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20 Types of Trees in Colorado (with Pictures)

Colorado Trees_Michelle Raponi_Pixabay

Colorado is one of the most popular states in the US for its natural beauty. The state is known for its diverse landscape, which includes forests, mountains, deserts, and canyons. It is home to more than 500 different species of trees as well.

Some of the trees are native to the area while others are non-native. In this article, we are going to discuss 20 of the most common trees in this state. We have categorized them into two major categories: deciduous and coniferous. Take a look!

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The 20 Types of Trees in Colorado

Deciduous Trees

1. Boxelder Maple (Acer negundo)

Box Elder Maple Tree_Digitalphaser_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Digitalphaser, Shutterstock
Height: 35–80 feet
Trunk Diameter: 12–20 inches
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–9
Other Names: Manitoba maple, Ash-leaved maple

The Boxelder Maple is a fast-growing tree native to North America. One distinguishing factor of this maple tree is its unique short, opposite-arranged compound leaves.

The tree has a maximum lifespan of 60 years, but under favorable conditions, it can live up to 100 years. The tree blooms in early spring to produce yellow-green flowers.

Growing Boxelder Maple isn’t difficult. It fares well in cool or cold regions, tolerating most types of soils in wet or dry areas. But it’s important to plant them away from wind paths since the trees can break easily.

2. Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia)

Narrowleaf Cottonwood Tree_Danita Delimond_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Danita Delimont, Shutterstock
Height: 60 feet
Trunk Diameter: 30 inches
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–9
Other Names: Willow-leaved Poplar

The Narrowleaf Cottonwood is part of the willow family native to western parts of North America. This tree’s natural habitat is in high elevations of 1,200–2,400 meters near creeks and streams.

In terms of appearance, the tree is slim and grows in clusters. The leaves are long and narrow, reaching almost 2 inches. They have a yellow-green to dark-green coloring and serrated edges. This tree enjoys full sun exposure, producing catkins in spring.

If you want to plant Narrowleaf Cottonwood, pick an area with well-drained sandy or loamy soil. The area must be far away from buildings as the roots spread far and can cause damage. Under favorable conditions, the tree has a maximum lifespan of 100 years.

3. Plains Cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. Monilifera)

Plains Cottonwood_Bryce Alexander_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Bryce Alexander, Shutterstock
Height: 80 feet
Trunk Diameter: 60 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–9
Other Names: Eastern Cottonwood

Among the most common street trees you can find in Colorado is the Plains Cottonwood. The tree grows from a young sapling into a huge specimen with a wide-spreading shade. In fact, in Colorado, it’s considered a crucial windbreaker.

The tree’s growth pattern is round, giving it its natural form. It has huge and broad leaves that turn yellow when the seasons change. In spring, the tree will flower and produce fruits. It’s a high-maintenance tree and requires regular pruning before winter.

The tree is fast-growing and easily adaptable to different soil types. It can withstand dry conditions and poor soils since it has a root system that spreads aggressively. The tree requires full sunlight exposure to grow, and it can tolerate environmental salt.

4. Lanceleaf Cottonwood (Populus x acuminate)

plains cottonwood trees
Image Credit: Ann Cantelow, Shutterstock
Height: 60 feet
Trunk Diameter: 2 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–9
Other Names: Populus acuminate

The Lanceleaf Cottonwood is easy to identify by its unique, oval-shaped leaves. The tips of the leaves are pointy while the base is broad and round. The tree grows tall enough to have a dense and round crown that’s easy to spot from miles away.

It’s best to plant it where there’s full sun exposure. The tree requires regular watering during the growing season. Since it has an aggressive spreading root system, plant it away from buildings. It’s a fast grower and can be good for keeping soil together in specific areas.

5. Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum)

Bigtooth Maple Tree_Jason Speredon_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jason Speredon, Shutterstock
Height: 35 feet
Trunk Diameter: 15 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–8
Other Names: Western Sugar Maple, Wasatch Maple, Canyon Maple

The Bigtooth Maple is a small to medium-sized hardwood tree that grows to have a grayish, dark brown bark. Unlike other bigger and stronger maple trees, the Bigtooth Maple grows thin and is susceptible to elemental damage.

This tree has long and broads types of soils with good drainage.

Like many trees in this region, this tree requires ample sunlight to grow. The soil has to be moist as the tree is cold-tolerant. Many folks love the autumn colors of the Bigtooth Maple, so they have it among other ornamental trees. It’s also possible to tap its sap to make maple syrup.

