6 inches in diameter with a rough outer surface and a very milky inside. The tree is deciduous, has a low water requirement and very high heat tolerance.  The wood is a characteristic orange, and it is extremely resistant to rot. In French ‘bois d’arc’ means ‘wood of the bow,’ and refers to the Osage Indians’ use of the arched branches for bow wood.  Purchase the fruitless, thornless cultivars only.

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thumbergii)

Tree Size:              20′ High X 15′ Wide

This is an evergreen ornamental conical tree, with moderate water requirements.  Adapted to alkaline or slightly acidic soil.  Plant in full sun.  Responds well to pruning and is often used as a large container tree.

Problems:              Pine tip moth.

Lacey Oak (Quercus glaucoides) (Texas Native, Texas SuperStar®)

Tree Size:              25′ High X 20′ Wide

Beautiful small oak native to Texas Hill Country, best adapted to the western two-thirds of the state.  Spreading canopy with attractive bluish-green foliage.  Highly tolerant to heat, drought, alkaline soil, and pests. Makes a wonderful shade tree for smaller yards.

Shantung Maple (Acer truncatum) (Texas SuperStar®)

Tree Size:              25′ High X 20′ Wide

Reminiscent of Japanese maple but with much greater toughness, this beautiful maple has spreading canopy with attractive foliage that turns spectacular red, red-orange in late fall. Tolerates heat and alkaline soils. Makes wonderful shade tree for smaller yards.

Comment:             Wrap trunk first three years to prevent sunscald.


LARGE TREES (over 50′ in height)

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) (Texas Native)

Bald Cypress, Baldcypress, Cypress, Southern Cypress, Swamp Cypress, Red Cypress, White Cypress, Yellow Cypress, Gulf Cypress, Tidewater Red Cypress

Tree Size:              50′ – 70′ High (can reach 100′ high) X 20′ – 30′ Wide

Bald cypress is a deciduous conifer of ancient origin that is widely planted in Texas as a shade tree. Its layered branches with needle-like leaflets that turn from dark green to bronze or rich pumpkin brown in autumn give it a feathery, fine-textured appearance. Bald cypress is native to swamps and rivers in east and central Texas. It can tolerate standing water or rather dry sites once established, but does best in wetter areas and in acid to neutral soils since it can become chlorotic in high pH soils. The famous “knees” are woody conical growths from the roots that are produced in wet areas or near water features; their exact function is not known. The fluted trunk flares at the base and becomes highly buttressed in old age. Bald cypress is extremely long-lived and its wood is very durable and valuable timber. It is often listed as slow growing, but is actually a rapid grower if fertility is good and water is available.

Bur Oak (white oak group) (Quercus macrocarpa) (Texas Native)

Bur Oak, Mossycup Oak, Mossy Overcup Oak, Prairie Oak
Tree Size:              60′ – 70′ High X 60′ – 70′ Wide

Bur Oak is a majestic deciduous tree of the tall grass prairie that once covered central North America. It grows best in deep limestone soils of riverbanks and valleys but it will adapt to many different environments. It has a long taproot which makes it hard to transplant but also very drought-tolerant.  Its water requirements are medium-low.   It is also fast growing and long-lived. Bur oak is noted for its very large leaves and acorns: the leaves are from one-half to one foot long, and acorns can be as large as 2 inches long and wide, enclosed in a cup with fringe on the edge. It casts deep shade.

Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia) (Texas Native)

Cedar Elm, Basket Elm, Scrub Elm, Lime Elm, Texas Elm, Olmo, Southern Rock Elm
Tree Size:              90′ High X 80′ Wide

Cedar Elm is the most widespread native elm in Texas. It grows in all areas of the eastern half of Texas except the extreme southeastern part. It is a tough, adaptable shade tree with excellent drought tolerance and beautiful golden yellow fall color. Its leaves are small and rough, and glossy green in the spring. Cedar Elm can withstand heavy, poorly drained clay soils and soils that are moderately compacted. It is the only native Texas elm that flowers and sets seed in the fall. Although it is susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease, it appears to be less of a problem with it than it is with American Elm, or Winged Elm.

Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muhlenbergii) (Texas Native)

Tree Size:              50′ – 90′ High X 20′ – 40′ Wide

Chinquapin Oak is an attractive medium to large shade tree suitable for use in much of Texas. Its distinctive saw-tooth leaves, which resemble those of the chinquapin tree found in the eastern U.S., are a rich green, turning yellow to bronze in fall. It grows in the wild on well-drained bottomland soils and limestone hills near water, but it is adaptable to a range of soils and exposures. It is moderate to fast growing and develops an open rounded crown as it ages.  Seldom troubled by disease or pests.

Eldarica Pine (Pinus eldarica)

Afghan Pine

Tree Size:        50′ High X 30′ Wide

This is a rapid growing evergreen pine tree that needs completely dry soil and space to grow.  It tolerates drought, salty soil and alkaline soil (pH > 7.5).  It can be used as a windbreak in the pasture.

This tree will not tolerate wet sites, and pine tip moth can kill new shoots and ruin the shape of the tree.

Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

Tree Size:              60′ High X 40′ Wide

Lace Bark Elm is a fast growing deciduous upright shade tree.  It is not a Texas Native, but is a well adapted outstanding easy to grow tree, good for urban situations.  It is attractive to birds, and has a beautiful cinnamon colored mottled bark.  The fall color varies.

