The Top Trails in Every State
50 Trees in 50 States
This southeastern native is adapted to survive fire, floods, droughts, and even hurricanes but sadly only about 4% have survived other major threats like loss of habitat to agriculture and tree farms of faster growing species. More than half of the southeast's amphibians and reptiles, and at least 900 plant species rely on the remaining Longleaf pines that may also be the area's best chance at preparing for climate change.
photo by Randy Browning, USFWS
Despite this tall and long-living state tree being prized by blue grouse birds, Sitka deer, builders, and musicians alike, some old-growth Sitka spruce still remain in Tongass National Forest where they lock away billions of tons of human-threatening CO2. Although only a fraction of old-growth Sitka spruce still exist, proposed policies to put an end to logging roads and commercial old-growth logging in Alaska may protect them and the old-growth of tomorrow.
photo by DCSL
blue palo verde
The tree's namesake green bark and branches make this tree an efficient solar panel of photosynthesis which may be why it's one of the only trees found in the Sonoran Desert where it can survive temperatures over 100 degrees with very little water. Its lovely yellow spring flowers become seeds and beans which have been eaten by Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years.
photo by Katja Schulz
This endangered Arkansas native is only known to exist in four places in the world—all of which are in the state. Although threats like logging, mining, and the suppression of wildfire have led this ridge-loving tree to the brink of extinction, some are protected in Magazine Mountain State Park, Quachita National Forest, and in the Caney Creek Wilderness Area.
photo by Arb O Retum
The tallest trees on earth have adapted and thrived since the age of dinosaurs through their ability to resprout, resist fire, rot, and insects, create their own ideal environment by making rain and fog, and most importantly, by taking care of one another. But these ancient giants also help take care of us by maintaining a human-friendly climate and increasing our physical, mental and social well-being too.
photo by Yuval Helfman, Dreamstime
Colorado blue spruce
Colorado's iconic state tree can live for 600 hundred years. With the exception of the silvery-blue needles for which it is named, it prefers to be more understated, usually staying under 100 feet tall and keeping its groves small. Despite being sought after for Christmas trees and impacted by insects and other plights, Colorado blue spruce continue to thrive in its native region. It's twigs are even given as gifts for good luck by Navajo and Keres Native Americans.
photo by Joe Thomissen
Once abundant across North America, its unique wood was prized for basket making by both Indigenous Peoples and Shakers. However, the tree’s lack of tannins (which make it a critical food source for frogs) has made it more susceptible to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has reduced Black Ash to critically endangered status.
photo by Doug McGrady
This is the only native North American tree that blooms in the fall and it only exists in three places in the world. Despite being called a "Seaside" alder, this endangered species only survives in freshwater systems, making sea-level rise from climate change the largest threat to its survival in Delaware.
photo by Amy Buthod
Called the "stinking cedar" for the strong, unpleasant odor of its crushed leaves, it was one of the very first plants listed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1984. Initially in decline from logging for their long-lasting, bug resistant wood, the conifer continues to decline today despite protected natural habitats like Torreya State Park and at the Nature Conservancy's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve due to fungal threats.
photo by Malcolm Manners
Although commonly called "Georgia oak" this tree is also native to Alabama and used to be found in South Carolina too. Today, one of the largest threats to this endangered tree is actually from tourism to its native granite outcropping habitat which compacts the ground and imperils its roots. If you're lucky enough to see one, please admire it from a distance and hug a less sensitive tree.
photo by Bruce Kirchoff
The lesser known cousin of the koa, this smaller endangered native tree species once grew across much of the islands’ drier lowlands and was prized for its hard wood and gnarled grain. But its most impressive talent is keeping the ecosystem healthy by providing nitrogen to other plants through a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria in its root systems that converts nitrogen from the air into plant fertilizer—a process that smells like ammonia.