6. Thinleaf Alder (Alnus tenuifolia)

Thinleaf Alder
Image Credit: JumpStory
Height: 40 feet
Trunk Diameter: 20 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–6
Other Names: Mountain Alder

We can describe the Thinleaf Alder as a tall shrub. It falls under the category of small trees growing in Colorado, especially along the river’s edge. The tree has oval-shaped leaves that range between 2–4 inches and they have coarse, double-toothed edges.

In spring, the tree blooms and produces small catkins. A fun fact is the tree has both male and female reproductive parts. It relies on wind for pollination and its seeds ripen at the end of the year in October.

The Thinleaf Alder is flood-tolerant, thus ideal for flood-prone areas. It adapts well to varying types of soils including heavy clay and soils that lack ample nutrition. In terms of sunlight exposure, this tree can thrive in medium to no shade.

7. Western Water Birch (Betula occidentalis)

Water Birch
Image Credit: Manfred Antranias Zimmer, Pixabay
Height: 33 feet
Trunk Diameter: 12 inches
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2
Other Names: Red Birch, River Birch

Another example of a small deciduous tree growing in Colorado is the Western Water Birch. This tree has a dark brown to black bark, and it tends to have many limbs sprouting from the trunk. It has ovate broad leaves with serrated edges.

The Western Water Birch prefers areas with lots of moisture, like the waterways of Colorado. You’ll find it in spots with marshes or open woods with lots of moisture. It prefers loam to sandy soils with easy-to-tap water tables.

This tree species is simple to care for. It is cold tolerant and requires medium soil drainage to grow. Since it has a high moisture requirement, it’s necessary to water it extensively during its growing months, especially when there’s less rainfall.

8. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloide)

Quaking Aspen_Intricate Explorer_Pexels
Image Credit: Intricate Explorer, Pexels
Height: 50 feet
Trunk Diameter: 30 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–6
Other Names: Trembling Aspen, American Aspen

Have you ever seen a tree whose leaves tremble or quake when it’s windy? Well, the Quaking Aspen gets its name thanks to this behavior. The leaves are flat and attach to the branches using tall stalks, which facilitate the trembling when there’s a breeze.

In fall, it’s easy to notice the Quaking Aspen as the trees tend to grow in tight clusters. The dark green leaves turn a beautiful golden color. Another way to spot the Quaking Aspen is its naturally white bark.

Among the unique characteristics of this tree is that the white bark carries out photosynthesis—not the leaves as is the norm for other trees. The tree has a lengthy lifespan ranging from 60–150 years, depending on the growing conditions.

9. Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii)

Gambel Oak_Rob Martin_Unsplash
Image Credit: Rob Martin, Unsplash
Height: 30 feet
Trunk Diameter: 18 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
Other Names: White Oak, Scrub Oak

The best way to describe the Gambel Oak is as a large shrub found in many areas in Western North America. It’s a hardwood tree with dense wood, but it has easy-to-bend and crooked branches. The bark is also brownish-grey and rough.

This tree has lobed leaves with a glossy and dark-green upper side. On the other hand, the underside of the leaves is velvety and pale. As the seasons change and fall arrives, these leaves change color to yellowish-orange, completely transforming the landscape.

It’s better to plant the Gambel Oak in areas with full sun exposure as it’s not a shade-tolerant species. It requires well-draining soil and tends to be drought tolerant. The tree will do well in high-alkaline soils.

10. Peachleaf Willow (Salix amygdaloides)

Peach Willow Tree_BestPhotoStudio_Shutterstock
Image Credit: BestPhotoStudio, Shutterstock
Height: 40 feet
Trunk Diameter: Up to 80 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
Other Names: N/A

It’s easy to grow the Peachleaf Willow as it has few requirements, unlike other native Colorado tree species. This small to medium-sized tree tends to grow as one trunk or several trunks growing at the same time.

The leaves are long and slender, appearing yellowish-green on top and pale on the underside. The margins of the leaves have fine serration. The tree produces yellow catkin flowers in spring.

This tree thrives in areas with ample moisture along riverbanks or lake shores. So, if you wish to plant them in your backyard, ensure you meet the moisture requirement. The tree requires full sun exposure and can grow in different soil types, including poor ones.

trees & plants divider Coniferous (Evergreen)

11. Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis)

Pinyon Pine_Nikki Yancey_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nikki Yancey, Shutterstock
Height: 20 feet
Trunk Diameter: 6 inches wide
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
Other Names: Parry Pinyon, Mexican Pinyon

The Pinyon Pine is a small evergreen tree native to the Southwest of North America. It is among the slowest growing species in Colorado. The slow and steady growth ensures the tree is always upright while forming the widest crowns. The slow growth is also the reason this tree grows to be 600 years old.

