What Trees Are Tolerant of Shade?

Trees grow tall in an effort to compete with each other for the best unobstructed sunlight. Many species do not do well in shade, and produce seeds which will lie dormant until old trees fall or are burned down. Some trees, however, do quite well and even thrive in shady areas.

Balsam Fir

Balsam fir (Abes balsamea) is an evergreen tree native to the northeastern United States and Canada. It has a dense, cone-shaped structure and grows from 40 to 90 feet with a spread of between 12 and 30 feet. It is known for its fragrant resin and short, flat, green needles. It grows well in slightly to highly acidic soil and tolerates dense clay and rocky soils well.

Sugar Maple

Most famous for its production of maple syrup, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is another tall, shade-tolerant tree from the Northeast. It will grow in soils from sand to silty loam, but prefers slightly acidic loam soil with good drainage. It has dark green, five-lobed leaves that turn a variety of colors in fall. The sugar maple can grow to heights above 100 feet.

Pacific Yew

Also known as the western yew, the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) is a tree from the Pacific Northwest best known for containing a powerful cancer-fighting drug called taxol. It is a moderate-sized evergreen tree, generally growing to a height of 30 to 50 feet with a narrow trunk about 1.5 feet in diameter. The Pacific yew is distinguished from other evergreens by its unusual seed cone. Each cone contains a single seed enclosed in a bright red fruit called an aril, giving it the appearance of a berry. According to the USDA, the Pacific yew "grows best on deep, moist or rich, rocky or gravelly soils."

Keywords: shade tolerant trees, shade tolerant plants, trees in shade

About this Author

Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has nearly five years' experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.