Each native tree


What is this?

Native trees are woody plants that evolved with the rainfall, seasons, soils, and wildlife of this region. A tree is defined as having one stem (the trunk) at the base and typically taller than a shrub. Oaks and hickories are examples of native trees.

The various trees considered native to northeastern Illinois are ones that grew in this region prior to European settlement. They are listed in a fairly technical book: Plants of the Chicago Region by Floyd Swink and Gerald Wilhelm. Here's our list of trees native to northeastern Illinois. Or try some of our other resources for Plant Finders.

You will receive 5 points for each native tree on your property beyond the one required tree or shrub.

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. Be sure to select trees that will thrive in the spot you have in mind for them. Why fight an uphill battle with poorly selected species that will barely survive compared to well-selected ones that thrive? Is your spot sunny, shady or partly shady? Is it dry, wet or moist? 
  2. Some vendors claim to sell natives but actually offer hybrid ornamentals (identified by a three-part scientific name that includes an “x”) or plants native to other parts of North America – these do not count toward certification points.
  3. When designing a landscape with songbirds in mind, it helps to know they prefer areas that offer a lot of shrubs with a variety of heights. Find some great tips and species suggestions here:  Trees and shrubs for birds
  4. Consider the mature height and width of the desired tree.  You don’t want to be pruning large woody plants to make them fit into a small area….otherwise you may never see the beautiful blooms or seeds of these plants in your landscape!

Take time to plant your tree correctly, or it is likely to do poorly or die. Here are some short videos on how to plant various sizes of trees. How to plant a tree

  1. Dig a hole that is two or three times wider than the root ball and no deeper than the root ball.
  2. If the root flare (the slightly swollen spot where the trunk meets the roots) is not visible at the soil surface, then a gentle, light shaving of soil from the top of the ball is needed.
  3. Remove all root ball packaging including burlap, twine, wire, etcetera. 
  4. Place the tree in the hole, fill the hole with soil and tamp down to eliminate air pockets. 
  5. Mulch should be spread evenly (no volcanoes or donuts) in a circle that is 2-3 inches deep, extending as far out from the base as the tips of the branches go.   Mulch should not touch the trunk where it can lead to disease. 
  6. Water one inch per week until the ground freezes the first year, unless we get good soaking rains every week.
  7. If deer or rabbits are an issue, encircle the shrub with a wire cage, especially in the winter.

Here’s a great guide to pruning.

Hire some help
If you’re looking for a professional designer who is skilled at blending aesthetics with native plants, view our Local vendors.  

Why - Each native tree beyond original

Why is this important?

Trees make the air cleaner for you to breathe by producing oxygen and removing pollution. With their shade, they help you reduce the amount of cooling energy your home uses in summer. Trees remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air and store it in their wood for decades or centuries. Trees catch rainfall, decreasing the amount of water flowing into stormwater systems. Each large front yard tree increases a home's sale price by 1%. Learn more about the benefit of trees.

The trees and forests of the Chicago region are important natural resources that contribute substantially to the regional environment, human health, and quality of life. Prospects for the future point to increasing importance of these resources, but at the same time mounting threats from insects, disease, invasive species, climate change, development, and changing infrastructure. Addressing these future challenges is complicated by the diversity of the region’s trees and forests, their dynamic character, the fragmented ownership pattern, and by a lack of comprehensive information about the resources. To begin to address these critical information needs, The Morton Arboretum undertook an assessment of the Chicago region’s urban forests in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service. Learn more about the Regional Trees Initiative.

Learn more about the loss of Lake County’s oak ecosystems.

Native trees come in all sizes and shapes from smaller understory trees to large canopy shade trees, and they provide four-season interest due to interesting spring flowers, summer berries, autumn leaves, winter stems and bark, and various nuts and seeds.  Native trees are important in our home landscapes because they provide valuable habitat for a diversity of wildlife, especially songbirds, butterflies, and small mammals.  Trees provide food, places to hide and rest, and places to nest, lay eggs and raise young.  

Native trees provide a wise investment compared to delicate or high-maintenance cultivars. They are generally more resistant to disease and, once established, require relatively small amounts of water and NO fertilizer.  Research repeatedly shows that a well-designed landscape that incorporates trees leads to higher home values due to beauty, shade and sound absorption. Also, if you’re not big on gardening, trees can be easier to maintain than flower beds.

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