photo by David Eickhoff
Although the state tree is the western white pine, this fellow native is known as a "bird pine" because it relies solely on animals like the Clark's nutcracker to disperse its large, protein-rich, flightless seeds. The tree is endangered by invasive white pine blister rust fungus and mountain pine beetles, both of which are likely to increase with climate change. In addition to conservation measures protecting this keystone species, efforts are being made to grow saplings from trees that have shown resistance to the fungus and its pheromones are being tested to keep the beetles at bay.
photo by Axel Kristinsson
While only approximately 19% of Illinois' original forests are left, the state tree, one of the most common hardwoods across eastern and central North America, can still be found in all 102 counties of the state. The white oak, can support hundreds of species, live for more than 400 years, and its drought and heat tolerance may help it continue to thrive in the face of climate change.
photo by Bob Gutowski
Indiana's state tree is fast growing and one of the tallest native trees in the eastern United States, quickly growing as much as 50 feet in 20 years to stay out of the shade. True to its name, this member of the magnolia family has large nectar-filled flowers that typically bloom in late spring and the tree continues to put on a show with golden leaves in the fall.
photo by Kew On Flickr
A North American native, this winter-hearty fruit tree is endangered in the state of Iowa, the most southern end of its natural habitat range, and is thought to already be gone from Ohio. Their sour, juicy plums that ripen in late summer or early fall, can be eaten raw, made into preserves and pies, or dried, and was a winter staple for Indigenous Peoples.
photo by RW Smith
It might look like a strange green potato, but pawpaw, the largest native fruit in all of North America, is usually likened to a banana with notes of vanilla, mango, and citrus thrown in. Keep an eye out when the fruit ripens around September or October because it's so popular with wildlife and hikers alike, it doesn't usually linger for very long.
photo by Alice Crain
Not yet federally protected, the native North American walnut tree is a species of "Special Concern" in Kentucky, protected in two other states, and endangered in Canada. But hope is not yet lost for this tree–whose edible butternuts have been utilized by Indigenous Peoples–as efforts are being made to breed species resistant to the invasive butternut canker disease that plagues it.
photo by Dan Keck
Despite being called the Arkansas oak, several occurrences of this native and globally vulnerable tree have been found in the northwestern quadrant of Louisiana. Considered "imperiled" or "vulnerable" in every state across its range due to habitat loss, some of these black-barked trees can be found in protected areas like Caddo Black Bayou Preserve in Louisiana.
photo by Bruce Kirchoff
The roots and leaves were first used medicinally by Indigenous Peoples but by the 18th century, American ginseng was already being harvested and imported to China where it was considered the "yin" to Asian ginseng's "yang". Today, between overharvesting and habitat loss, American ginseng is listed as globally vulnerable and endangered in Maine but programs encouraging wild plantings across its native habitat may help to restore this native wonder.
photo by Pverdonk
Sometimes referred to as the "redwood of the east" this critically endangered tree once dominated eastern forests in the U.S. until Chestnut Blight swept across the country in the 1800's and reduced an estimated population of 4.2 billion trees to the 0.01% that survive today. Surviving native stumps continue to sprout before dying back from the bark fungus again, but conservation actions, including hybridizing, biocontrol, and genetic engineering efforts, have been underway to help the American chestnut become resistant to the blight.
photo by WhatsAllThisThen
The American elm, native to the eastern U.S. is considered extremely hardy, surviving temperatures as low as -44 degrees Fahrenheit and can live for several hundred years. Even though it’s well-suited to survive in its natural habitat, it is highly susceptible to the invasive Dutch elm disease. This beloved tree was commonly found along streets and in parks in the 19th and early 20th centuries but is now endangered with only about 1 in 100,000 able to survive the disease. Their wind-dispersed seeds are able to establish and grow quickly allowing the original species to continue, and a disease-resistant strain of the elm was also developed in the 1990's.
photo by Matt Lavin
More than 50% forested, Michigan was the unfortunate first known invasion point of the emerald ash borer which has swept through U.S. ash forests and kills 99% of the native pumpkin ash trees it infests. Pumpkin ash are currently considered "threatened" in Michigan and critically endangered globally as attempts to stop the emerald ash borer, such as not moving wood between locations, haven't yet stopped the spread of the pest which can remain in the forest for over a decade after killing all the ash trees, outliving pumpkin ash seeds and overtaking any new trees.