Comments:            Do not confuse with the undesirable Siberian Elm! ‘Drake’ is a good nursery cultivar.

Problems:              Requires pruning to develop strong branch structure.

Live Oak (white oak group) (Quercus virginiana) (Texas Native)

Live Oak, Southern Live Oak , Coast Live Oak, Virginia Live Oak, Encino

Tree Size:              40′ – 50′ High X 80′ – 100′ Wide

Live oak is majestic and long-lived, with a crown that can spread up to twice its height. It is pH adaptable, and tolerant of drought and poor soils, although it does not tolerate poorly drained soils or extremely well-drained deep sand.  It has a high heat tolerance and medium to low water requirements.  Acorns are 1 inch long.  Its small, leathery gray-green leaves are evergreen except when it reaches the northern part of its range (zone 7a), when it becomes semi-evergreen. Its primary liability is its susceptibility to the oak wilt fungus, although it hasn’t hit Q. virginiana as severely as Escarpment Live Oak, Q. fusiformis. It is also somewhat cold sensitive in the northern parts of the state.

Pecan (Carya illinoensis) (Texas Native)

Tree Size:              90′ High X 75′ Wide

Pecans are large deciduous shade trees tolerant of conditions in all of Texas. Supplemental water is needed in the Trans-Pecos area. They are healthiest in rich deep bottomland soils, but will adapt to lesser sites. They are the fastest growing of all the hickories, but like the others of the genus they are difficult to transplant because of their large taproot. While the foliage is fairly fine textured, the tree drops fruit (source of edible pecans), twigs, leaves, and sometimes branches, making it a less than perfect landscape plant. Pecan is the state tree of Texas.

Comments:           Tends to develop iron deficiency on alkaline soils, which can be corrected with applications of chelated iron or foliar sprays; best reserved for use on large sites.

Shumard Oak (black oak group) (Quercus shumardii) (Texas Native)

Shumard Red Oak, Swamp Red Oak, Shumard Oak, Spotted Oak
Tree Size:             120′ High X 50′ – 60′ Wide

Shumard Red Oak is a deciduous upright tree that can attain a height of 120 feet. It is found on rich bottomland soils, moist woods and along streams in the eastern third of Texas. It is fast-growing, with an open canopy and stout spreading branches. Leaves are a rich green that turn scarlet in the fall. It grows the tallest on moist, well-drained soils but is also adapted to drier limestone soils and high pH levels.  It has a high heat tolerance and has medium low water requirements.  Shumard red oaks are never found in large groves but usually occur singly and far apart. Shumard red oak, Texas Red Oak, Q. texana, and Chisos red oak, Q. gravesii, are all closely related but differ in their ranges.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) (Texas Native)

Southern Magnolia, Bull Bay, Big Laurel, Evergreen Magnolia, Loblolly Magnolia, Great Laurel Magnolia
Tree Size:            40′ High X 30′ – 40′ Wide in Central Texas

12′ High (Little Gem)

16′ – 20′ High X 10′ X 12′ Wide (Teddy Bear Magnolia)

Southern magnolia is a regal evergreen tree. It grows in moist but well-drained soils of bottomlands and gentle hills in the southeastern Pineywoods. It is tolerant of heat, but has high water requirements.  The magnificent, fragrant, waxy white flowers are 6 to 12 inches in diameter and contrast with the large, glossy, bright green evergreen leaves. The crown is dense and pyramidal in youth, becoming more rounded with age. Open grown trees will retain old limbs to the ground unless pruned up to a desired height.

As suburban yards and landscapes become smaller, larger sizes of magnolias become difficult to fit into the available space. Smaller cultivars of M. grandiflora can be popular substitutes. ‘Little Gem’ is a particularly good choice for a smaller garden space. In 15 years it may reach 12 feet in height, and has the added bonus of flowering at a much younger age. The underside of the leaves of ‘Little Gem’ are covered with a soft, furry brown growth of hairs called indumentum. Growth is narrow and upright, and its leaves and blooms are correspondingly smaller than the standard varieties.

Problems:              Susceptible to scale and leaf diseases.  Prefers loose, organic, acidic soil.

Texas Red Oak (Quercus texana) (Texas Native)

Texas Red Oak, Spanish Oak, Spotted Oak, Red Oak, Rock Oak
Tree Size:              75′ High X 60′ Wide

Texas Red Oak is a deciduous medium to small tree, rarely growing over 75 feet, but usually 30 to 50 feet, with spreading branches. It is found on alkaline limestone and neutral to slightly acid gravels and sands of north central and central Texas west to the Pecos River. Along the White Rock Escarpment through Dallas to San Antonio there are hybrids of Texas Red Oak and Shumard Red Oak, Q. shumardii – the pure Texas Red Oaks exist to the west. Texas Red Oak is smaller, more often multi-trunked, and more drought tolerant than Shumard Red Oak. The foliage turns bright shades of vivid red and orange in autumn. The bark is dark gray to black with platelike scales, although sometimes it is light gray and smooth. It has a high heat tolerance and low water requirements.

Comments:            There is a close relationship between Texas Red Oak and Shumard Oak. This has caused many botanical classification problems. The two trees may be listed as separate species in some manuals, or Texas Red Oak may be listed as a variety of Shumard Oak.

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