THE LEAFLET

May 17, 2021 /
Jona Elwell

Top 10 Most Wanted Trees

As a District Resident, you can get trees – for free! No, really. 

Through the Riversmart Homes Program, you can accentuate your home with a beautiful shade tree at no cost. To register, submit an application with the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and we’ll do all we can to get your tree planted in the spring or fall.

Our programs use trees selected for their suitability to Washington, DC. Our professionals will help you choose the trees that fit best in your yard. Whether you want fragrant flowers, privacy, shade from a dense canopy, pollinators, or whatever fits your yard best, we have a tree and a residential planting program for everyone!

So which trees are planted most frequently in our residential planting programs? Let’s see who the cool kids are:

10. Bald Cypress | Taxodium distichum

A graceful tree with dark, shaggy bark, light-green leaves and a grand pyramidal shape, the baldcypress is a tough, urban tree valued by wildlife for its seed. It is called “bald” because it drops its leaves in the fall – uncommon for trees bearing cones. While it can tolerate some light shade, the baldcypress does best in full sun. It is considered a moderate grower – attaining approximately 50 feet in height in 30-40 years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

9. A Tie! Between Willow Oak | Quercus phellos

Named for its unusual leaves resembling those of a willow tree, the willow oak is one of the toughest urban shade trees around. Its tiny acorns are prized by wildlife, and its strong, strait trunk make it a welcome tree in any yard. Full sun is best for willow oaks, where it will reach 40 feet in height in about 30 – 40 years. You can get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

And Red Maple |  Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’

One of the most popular planted trees, red maples are coveted for their brilliant fall color, ability to withstand challenging soil conditions and their seeds which fall “helicopter-like” to the ground. Red maples prefer full sun, and can reach 40 feet in approximately 30 to 40 years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

8. Yellowwood | Cladrastis lutea

A hardy ornamental shade tree that is adaptable to a wide range of conditions, the yellowwood has beautiful pea-like flowers and showy seedpods that ripen in the fall. In full-sun, yellowwoods will reach a height of 30 feet in about 30 to 40 years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

7. Holly | Ilex aquifolium x cornuta ‘Nellie R. Stevens’

The “Nellie R. Stevens” holly is about half the size of the traditional American holly, but is still a pyramid-shaped tree symbolizing the holiday season with its dark green leaves and red berries that are appreciated by birds. It adds a splash of green in our otherwise leafless winters and is prized in many gardens throughout the DC area. The hollies grow slowly, typically taking 30 years to reach a height of 20 feet. It will grow in full sun but prefers partial shade. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $50 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

6. Southern Magnolia | Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’

This elegant tree has large fragrant flowers that bloom from March to June, striking seed pods that drop bright red seeds in the fall, and bold, beautiful leaves. Southern magnolias are a much sought-after, durable evergreen tree that grace gardens and yards throughout the District. Southern magnolias reach approximately 50 feet in height in about 50 years. It thrives in full sun or partial shade. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

5. River Birch | Betula nigra ‘Dura-Heat’

River birches are known for their distinct peeling bark, golden-yellow fall foliage, and their ability to tolerate difficult urban conditions. Its ornamental bark is particularly striking after its leaves drop in autumn, and are commonly found in gardens and yards throughout the city. Planted in full sun, the river birch will normally attain a height of 30 feet in as many years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $100 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

4. Sweetbay Magnolia | Magnolia virginiana

A small evergreen tree in our area, sweetbay magnolias have lemon-scented flowers and blooms in spring forming bright-red seeds in the fall. This tree is a favorite among gardeners throughout DC. At home in sun or partial shade, this small tree will reach 15 to 20 feet in height in approximately 30 years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $50 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

3. Serviceberry | Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’

As one would expect from a small tree in the rose family, the serviceberry has beautiful flowers and fruit that attract birds and butterflies, as well as brilliant orange-yellow foliage, and reddish bark that becomes more distinct with age. At home in full sun or partial shade, the serviceberry is a small tree reaching 20 feet in height within 20 to 25 years. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $50 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

2. Eastern Redbud | Cersis canadensis

A local favorite found in forests, fields and yards – the redbud has beautiful pink and purple spring flowers, large heart-shaped leaves and attractive seed pods that release small dark seeds in the fall that are highly valued by wildlife. Redbud is often used as a garden accent under the shade of larger trees. A fast grower, redbuds can reach 15 – 25 feet in height in approximately 15 years. It can be planted in full sun but prefers partial shade. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $50 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

1. Dogwood | Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Princess’

Flowering DogwoodThe top planted tree! With showy, fragrant, white flowers, the flowering dogwood is a small tree found in gardens and yards throughout the DC area. Its red berries are prized by wildlife and its flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. If stressed, dogwoods are susceptible to diseases – the most common is powdery mildew of the leaves – unsightly but not life-threatening for the tree. A small, slow growing tree, dogwoods rarely exceed 20 feet in height and may be planted in full sun or in partial shade locations. This tree is available through our residential planting program, RiverSmart Homes. You can also get up to $50 back for planting this tree yourself through our tree rebate program.

Article image courtesy Clif Burns via Flickr.