Trees Native to Upstate SC
It has been said that you can grow nearly any kind of plant or tree in the Greenville area. This may be true because of the moderate temperature range and abundant moisture. There are many types of trees that grow well in our area, but the wide variety of native species makes Greenville attractive. Let’s talk about some of the most common and notable tree species.
The white oak (Quercus alba) is a noble and shady giant. With pale, flaky bark and lobed leaves, the white oak is nearly unmatched by its combination of beauty and strength. Often growing to one hundred feet tall, this tree is sturdy in storms and boasts a broad root base. White oak trees can produce large acorns. It is resilient when exposed to disease and drought and when pruned properly, makes a wonderful landscape centerpiece.
Red oak (Quercus rubra) trees are known for having a simple branch structure, giving them an elegant canopy shape. The bark on the trunk often appears as dark gray and light gray vertical lines. Even though it is less resilient to seasons of drought and is slow growing, the red oak lends a stately appearance to any property and can reach heights of up to 80 feet tall. The roughly hand-sized leaves are dark green with sharp points at the end of each lobe. They can produce beautiful reds in the fall.
The water oak (Quercus nigra) is a sort of “weed oak” in our area, as it can be found in every nook and cranny of the region, and is known for its vibrance and fast growth. The leaves are small with a few lobes at the end. Because water oak leaves appear to be pointed toward the stem, they are often mistakenly called pin oak trees. Water oaks often have wide-spreading canopies with a short trunk and large, long branches coming from a central point. They can reach up to 80 feet tall, but are often close to 60 feet in height. They are known for producing a large number of small acorns, and the bark is a medium gray.
The sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) can be found in every state of America. They often display large, spreading canopies of medium green, star-shaped leaves. They are best known for the spiky balls they produce in abundance which can be annoying when they cover the lawn or gutters. They regularly reach heights of 80 feet, and in some circumstances can grow to over 100 feet tall. The bark on the trunk is lightly striped vertically and is light gray. They are aggressive growers, but provide great shade.
Two common types of maple trees in the upstate are the red maple (Acer rubrum) and the silver maple (Acer saccharinum). There are a few differences that we will note. The red maple leaf has a few lobes that are not deeply separated and often has a red stem, while the silver maple leaf has 5 points that are very serrated with a light (silvery) color underneath. Red maples most often have a single trunk, but silver maples commonly have multiple leads coming from the root crown. The canopy of the red maple may turn different colors in the fall, but they usually turn a beautiful red before they fall. The silver maple is not as pretty in the fall as the red maple, but it usually doesn’t let go of its leaves without displaying an array of yellows. Both trees have smooth, light gray bark on younger growth, but the bark on the trunk of the silver maple is usually more coarse and flaky. Both trees regularly reach a height of 50 feet, although they can get as tall as 90 feet in a forest setting.
The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a stately giant. Easily and regularly reaching heights upwards of 100 feet, it often towers above the other trees around it. The pale, almost-diamond pattern bark distinguishes it from the flaky bark of many trees. Its open and even branch structure and large light green leaves lend a majestic feel to the canopy. The tulip poplar produces an orange and/or yellow “tulip” in late spring and hangs on to a cone-like seed structure. They can grow to be very old and very large, reaching an age of 300 years with trunk diameters of several feet.
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a true gem of the South’s urban forest. This tree is easy to spot because of its range of contrasting features compared with other trees. The southern magnolia boasts a lumpy evergreen conical canopy of dark green leaves. The leaves, between 5 to 10 inches in length, have a rigid, leather-like texture, feeling slightly fuzzy on the underside and smooth on the top. The bark is uniformly brown with a rough texture, but it is often hidden behind the dense canopy that reaches all the way to the ground. The magnolia produces one of the largest flowers in the country, known for its strong, fresh scent and creamy white colored blossom, often 12 inches in diameter.
These are just a sampling of the incredible variety of trees we enjoy in the Greenville area. We love caring for the trees in our area and always look forward to learning something new about these amazing creations.