photo by Greg Blick
The largest stands of the state tree, named for its reddish wood and bark, can be found right in Minnesota where it helps to protect watersheds and in turn the cool temperatures can keep the native conifer's seeds viable for up to 30 years while they await fire to help them germinate. Throughout American history red pine helped people medicinally: first its inner bark was used to treat wounds by Indigenous Peoples and settlers, and later in the 1800's its resin was distilled into turpentine to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory problems.
photo by Arb O Retum
With its dark green leaves and contrasting large white, fragrant flowers, it is no surprise that this striking, long-lived, native evergreen is both the state tree and the state flower of Mississippi. The tallest southern magnolia in the country stands 121 feet tall and they are capable of growing 40 feet tall in their first 20 years. Southern magnolia wood has been used for furniture, doors, boxes, and veneers, but it's mostly been replaced by harder woods and is now appreciated for its beauty.
photo by Melissa McMasters
This tree is a beauty across all seasons. In mid spring, the showy, 3-inch flowers for which this native state tree is so well known appear. In fall, these blooms are exchanged for rich red-brown leaves and red berries, which are an important food source for many bird species. Although technically edible it is said that the tree got its name because the unpleasant tasting berries were "not fit for a dog". However, Indigenous Peoples used the roots to make red dye and the bark and roots to make a medicine for malaria.
photo by Lawrence OP
An icon of the western U.S., this fire, cold, and drought resistant tree is the most widely distributed tree in the western states and the most widely distributed pine in North America with its ability to grow on essentially bare rock. The tree has a long-standing relationship with Indigenous Peoples: the resilient seeds and sweet inner bark were a source of food, it's pitch was used for salve, it's needles were boiled to make medicine, it's trunks used for canoes, and its roots used to create baskets.
photo by Thayne Tuason
The state tree was an important marker for early settlers in Nebraska, often indicating water sources and claimed land. Reaching heights of 100 feet tall, they are easy to spot by their fluffy white flowers for which they are named. The flowers can release 40 million seeds from one tree in a single season, and their shaking leaves turn yellow in the fall.
photo by Matt Lavin
Great Basin bristlecone pine
A long-living, native species, the oldest living non-clonal organism on earth is a 4,853 year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine called "Methuselah". Like its fellow trees, it lives high up in the mountains, in places like Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where few other plants can grow which makes fire less likely to threaten these highly susceptible trees. Their remote locations may have played a part in being listed as "vulnerable" or "threatened" in 1998, but a more recent population survey has found them to be stable and relatively resistant to white pine blister rust which has killed so many other pines.
photo by Jim Morefield
The paper birch is named for its thin, white, paper-like bark that peels like sheets of paper from its trunk. But unlike paper, the bark is rather water-resistant due to high oil content, and the state tree's hollow bark will often remain long after its wood is gone. Considered a "pioneer species", paper birch are often the first to grow after a disturbance like fire, avalanche, or windthrow. The quickly growing stands of papery bark and bright yellow autumn leaves have been used to help reforest areas like old-mine sites.
photo by F.D. Richards
Pitch pine may be one of the most tolerant tree species, often living in habitat extremes from dry, poor soils to swamps. It can handle certain amounts of drought, flood, cold, and even fire, leading this tree to be one of the few native species whose numbers are increasing. It also largely makes up the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the largest remaining, rare temperate coniferous forest in the Atlantic coastal ecoregion.
photo by Plant Image Library
two-needle piñon pine
Their large, nutritious seeds, referred to as the "American" pine nut are enjoyed by animals and humans alike and their small stature not only helps them to survive in their hot dry habitat it also makes their crucial food source easier to reach. A story of the Washo people attributes their people’s survival after drought and fire left them starving and weakened to Wolf-god, the creator of their river, who regrew the trees, tore the tops off, and planted them directly in the ground so their seeds could be more easily reached and eaten.
