Ohio has a wide assortment of tree species that grow native to the state. Among them are potential tall trees like the tulip-poplar and eastern white pine, which contrast with smaller trees such as the buckthorn and the blackhaw. Ohio’s trees, like those of other states, grow in specific habitats, with many making interesting landscaping choices.
Kentucky coffeetree does not tolerate wet soil, and the tree grows best in an alkaline setting. The Kentucky coffeetree has many interesting features, including 3-foot long compound leaves composed of a stem and multiple small leaflets. The flowers on only the female trees will produce a seedpod as long as 10 inches, resembling a large bean. These pods turn from green to brown and will stay on the tree even in the winter until falling off in the spring. Kentucky coffeetree grows mostly in the western portions of Ohio, states the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. The tree will survive droughts and has no significant insect pests or diseases that adversely affect it. The tree can be as tall as 20 feet high after 15 years and can grow to heights of around 80 feet. Plant this species in the open with full sun where it has room to grow. The sex of the tree may take many years for you to determine, as the tree will not produce the seedpods until it matures. The tree got its name from the early settlers using the seeds in place of coffee.
The sweetgum tree is part of the witch-hazel family and occurs in Ohio’s southern counties. The sweetgum is a prized shade species with star-shaped foliage that changes to bright colors such as orange and yellow in the fall. Sweetgum can grow up to 100 feet high, according to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees,” and this tree can have a spread of 40 feet in its upper branches. The ideal soil type for sweetgum is a bit acidic, damp and rich. The tree will grow in partial sun to full sun. Some of the cultivars of sweetgum include the Gumball variety, a tree that only grows to 10 to 15 feet tall. Others such as Palo Alto have orange fall leaves, while the Golden Treasure type has variegated leaves.
Black tupelo, or blackgum, is common in most of Ohio with the exception of some of the drier areas in the northwestern sections. This species can grow to 80 feet tall and has bark that on mature trees is gray and comes in blocks with crevices separating them. Black tupelo has 1- to 3-inch long shiny green leaves that in autumn go to colors like purple, yellow and scarlet. The flowers on the female trees produce a 1/2-inch long purple fruit that birds and small mammals will devour. Some of the male trees have perfect flowers--flowers that possess both the male and female parts—and will develop small numbers of the fruit. This Ohio tree grows well in damp, deep, acidic, well-draining ground. It is adaptable to the shade when young, but black tupelo will do best in full or part-sun conditions. The species is a fine shade tree and ornamental because of its fall color and bark.