Between 10 to 20 tree species make up the majority of Ohio's forests, according to the Ohio State University extension office. Despite these deceptive numbers, Ohio is purported to contain some of the most diverse forests in North America. With more than 125 distinct tree species on 7.9 million acres, there are many trees to choose from when considering the best trees for Ohio forests.
The Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, is the official state tree of Ohio. Found in all parts of the state except the farthest northeastern and southeastern portions, this deciduous tree grows from heights of 30 to 60 feet. Ohio buckeye wood is lightweight, making it a staple in the artificial limb industry. This versatile tree grows in all lighting conditions, from full sun to full shade. It is a natural understory tree, and frequently suffers from scorched leaves in sunnier locations. Ohio buckeye thrives in rich, well drained soil of all but the most extreme pH levels. This tree has a distinct, unpleasant odor when the bark, leaves, fruits or flowers are bruised or crushed. The fruits of this tree are round, brown, spine covered capsules known as buckeye nuts or simply as "buckeyes," appearing in mid to late summer.
White ash, or Fraxinus americana, is a fast-growing deciduous shade tree. Found in all parts of Ohio, the wood is used for a variety of applications from baseball bats to furniture to firewood. Planted in urban areas for shade, white ash is found frequently in clear-cut forest areas, open meadows and fields. The ideal growing conditions for white ash are full sun to partial shade with a rich, moist, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. White ash is not extremely flood or drought tolerant, but grows to heights of approximately 70 feet within the first 15 to 20 years of its life. While the average white ash has a maximum lifespan of 300 years, this species has only a 30 percent survival rate. Among the numerous pests and diseases that plague this tree, one is of particular interest to Ohio forests. The Emerald Ash Borer, an insect native to Asia, is a wood-boring beetle that attacks white, green and blue ash trees. The Emerald Ash Borer has no known predators within the region and was first discovered in Ohio in 2003.
White oak, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is one of the most important hardwood timber trees in the state. The white oak, Quercus alba, is found in all parts of Ohio in dry forests, fields, woodlands and downward slopes. White oak thrives in full sun and well-drained, acidic soils but adapts easily to other conditions. White oak reaches a height of approximately 80 feet at maturity and suffers from few disease or pest related ailments. One of the easiest ways to distinguish white oak from another common Ohio tree, the red oak, is by the shape of its leaves. White oak leaves have rounded lobes, while red oak leaves are pointier and shaped like arrows.