photo by Matt Lavin
The native state tree is the primary source of maple syrup which comes from tapping its sap, but the threats it faces are far less sweet. Although not yet officially threatened in the U.S., researchers are seeing a decline in populations. They attribute the decline to habitat loss, fungal threats, air pollution, and acid rain as well as a northward migration of sugar maple to cooler climates where environmentalists in Canada are also concerned about its survival.
photo by James St. John
Perhaps better affiliated with Louisiana where it is the state tree, a native bald cypress along the Black River in North Carolina currently holds the title of the oldest living tree in eastern North America and the fifth oldest tree in the world at 2,624 years-old. The tree's discovery inspired protection of the area, where more old-growth trees of this keystone species, that help regulate floods, and provide food and habitat to rare birds and other wildlife in the swamp forest, have been found.
photo by Nicholas Turland
One of the most common species of the estimated 8 billion ash trees in the U.S., white ash has become critically endangered due to the emerald ash borer. But there is good news: this invasive green beetle that kills nearly all ash trees it infests has not yet been detected in North Dakota. Despite the serious threat that the emerald ash borer presents, with as many as 7.5 billion ash trees expected to be lost, some white ash tree populations have survived infestation and reignited hope that a solution can still be found before their immense amount of wildlife habitat, carbon banking, and oxygen production are lost.
photo by Kent McFarland
Ohio buckeyes are not only the state tree, they are also the name of the State University's sports teams, and a colloquial name for people from Ohio. While their large nut-like seeds are poisonous to humans when raw, Indigenous Peoples had many uses for the nuts and used them to treat rheumatism, earaches, and leather, as well as to poison fish and make necklaces.
photo by Stefano
The redbuds for which the native state tree is named bloom into magenta flowers that attract pollinators, like carpenter and blueberry bees, and people alike. People have many uses for the tree: the flowers can be eaten fresh, fried, or boiled, as Indigenous Peoples would consume them. People have roasted the seeds, and the green twigs have been used to season game in southern Appalachia.
photo by Fairfax County
Port Orford cedar
This native conifer's natural habitat is limited to a small swath along the coast of Oregon and California, where its strong, rot-resistant, and ginger-scented wood was harvested for arrows, guitar soundboards, and valued for shrines, temples, and coffins in Japan. Although logging puts pressure on old-growth trees, the species is considered near threatened due to root disease likely spread by soil on shoes and tires.
photo by John Rusk
This state tree is native to eastern North America and known for its drooping branches. It is in decline and considered globally "near threatened" from hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive species that sucks the sap from the trees and eventually kills them. However, hemlock woolly adelgid, slow to spread north from the southern U.S., has not yet reached Pennsylvania, buying time as scientists research potential solutions including using a predator beetle from the western U.S. to control the infestations.
photo by Joshua Mayer
Due to its adaptability to a wide range of site types, Rhode Island's state tree is the most common native tree in the eastern U.S. In addition to providing food for elk, deer, squirrels, butterflies, moths and syrup for people, the red maple's habitat tolerance and quick seeding make it vital to reforesting areas that have been logged, burned, or had other disturbances and will eventually give way once larger forest trees can return.
photo by Stanley Zimny
Native to just a few southern states along the Atlantic, the state tree is iconic to southern coastlines thanks to its drought, fire, flood, and salt-wind tolerance. Also known as the cabbage palm, the tree's palm heart, bud foliage, and fruits were all eaten by Indigenous Peoples, and its sweet smelling, yellow flowers are a favorite source of pollen for bees.
photo by James St. John
A major conifer in North America's vast boreal forest that extends across Canada and Alaska, an isolated pocket of the state tree can be found in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the cool moist valleys of the Northern Hills. The endemic species is known as Black Hills spruce because it doesn't exist naturally anywhere else in the world, but is sometimes used for bonsai.
