8 Native Trees of Wyoming (Plant or View in the Wild Today)

For a good reason, many lifelong and long-time Wyoming residents proudly boast that their state is one of the most beautiful.

The Wyoming landscape is diverse and dramatic – prairie grasslands, rugged mountains, wooded hills, and high elevation deserts.

Wyoming has eight national forests, which include nine million acres of wilderness. However, due to its dominant semi-arid climate, the state does not have the many densely wooded forests that you would find in the more humid eastern half of the United States. Products of the harsh environment, Wyoming’s native trees are majestic and robust.

If you want to plant a tree in Wyoming, you should not select just any tree. Some young trees will not survive the state’s frigid winters and dry climate in their first few years.

To increase chances of success, it is always a good idea to consider planting native tree species.

8 Beautiful Native Trees in Wyoming

1. Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

Green Ash Tree
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

Native to eastern Wyoming, green ash is one of the most resilient trees in the United States. It strives in most climate and soil conditions.

This majestic shade tree provides a dense canopy that blocks sunlight. The tree grows 24 inches per year into an oval, upright, or erect shape. Green ash features lustrous medium to dark green compound leaves, about 6 – 9 inches long.

The leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. During the spring, green ash produces greenish to reddish-purple flowers. However, they are not ornamental, and you can easily miss them.

If you are a bird lover, you would be glad to know that wood ducks, finches, and cardinals adore green ash seeds.

Sadly, green ash has been under attack by the emerald ash borer in recent years. The pest is now widespread. However, you can treat infected trees with special insecticides in many cases.

Other Common Names: Red ash

Growing Zones: 2 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 50 feet tall with a width of 25 feet

Flowering Season: Mid-Spring

2. American Elm (Ulmus americana)

American Elm
Image by John Hagstrom via Flickr

The American elm is graceful and stately, with branches spreading like fountains. It forms an attractive Y or vase shape. This elm species has long been popular in the United States, lining city streets since the 19th century.

American elm is native to the eastern half of the United States over into the prairie states. You will find it growing in the forests of the east Wyoming border.

American elms are rapid growers, forming an umbrella-like canopy at maturity. The tree produces small, purple-brown flowers which emerge before the leaves. Insensitive to daylight length, trees continue growing well into fall.

Unfortunately, the fall foliage of this tree is not impressive. Before dropping, the leaves change into a yellowish-brown color.

American elm has a moderate drought tolerance. So, if you decide to plant one, it would benefit from consistent watering during the first few years and in prolonged dry spells.

In the 1950s, a pathogen, Dutch elm disease, widely devastated this iconic American tree. Though the disease continues to spread, there are spray treatments and disease-resistant cultivars.

Other Common Names: White elm, water elm

Growing Zones: 2 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide

Flowering Season: Mid-Spring

3. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Quaking Aspen
Image by Laura Camp via Flickr

Possibly, the most attractive feature of the quaking aspen is its stunning fall color – golden yellow. Additionally, the trembling (quaking) leaves make a soft and pleasant sound as the wind blows the tree. The tree has a long, narrow, attractive trunk with smooth, greenish-white to cream bark.

Quaking aspen is a popular ornamental tree in Wyoming. In the wild, you can find plenty of them growing in the Rocky Mountains region of Western Wyoming.

Quaking aspen is fast-growing (24 inches each year). It eventually grows into a tall oval shape. Also, you may notice sprouts coming up from the wide-spreading roots throughout the growing season.

The quaking aspen produces long, thin, silvery clusters of tiny flowers known as catkins during the spring. The catkins quickly turn into tiny seeds surrounded by cottony tufts that fly into the wind.

Snowshoe hare, deer, and elk enjoy grazing on quaking aspen’s leaves. During the late fall and early winter, the fallen leaves are an essential food supply for deer and beavers. You can see birds and butterflies lingering around the tree throughout the year’s warmer months.

Other Common Names: Trembling aspen, American aspen, mountain aspen, golden aspen, trembling poplar, white popular, popple

Growing Zones: 1 – 7

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 feet tall and 20 – 30 feet wide

Flowering Season: Mid – late Spring

4. Boxelder (Acer negundo)

Box Elder
Image by whitebuffalobk via Flickr

You can find box elder growing in wanted and unwanted places from Canada down to Guatemala. In Wyoming, it is native to the eastern part of the state. This fast-growing and short-lived tree is sometimes considered a weedy or invasive species.

In addition, it has naturalized throughout the world, including South America, Australia, South Africa, Europe, and Asia.

If you want to plant box elder in Wyoming, it is one of the easiest trees on this list to establish. The tree requires little care and will comfortably tolerate the state’s dry and cold climate.

