Shade trees provide aesthetic benefits while creating an ideal area for outdoor relaxation, increasing privacy and encouraging wildlife to visit. Shade trees may also increase yard litter by dropping nuts, seeds, berries, leaves or even branches. Such trees create a messy landscape, clog gutters and litter streets with their debris. Choosing a clean tree with limited litter provides the benefit of a shaded yard without the additional cleaning and maintenance required from other trees.
Trees with brittle wood leave branches and twigs littering the yard. Examples include silver maple and California sycamore trees. Oak and hickory trees provide strong branches that resist weather damage. The best chance for reducing branch litter in the yard is to choose conifers, according to Oregon State University Extension.
Male Vs. Female Trees
Male trees often produce less litter than female versions of the same tree. For example, male white ash trees are seedless, as are male silver maple trees. The female versions of these trees litter the yard with seeds. They also require more maintenance as homeowners must pull or cut young seedlings that sprout throughout the yard.
As a general rule of thumb, fast-growing trees produce weaker wood that is more prone to breaking than their slower growing counterparts. Annual pruning reduces twig litter and branch breakage on deciduous trees. This can also create stronger growth in trees with weaker wood, such as maples.
Newer hybrid versions of shade trees may prove ideal for homeowners. For example, Sunburst and Majestic hybrids provide dappled shade without the thorns and seedpods typical of most honey locust trees. Fruitless cultivars of sweet gum also provide shade while reducing the litter associated with this tree. However, most hybrids still include some drawbacks. In the case of honey locust trees for example, hybrids produce weak wood susceptible to breaking in strong wind or winter storms.
- University of California Cooperative Extension; Recommended Trees; Gabriele ONeill, et al.
- Virginia Cooperative Extension; Selecting Landscape Plants: Shade Trees; Diane Relf, et al.
- Oregon State University Extension; Cover Your Losses With Ice Storm-Resistant Trees; Peg Herring
- Texas A&M University: White Ash