When you decide to add another tree to your landscape, it needs to be a well-thought-out plan. Always remember, the most superior shade trees are going to be native trees. Because native trees and plants are ones that fit perfectly into the local ecosystem and support the balance of flora and fauna. However, if you aren’t familiar with what is native in NC and what is not, you can always check with a local nursery. When you shop for trees, you can be sure that if the word japonica is in the scientific name anywhere, it is not native to the United States. Native trees are those which occur naturally around your area.
In the spring, you are likely to see the white blooms of the dogwood randomly growing beside the road or standing all alone in a pasture. For generations, the dogwood tree has proven to be a tried and true favorite in the area. Since they are available at almost every garden center or nursery, you should have no trouble finding one. Many hybrid or nativar varieties are now easily obtained as well. Sometimes these varieties offer deeper pinks and brighter whites.
It is probable you will see these on your way to the beach or a little southeast of Winston- Salem. It is easily recognized by the long appearance of its needles, making it very different from the white pines of the mountainous regions of our state. Long Leaf Pine trees are amazing. They are rapid growers and reach heights up to 120 feet tall. In 400 years or so, someone will still find your carvings on the standing, living tree. Though we do not recommend carving any live tree, these are tough as nails and can tolerate poor soil as long as it is well drained and sandy. Also, they can tolerate drought and heat very well. Longleaf pines are used in the production of pine straw. Here in Stokes County, our mountains and clay soil probably wouldn’t support the healthy growth of this pine for long life.
In the early spring, as you are driving through the piedmont, I am sure you have seen those beautiful purple buds on some trees around the edges of treelines. Maybe you have wondered what they are and how to can get one. Well, what it is, is a redbud tree. How you can get one does not include trekking through the woods and digging. Many varieties of redbuds can be found at a local nursery or garden center. Growing 13 to 24 inches per year makes the redbud a moderate grower. Heart-shaped leaves can start out a bit reddish and turn to bright rich green, then yellow in the fall. George Washington was so enamored by the redbuds’ beauty that he often acquired seedlings from the woods near his home to transplant them into his gardens.
Serviceberry is a small tree or shrub that is an early bloomer. It beats dogwoods to the bloom starting line and often will even beat the redbuds. Being drought tolerant makes the serviceberry an excellent choice in the home landscape. In addition to its beauty, it is also fruit-bearing. However, if you don’t use the berries yourself, the birds and wildlife will most certainly be thankful for the addition to your yard. Many people confuse the serviceberry with currants. I assure you there is a difference. The biggest and most important difference is that it is illegal in North Carolina to grow currants and gooseberries. Pests and disease are usually not a big issue for the serviceberry. So, that is another reason to choose it for your landscape. Serviceberry is hard to keep as a single-trunk tree as it is prone to suckering.
The leaves and branches of the pawpaw tree are not on the menu for deer and most furry critters. But, the fruit that they produce is a different story. As a small understory tree, the pawpaw produces the largest edible fruit native to North America. It is the only local variety of a tropical plant family known as Annonaceae. Foraging for pawpaw fruit can tend to be fruitless, as most forest animals will gladly wait for the fruit to ripen and grab it before you or I ever have a chance to see it. Though these little trees can be easily spotted in most areas of the forest, they need a second tree to cross-pollinate with to bear any fruit at all. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones if you ever see a pawpaw bloom or fruit. These are rare sightings indeed.
When planting native trees such as maples, oaks, and river birch, you are not only offering your tree the best chance at life but also promising local wildlife everything they have become accustomed to. A native tree planted in its native area is almost sure to survive with proper care. The soil is already something it should be used to, as is the climate. All things combined, the chances of thriving are excellent. Planting a non-native tree brings with it the chance that what you plant may become invasive in your area, such is the case with the beautiful mimosa or Bradford Pear, definitely not native to North America anywhere. They might create a balance with all of the native ecosystems in their place of origin. However, as an invasive species here in the US, they are a threat to all the native vegetation, and possibly even wildlife. You can find a full list of North Carolina native trees on the N.C State Extension website.
Check out this link from the forestry service here and learn about getting free native trees.