5 Types of Trees in Texas (with Pictures)
Texas is the second-largest state in the US by land area, with one of the most diverse climates in the country. In the east, it’s humid, and it gets drier the further west you go. Southern Texas is far more tropical, with extremely humid summers and mild winters, while the north is cooler during the summer and winter. With so much variety in climate, it’s no wonder that Texas has a huge variety of trees that thrive depending on the area. Let’s check out more info about the common types of trees in Texas, plus other interesting info about trees.
About Trees in Texas
When most people think of Texas, large forests aren’t what comes to mind. Rather, people think of vast deserts, plains, grasslands, and rolling hills. The eastern part of Texas is more arid than the lush west, which has more in common with wet Louisiana. As shown in this image from Oregon State University, the eastern tip of Texas gets the most rainfall in the state, with a marked reduction the farther west you go.
Because of the vast arid spaces in Texas, you’re less likely to find dense, towering forests outside of the east part of the state. Growing trees in the Texas Panhandle is especially difficult because of various weather conditions, including erratic drought and rainfall, sudden temperature fluctuations, blizzards, and a short cold hardiness list.
Despite these challenges, Texas is home to 200–300 native species of trees, not counting transplants. Many types of trees can thrive in all parts of Texas, but it’s simply less likely the farther west you travel. According to the Texas Forest Service operated by Texas A&M University, Texas has an estimated 62.6 million acres of forests.
Especially in west and north Texas, you’ll notice that the trees are much smaller than you’d find in a different state with a more hospitable climate. Between the erratic weather and temperatures as well as soil conditions, it’s more difficult for trees to grow tall in the Lone Star State.
Efforts to combat deforestation and climate change have resulted in huge efforts to plant new trees, especially in urban areas. Austin, in particular, has the most trees of any Texan city, ranking as the seventh most green city in the US.
The 5 Common Types of Trees in Texas
Texas is home to many tree species, but some are more common than others. Let’s check out some of the most common trees in Texas, some of which you may even have in your front yard or neighborhood.
1. Live Oak
Live oaks are the most common tree in the Lone Star State, and a very long-lived species at that. The oldest known live oak in Texas is in Rockport, and it’s thought to be over 1,200 years old. More commonly they can live from 100–500 years old, growing as tall as 35–40 feet tall.
2. Cedar Elm
With smaller leaves and thicker cuticles than other elms that make it drought and heat resistant, the cedar elm is the second most popular tree in Texas. They can tolerate compacted soil and poorly draining soil, which makes them great for covering areas where other trees can’t live. In ideal conditions, cedar elms can grow from 50–90 feet tall, providing tons of shade coverage.
3. Southern Red Oak
Also known as the Spanish oak, southern red oaks can live 100 years or more under ideal conditions. These striking red-brown trees are mainly found on rocky cliffs and other areas with shaded roots because their root systems aren’t very good at retaining water. Southern red oaks are generally planted in areas that aren’t hospitable to other tree species.
4. Black Cherry
Black cherry trees are among the more vibrant, striking trees to natively grow in Texas, and they grow relatively quickly, too. Their fragrant white blossoms attract all types of wildlife, including bees and birds. Black cherry trees are great additions to yards, where they don’t typically exceed 35–50 feet in height.
5. Eastern Red Cedar
As the name implies, this hugely popular conifer is popular in arid eastern Texas, where it can tolerate long periods of drought remarkably well. They attract several species of birds and butterflies, which is great for gardens. The tallest specimens observed grow up to 90 feet tall, but less-than-ideal soil and weather conditions mean that most trees only reach 30–40 feet tall.
What Areas Have Trees in Texas?
There are four national forests in Texas, and they’re all located within the eastern Piney Woods region of Texas, which is more humid and suitable for lush plant life. However, the Big Thicket National Preserve in southeastern Texas claims to be the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the US, with 9 different ecosystems converging in the preserve.
Many cities in Texas have dedicated a lot of time and resources to increasing urban tree populations, like Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. Trees have a ton of practical benefits for cities, like producing oxygen to counteract pollution, sequestering carbon dioxide, and attracting beneficial wildlife. Trees are also proven to help improve mental well-being.
In eastern Texas, drought-tolerant trees are the most practical and prevalent, with needier trees quickly dying out due to the extreme heat and aridity. Douglas firs are a popular choice as windbreaks, but mesquite species are the most widespread. In fact, mesquite trees also thrive from the Rio Grande Valley across central Texas to the Panhandle.
Trees planted and cared for by humans will grow larger and more quickly than wild trees thanks to increased access to water. We’re also able to spot signs of disease and treat them, cutting down on tree deaths.
Benefits of Trees in Texas
Trees provide numerous practical benefits to humans, wildlife, and the environment. For an easier time covering them all, we’ve crafted a handy list.
Downsides of Trees in Texas
There are a few significant downsides to planting trees, and the cons are relatively small considering the multitude of giant benefits that trees provide. Nonetheless, for the sake of transparency, you should be aware of both the pros and cons of planting trees in Texas or elsewhere.
Frequently Asked Questions About Trees
How do I decide what trees to plant in my area of Texas?
The trees listed above are great ones to plant, but they’re not the only ones that will do well in Texas. For more detailed info about your area, look up your city’s USDA hardiness zone and what trees thrive in those zones.
How do trees affect wildlife?
Trees are used by many species of animals as shelter, reproduction sites, and food. In return, animals will often hunt the insects that damage trees and spread the tree’s seed throughout nearby and faraway locales. Finally, birds and butterflies feast on trees and spread pollen, which helps spur further plant growth.
Do trees really help combat climate change?
As trees grow, they take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks and roots. At the same time, they release precious oxygen that helps humans and animals alike breathe. By displacing the carbon dioxide released by humans, trees are an integral part of halting climate change.
Texas may have large areas that are unforgiving to high-maintenance trees, but hardier species have taken their place and even flourished. From the ubiquitous live oak to the gorgeous black cherry, Texas has plenty of trees to enjoy.
Featured Image Credit: tbarts, Pixabay