Instead of leaves, it grows yellowish-green needles. These needles take up to 9 years before they fall off the tree and new ones grow in their place.

The Pinyon Pine can grow in dry soil, and it needs minimum maintenance. It’s tolerant to different types of soil and can grow with irrigation. The tree enjoys full sun exposure and is drought tolerant after passing the sapling stage.

12. Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristate)

bristlecone pine_PatternPictures_Pixabay
Image Credit: PatternPictures, Pixabay
Height: 30 feet
Trunk Diameter: 15 feet wide
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–7
Other Names: Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine, Foxtail Pine, Colorado Bristlecone Pine, Hickory Pine

Ancient tree species that you can find in Colorado include the majestic Bristlecone Pine. The tree has been around for centuries and continues to survive under the harshest of conditions. It’s native to the Rocky Mountains in areas with an elevation of 1,700 meters and above.

It is a small evergreen and coniferous tree with an orange-yellowish bark. The short needles of the pine form in clusters of five and there are both male and female pinecones. The female cones tend to be dark purple and mature to be pale brown.

In terms of growth, the tree is a slow grower and tends to form dense wood. It has a low reproductive rate and isn’t an easy tree to cultivate. You can find the Bristlecone Pine growing as a lone tree in an area with the harshest of environments.

13. Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)

Rocky Mountain Juniper_Peter Turner Photography_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Peter Turner Photography, Shutterstock
Height: 49 feet
Trunk Diameter: 2 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9
Other Names: Mountain Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Cedar

The Rocky Mountain Juniper is an evergreen tree native to the western parts of North America. It is among the hardiest and most tolerant species in Colorado, being that it is drought and cold-tolerant.

It’s possible to grow the Rocky Mountain Juniper indoors as a Bonsai tree. This requires ample pruning from a young age. The tree has an extensive lifespan of 1,500 years. It’s better to have proper planning before you start growing the Rocky Mountain Juniper.

This tree thrives in full sun exposure. It’s an adaptable tree species that prefers well-draining soils and warm and dry temperatures. Propagation is best done from cuttings or grafting. You can also germinate the seeds in winter and plant them in spring.

14. Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)

Utah Juniper_MikeGoad_Pixabay
Image Credit: MikeGoad, Pixabay
Height: 8 meters
Trunk Diameter: 30 centimeters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–8
Other Names: Cedar, Sabina

The Utah Juniper resembles a large shrub, but it is better termed as a small tree. This tree is native to the southwestern areas of the US and can live to be more than 50 years old.

It thrives in harsh conditions by sending tap roots more than 20 feet deep in search of water. This extensive root system can grow 100 feet laterally to support the tree even in the worst conditions. When seeking to grow the Utah Juniper, consider the surrounding infrastructure because of the root system.

The tree is adaptable and does well in partial or full sun exposure. It prefers slightly alkaline soil, and the less moisture the better. This is a drought-tolerant species that thrives in a hot and dry climate that also gets lots of frosts. It doesn’t produce flowers or have a specific bloom time.

15. Oneseed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma)

Oneseed Juniper_IrinaK_Shutterstock
Image Credit: IrinaK, Shutterstock
Height: 40 feet
Trunk Diameter: Up to 12 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
Other Names: New Mexico Cedar, Sabina, Cherrystone Juniper

Oneseed Juniper is an evergreen tree that’s common in arid mountainous regions. It resembles a dark, shrub-like conifer with a grayish-brown bark. This is among the slowest growing Junipers whose tap roots can spread to 200 feet below.

This tree has leaves that resemble scales arranged in alternating whorls. Only young Oneseed Juniper seedlings produce needle-like leaves. Mature trees produce cones that resemble berries with soft flesh—a favorite of wild animals and birds.

Since this is a desert tree, it’s important to ensure it gets lots of bright, direct sunlight. Still, it’s possible to have it in partial shade because of its adaptability. The tree is drought tolerant, and it does well in well-draining, loose sandy soil.

16. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas Fir trees_Jacquie Klose_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jacquie Klose, Shutterstock
Height: Up to 100 meters
Trunk Diameter: 2 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–6
Other Names: Douglas Spruce, Oregon Pine

It’s not uncommon to find the Douglas Fir in many homes during Christmas thanks to its evergreen nature and perfect symmetry. The Douglas Fir is part of the pine family and can grow to be quite huge.