Though adaptable and easy to grow, box elder does not have much ornamental appeal. Perhaps that is why many worldwide consider it a weedy tree. After the seeds drop, you will find numerous little saplings throughout your yard during the summer.

If you are interested in planting a box elder in your yard, you should know that the trees have brittle and weak wood that breaks easily in wind and ice storms.

Other Common Names: Boxelder maple, Manitoba maple, ash-leaved maple

Growing Zones: 2 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 40 feet tall with similar width

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Common Hackberry
Image by Ross Bayton via Flickr

Common hackberry is one of the toughest trees in North America. It will grow in a wide variety of soils. In addition, it is resistant to strong winds, pollution, drought, and heat. You can find it growing in various environments from the Rockies down to Florida. In Wyoming, its native area is on the eastern border.

FYI – Pioneers used common hackberry’s flexible wood for cabin flooring.

Common hackberry grows between 13 – 24 inches each year. The tree has a rounded, vase-like shape. Since common hackberry’s canopy looks like the elms’, you can consider planting it for a similar visual effect without the disease susceptibility.

Other Common Names: Sugarberry, nettletree, beaverwood, northern hackberry and American hackberry

Growing Zones: 3 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 50 feet tall with an equal width

6. Peachleaf willow (Salix amygdaliodes)

Peachleaf willow
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

Peachleaf willow is native to almost every corner of Wyoming. It gracefully grows along streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the northern prairies of North America.

As the name suggests, its leaves resemble those of peach trees. The weeping branches are attractive, but unfortunately, they tend to break off during storms.

Few native trees grow as fast and easy as the peachleaf willow. However, this is only true if you plant it near a water source such as a pond or stream.

As a plus, peach leaf willows are one of the easiest trees to propagate. You can take 10-inches long cuttings during the growing season, place them in water, and then plant them outdoors.

Or you can stick the cuttings directly in the ground beside a pond or riverbank. Being a rapid grower, expect an average of 15 inches of growth a month after seeing the roots.

Growing Zones: 2 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide

Flowering Season: Late Spring

7. Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer glabrum)

Rock Mountain Maple
Image by Douglas Thorburn via Flickr

This small and delicate-looking rocky mountain maple is far more robust than it looks. It grows in both moist and dry sites – wetlands, streambanks, canyons, and mountain slopes.

The rocky mountain maple offers some ornamental delight. In the spring, it produces difficult-to-see yet very fragrant flowers. The tree has lovely, shiny, green leaves that turn reddish-orange in the fall. The bark is smooth and gray with red twigs.

Regarding care, establishing a rocky mountain maple is not problematic as it will adapt to diverse soil conditions. While decently cold hardy, it does not tolerate severe heat, and the leaves may scorch in hot, dry, and windy sites.

Cattle, deer, elk, and sheep all enjoy grazing on rocky mountain maple’s foliage.

Other Common Names: Mountain maple, Douglas maple

Growing Zones: 4 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 30 feet tall with similar width

Flowering Season: Early Spring

8. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Bur Oak
Image by tree-razzo via Flickr

Bur oak takes the prize for being the longest living tree on this list. It can live up to 300 years. In nature, you will find bur oak growing on the plains of eastern Wyoming. However, due to its cold and drought tolerance, this tree is planted in most areas of the state.

Though slow-growing (less than 12 inches per year), bur oak eventually provides a dense shade at maturity. The tree eventually forms a rounded shape that stands out on any open field. It grows best in acidic, alkaline, loamy, clay, and sandy soils.

If you decide to plant a bur oak, perhaps your local wildlife will enjoy it more than you. Bur oak’s large acorns are irresistible to mice, rabbits, wood ducks, wild turkeys, squirrels, and birds.

Other Common Names: Burr oak

Growing Zones: 3 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 100 feet tall with equal spread

Growing native trees in Wyoming is easy

These native trees above are all deciduous. The leaves of such trees provide viewers a tender display of dewy green upon their arrival in the spring and a colorful departure in the fall.

You would need to put far less effort into growing native trees because they adapt quickly to the local environmental conditions.

Also, they provide reliable food sources such as nectar, seeds, leaves, and stems for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. In other words, a win for you and a small victory for biodiversity.

Mother nature has a way of providing life and beauty in almost all environmental conditions. Though Wyoming does not have the soil or climate for lush and richly diverse forests, some sturdy and majestic native trees strive throughout the state.

The above list showcases some of the native Wyoming trees that the USDA recommends that gardeners and foresters plant and conserve. Many of these trees – bur oak, quaking aspen, and common hackberry – provide a vital food supply for the state’s wildlife.

As a final note, one of the best arguments for planting native trees in Wyoming is that they establish quickly.

If you plant any of these eight adaptable and resilient native trees, you have a good chance of success.

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