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10 Types of Trees in Kentucky (With Pictures)

Trees in Kentucky_rtisanyb_Unsplash

If you have passed through Kentucky, you’ve probably noticed its many trees. It has around 12 million acres of forested land, one of the largest in the US, with about 120 different tree species, most of which are native to the state.

The key is its geographical location; since it’s a mountainous area, it receives a lot of rainfall. Its climate also allows hardwoods to grow and reach maturity without being affected by pests and diseases. This article will discuss the major tree species and the conditions that encourage their growth. Let’s get started!

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The 10 Types of Trees in Kentucky

1. Tulip Tree

tulip tree
Image Credit: martin_hetto, Pixabay

Also known as Liriodendron Tulipifera, this tree is primarily famous in the scientific community for its unique appearance. You are likely to see it growing almost everywhere.

These trees are large and can grow to about 150 feet tall and about 50 feet in 20 years. They get their name from the appearance of their leaves, which are usually tulip-shaped. When in bloom, the flowers are creamy yellow and bell-shaped.

Tulip trees are a native species in Kentucky and are usually grown for landscaping. They are also usually used for timber and make great furniture.

2. Hickory

Hickory Tree
Image Credit: ForestSeasons, Shutterstock

Almost everyone in Kentucky knows this tree. It is one of the oldest tree species in the state and has been harvested for many years.

This tree is famous since almost all its products can be used. The fruits are used to substitute for the diet of domestic animals such as cows, while the wood from the tree is used to make various furniture and other wooden ornaments. Since it has a maple-like smell, the wood is also used in the fireplace for heating and creating a sweet aroma in the house.

Hickory trees are attractive and are also used in landscaping. They usually grow very fast and can reach a height of 80 feet. Although they can grow in most soil types, they are most commonly found in Kentucky due to the excellent drainage in the highlands.

3. Red Maple

Red maple tree_HeungSoon_Pixabay
Image Credit: HeungSoon, Pixabay

You can recognize this tree from sight alone since, as the name suggests, the leaves are red most of the year, apart from the winter months when they turn green. Even their flowers turn into a beautiful red color, making them one of the most beautiful trees.

In the wild, these trees can be pretty massive, growing to a height of 120 feet. They grow best in sunny spots with high or low elevations and can adapt to different soil types.

It is usually the first to show any signs of life during spring. The flowers bloom almost immediately after winter and typically appear on the upper crown, where there is more exposure to sunlight.

4. Black Gum

Black Gum Tree_Peter Turner Photography_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Peter Turner, Shutterstock

Also referred to as Eucalyptus Ovata, this tree species is found on most homesteads in Kentucky. It has a glossy bark and can grow to 98 feet. Other features that make it distinct are its egg-shaped leaves, bell-shaped fruits, and white flowers.

Black gum has a very distinct grain pattern and is usually used to make veneer for containers, pallets, and some furniture pieces. Its also popular with wood carvers since it can take the most delicate details and does not fuzz up, which allows it to hold paint in a glossy manner.

5. American Basswood

This tree has been grown in Kentucky and the surrounding areas mainly for its aesthetic value. It has fragrant flowers and bark, which can be used to make incense. It extends over 70 feet and can have heart-shaped leaves relatively big compared to those of other tree species.

The American Basswood grows very well in deep and most soils and can either grow from a seed or a sprout. The timber from this tree is soft and light, making it perfect for carving and making pulp and veneers.

6. Black Cherry

Black Cherry Tree_Irina Iriser_Pexels
Image Credit: Irina Iriser, Pexels

Black cherry also goes by the name Prunus Serotina and is among the largest indigenous trees in Kentucky. It is mainly found in forests and national parks since it requires specific conditions to grow to maturity and flourish.

It’s not recommended to grow this tree at home since the roots can go very deep, which can cause deep cracks in your house’s foundation. The wood is mainly harvested for making veneers and furniture.

You should, however, note that the black cherry fruits are not for human consumption since they are too bitter and can cause allergies in most people. However, birds tend to like them and are their primary form of distribution across the state.

7. White Oak/ Quercus Alba

Oregon White Oak_Dee Browning_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dee Browning, Shutterstock

White oak is native to Kentucky and is one of the most noticeable trees in the state. It is fast-growing and can grow around 20 inches yearly. This tree has a short, thick truck with horizontal limbs which can spread to form a well-rounded crown.

The leaves are usually a dark green and turn to a blue-green shade during winter. It produces acorns after growing for about 50–100years, making it one of the trees with the most prolonged maturity period.

8. American Beech

beautiful beech tree
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

The American Beech takes a long time to reach maturity, around 40–60 years, depending on its growing conditions. You can tell when it reaches maturity since that’s when it starts to flower. This tree can live for around 300–400 years to compensate for its long maturity period while retaining its smooth bark, unlike most hardwood trees.

It can grow to quite a large size in both width and height. In some rare cases, this tree can reach a height of 120 feet, making it one of the tallest trees in Kentucky.

9. Eastern Redcedar

Cryptomeria Japanese cedar
Image Credit: Beach Creatives, Shutterstock

The eastern redcedar is not as tall as other trees that grow in Kentucky. It reaches a height of around 60 feet and has a short trunk that is usually a deep brown.

Due to their short stature, these trees grow along fence rows, back roads, and highways. They are tolerant to many different soil types and can withstand highly windy conditions.

10. Sourwood

Sourwood Tree_Marinodenisenko_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Marinodenisenko, Shutterstock

The sourwood is one of the most spectacular trees in Kentucky. It blooms all year round and has vibrant red leaves, especially in spring when the flowers open. This tree grows at a medium pace with an average height increase of 20 inches annually.

It is found in forests and national parks, which act as a natural habitat for various wildlife. The native Americans used these trees to make cooking tools and firewood and as a medicine source to treat indigestion, asthma, diarrhea, and mouth ulcers.

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Kentucky has the second most diverse collection of hardwood tree species in the US and comes second only to the state of Florida. It also has some of the oldest trees, which translates to a rich ecosystem since the trees provide shelter and food for wildlife.

Featured Image Credit: rtisanyl, Unsplash


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