This tree has needle-like leaves that are flat and soft to the touch. It’s not uncommon to find tall, wild trees in dense forests without any leaves on the lower branches. This is because there’s less light, forcing foliage to start at 34 meters and above.

It’s possible to grow the Douglas Fir at home, either indoors in pots or outside in a garden. The tree will require full sun and well-draining, acidic soil. This isn’t a drought-tolerant species but grows better in moist soil.

17. Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis)

Eastern White Pine Tree
Image Credit: Than Sapyaprapa, Shutterstock
Height: 90 feet
Trunk Diameter: 1 meter
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–9
Other Names: Chihuahua White Pine, Mexican White Pine

Among the most elegant coniferous trees that you can find in Colorado is the Southwestern White Pine. It’s among the toughest species you can find that’s heat and drought tolerant. This makes it easy for the tree to grow in harsh and dry mountainous regions.

As a high-elevation evergreen tree, the Southwestern White Pine grows straight and slender. It has a smooth bark that’s a dark gray-brown color as the tree matures. The leaves are dark blue-green and have sharp razor-like margins, and it produces large cones.

The Southwestern White Pine can grow in varying types of soil that are well-draining. It can withstand low to medium moisture and can grow indoors in a container. Full, direct sunlight is necessary to ensure proper growth.

18. Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)

Limber Pine_Nikolay Kurzenko_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nikolay Kurzenko, Shutterstock
Height: 18 meters
Trunk Diameter: 12 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–7
Other Names: Rocky Mountain White Pine

It’s not uncommon to come across the Limber Pine in the mountains west of the US. The tree is also present in Canada and Mexico. As a medium-sized coniferous, it thrives in areas with elevations of 5,000–12,000 feet. 

Since this is a pine tree, it has blue-green needles and a creased, dark-gray bark. In areas with the highest elevation, the tree tends to be shorter when mature. However, it can grow quite tall away from the harsh mountain conditions.

The tree thrives in well-draining soil with lots of rocks and gravel. It’s better to avoid planting Limber Pine in areas with heavy clay soil and high humidity. Also, avoid growing it in tight clusters, as it prefers ample air circulation similar to mountain growing conditions.

19. Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta latifolia)

Lodgepole Pine_Grey85_Pixabay
Image Credit: Grey85, Pixabay
Height: 3 meters
Trunk Diameter: 2 meters
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
Other Names: Shore Pine, Twisted Pine

In Colorado, you can also find the Lodgepole Pine, an evergreen conifer. This shrub or small tree is highly adaptable to different climates. It does well along the shores of the ocean or along the coast where the trees thrive in narrow bands.

The Lodgepole Pine is highly tolerant. It can grow in hot or cold areas with lots of moisture or dry conditions. Also, it can thrive in well-draining soils to heavy clays that have poor drainage capacities.

As the name suggests, most folks harvest the Lodgepole Pine for poles to build lodges and other structures. The tree’s succulent inner bark is a delicacy in the local region. Overall, this is a great source of building timber.

20. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea punges)

Colorado blue spruce_Leonid S. Shtandel_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Leonid S. Shtandel, Shutterstock
Height: 75 feet
Trunk Diameter: 49 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–7
Other Names: Colorado Spruce, Blue Spruce, White Spruce

The Colorado Blue Spruce is the official state tree of Colorado. This evergreen tree is native to the regions of the Rocky Mountains. Many people grow it in gardens or indoors in pots.

This tree has gray-green leaves that have lots of wax. It also produces pale brown cones. At the top, you find the female cones while the male cones are spread throughout the tree. Among the top traits of the Colorado Blue Spruce is the amazing fragrance it releases.

It loves full sun exposure and can grow in varying types of soils: loam, sandy, or clay soil that’s acidic or neutral. The tree is drought tolerant, but it’s important to ensure it gets some moisture.

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Colorado has both deciduous and coniferous trees. It’s possible to notice these two types at the change of the season. The deciduous trees change color in fall transforming the landscape while the coniferous are evergreen.

The different types of trees in Colorado have their own unique physical characteristics. Each type of tree has its own specific benefits and uses, so it is important to know which tree is best suited for your needs before planting one. With proper care and attention, any of these trees can provide you with years of enjoyment.

Featured Image Credit: Michelle Raponi, Pixabay


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