As part of the vast deciduous Eastern Woodlands, Ohio shares native tree species with much of the eastern US. The glacial history of Ohio caused the natural diversity in different regions of the state. Rocky hills, plateaus and swamps are all part of this diversity, with a variety of vegetation in each area. Native trees are those that grow naturally in the area with no human intervention. While they may thrive and reproduce in the area, species that were brought in by traveling humans are not native.
Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) is the state tree of Ohio. Buckeye trees reach 60 to 70 feet in height, and the branches are small with an open pattern. The trunks rarely grow larger than 24 inches in diameter. Buckeye trees are native west of the Allegheny Mountains. The flowers are creamy-yellow-green, and occur in 5- to 8-inch long clusters in April or May.
Buckeye trees are so named because the fruits resemble an eye of a buck deer. The fruits are inedible fleshy nuts; they contain seeds eaten by wildlife. Buckeye wood is soft and weak. It is very lightweight, and was used to make artificial limbs.
Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) are large, deciduous trees that grow throughout the eastern US. They were a predominant species in Ohio forests. Beech trees reach 70 feet in height, and may spread to 120 feet wide. They are easily identified by their smooth, light gray bark. The trunk is short; branches often touch the ground.
Other plants do not grow under beech trees because of the low light condition, and because the tree’s shallow roots use the available water and nutrients from the soil surface. Beech trees produce a three-winged nut that is edible. It is enclosed in a spiky husk, which breaks open in the fall and tosses the nut to the ground. Beech timber is used for furniture stock, tool handles and veneer.
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a member of the magnolia family and is not a true poplar. Also known as tulip tree, the species is named for its tulip-shaped leaves. For several weeks in the spring, tulip trees are covered with fairly prominent flowers with orange bands marking the light green petals. The flowers on one tree will produce thousands of flat seeds, most of which are not viable. Squirrels and other wildlife find the seeds tasty. Commercial uses for tulip poplar are for furniture stock, veneer, and pulpwood.
In virgin timber stands, tulip poplars were the tallest trees in the forest. Mature trees were 120 feet tall with trunks 5 feet in diameter.