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Fast Growing Trees in the Midwest

By Caroline Fritz ; Updated September 21, 2017

Fast-growing trees are often used in the Midwest to fill in landscaping projects such as in new home construction. Fast-growing trees can be weak, often suffering damage from high winds or snow from Midwest winters, resulting in extra maintenance costs, according to the University of Illinois Extension. For continuous shade coverage, plant slow-growing trees and remove the fast-growing varieties as the slow-growing species mature.

Green Ash

The green ash is the widest ranging of all the ashes. In landscaping projects, the tree is used as a windbreak and in land reclamation projects. A hardy tree, the green ash prefers moist soil and is often found growing in the wild in flood plains and swamps. The green ash ranges in height from 50 to 100 feet and grows at a maximum rate of 24 inches a year. The tree reaches its maximum height in 20 years for smaller green ash trees and 50 years for larger trees. The trunk is straight but will widen at the base when growing in water, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The bark is brownish gray with diamond-shaped grooves. The bright green leaves are shaped like elongated ovals. The purple flowers bloom in the early spring. The fruit appears in the early autumn.

Pin Oak

Due to it bright red autumn leaves and straight, narrow shape, the pin oak is planted widely in parks and as a street tree in cities. In the wild, the tree prefers the moist soils of swamps, streams and river bottoms, according to “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees of North America” by Tony Russell, Catherine Cutler and Martin Walters. The tree ranges in height from 50 to 90 feet. The pin oak grows at a rate on average of 25 inches per year, reaching a maximum height in 24 years for 50-foot trees and 43 years for taller pin oaks. The dark gray bark is grooved and pitted. The dark green leaves have, on average, four pairs of lobes, each tapering to a point. Clumps of tan hair grow in the leaf's vein axis. The green-yellow colored male flowers are catkins that grow up to 2 inches long. The tree gets its name from the pin-like growths on the shoots.

Box Elder

The box elder, also called the ash-leaved maple, ranges in height from 30 to 70 feet and grows at a rate of 18 inches per year. It takes 20 years for smaller box elder trees to reach full height, and 46 years for taller box elder specimens. In nature, the tree grows wild in wetlands across the United States. It has the largest range of all maple trees, according to “Field Guide to Trees of North America” by the National Geographic Association. The box elder is short-lived, to about 60 years of age, and is damaged easily. The bark ranges in color from brown to gray and is smooth. The light green leaves have three to five leaflets that turn yellow and red in autumn. The male and female flowers grow in small clusters on separate trees.


About the Author


Caroline Fritz has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience, mainly for publications in northwest Ohio. She is currently an editor for a national technical magazine focusing on the construction industry. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.