photo by Eli Sagor
Considered to be the best commercial Christmas Tree species in the U.S. for it's fantastic smelling, long lasting dark green foliage, you may be surprised to learn Fraser fir is a conifer native only to a few mountain tops in the southeastern Appalachian Mountains including eastern Tennessee. And the Christmas tree trade may be the least of this endangered species' concerns since its decline is already leading to the loss of critical habitat for northern flying squirrel, Weller’s salamander, and spruce-fir moss spider, due to climate change, and the balsam woolly adelgid. But some new seedlings seem to be surviving infestation giving hope that the species may build resistance to the pest.
photo by James St. John
Smaller and more drought tolerant than its eastern redbud cousin,Texas redbud's purple-pink flowers bloom in early spring to everyone's delight. More than just pretty to look at, the flowers can be fried or pickled, and their nectar feeds butterflies like Henry's Elfin butterfly, moths, and bees. The flowers can be used to make honey, their seeds feed birds, and the tree provides supplies to native bees for their homes.
photo by Sfbaywalk
Even the slightest of breezes can cause their leaves to shake, lending to this state tree's name. But its white bark is even more interesting, allowing the tree to photosynthesize all winter long while other trees are dormant. Like redwoods, quaking aspen reproduce most effectively by sending up new shoots called clonal sprouts—one such grove in Utah covers 100 acres from a single root system and is considered the largest living organism on earth—through this process the clone can live tens of thousands of years.
photo by National Park Service Zion
This native tree grew in popularity across the country after the loss of so many elms to Dutch elm disease and green ash became the most widespread ash species in North America far beyond its natural habitat. Sadly, the widespread popularity seems to be leading to a similar fate for the green ash, allowing the invasive emerald ash borer, which reached Vermont in 2018, to spread more quickly across the U.S., critically endangering green ash. There is some hope: 1% have survived infestations and are being investigated for possible genetic resistance.
photo by Matt Lavin
Virginia round-leaf birch
The first tree ever placed on the Endangered Species List, this incredibly rare tree can only be found in Smyth County Virginia making it one of the most critically endangered North American trees. Named for its round leaves, it was first described by scientists in 1918 and then thought extinct until a single, small population of trees was found in 1975, which despite conservation efforts dwindled to one last wild tree by 2020.
photo by Vicky Somma
Taller than its eastern hemlock cousin, and any other hemlock species for that matter, this slow-growing native state tree can reach 230 feet or more over its 1,200 year lifespan. Well adapted for the temperate rainforests of the Pacific coast, it's relatively shade tolerant, growing below the canopies of Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce, and even coast redwoods. The treeforms symbiotic relationships with several wood decaying and soil fungi which allow seedlings to survive on rotting logs through their beneficial mycelium networks.
photo by Adriana W. Van Leeuwen
Native to the midwestern U.S. and small sections of the Appalachian Mountains like West Virginia, blue ash is said to get its name from a black dye that can be extracted from its inner bark. The tree is unique among American ash species because it is the most drought tolerant, it produces perfect flowers, and it shows the most resistance to the invasive emerald ash borer. Although critically endangered by the pest, 60-70% of blue ash have survived infestation.
photo by Mason Brock
northern white cedar
A relatively small native conifer at about 49 feet, what northern white cedar lacks in height, it more than makes up for in lifespan. It can live over a thousand years, and its common name arborvitae or "tree of life" comes from it's many medicinal values. The inidigenous Ojibwe people call it Nookomis Giizhik or "Grandmother Cedar" for its many gifts to humanity including traditional use in construction, crafts, and medicine for fevers, coughs, rheumatism, constipation and scurvy, and the essential oil of this tree, whose numbers are actually on the rise, continues to have many uses today.
photo by F.D. Richards
the plains cottonwood
When Wyoming selected the cottonwood for the state tree in1947, a specimen thought to perhaps be the tallest cottonwood anywhere, at about 55 feet tall, had just been found but was struck by lightning just a few years later. Across the grasslands, for which this variation of the eastern cottonwood is named, the tree always stands tall in comparison to its surroundings no matter its height. It continues to provide "bountiful comfort and beauty" to people and "shelter and shade" to livestock for which it was chosen.
photo by Sonnia Hill