Columnar shade trees are useful in urban areas, particularly for tight, narrow locations. Not many varieties of shade trees grow in a columnar shape. Their narrow widths in relation to their towering heights create needed shade mostly in sites too small for shade trees with a more spreading growth habit.
Norway Maple 'Fairview'
Growing to a height of 50 feet, the Norway maple 'Fairview' (Acer plantanoides 'Fairview') grows just 30 feet wide and is ideal as an urban street tree. Its new growth emerges a deep reddish-purple and matures to bronze-red. It is tolerant of poor soils and harsh urban conditions. Fairview produces surface roots that make it difficult to grow shrubs or lawn beneath it.
Slow-growing to a mature size of 50 feet high by 25 feet wide, northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is a native American shade tree. It produces white, orchid-like flowers early in summer and bean-like seed pods that may remain on the tree throughout winter. Northern catalpa is usually the last type of tree to leaf out in spring. It does usually show fall color, its leaves abruptly falling after the first hard frost. Northern catalpa grows best in full sun and prefers moist, slightly alkaline soil.
Roughly columnar at its mature size of 55 feet high by 40 feet wide, narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) is found primarily at higher elevations in the southern Rocky Mountains. Its narrow leaves can resemble those of the willow and turn yellow in autumn. The leaf stalks are sometimes tinged red. Its bark is smooth and pale green or whitish on young specimens and gray on mature trees.