By Kim Coder
University of Georgia
Thinking of planting new trees? Consider planting trees named for the state of Georgia.
Trees are a long-lasting celebration of our state's ecology, history and culture. They can symbolize many things about where we live. There are even a select few trees named after Georgia.
Earlier in this nation's history, after European colonization, plant taxonomists flooded the nation identifying different trees. Each tree may have had different local common names, but the taxonomists gave each a unique scientific name. This name allows anyone anywhere in the world to know which tree is being discussed.
As taxonomists crossed Georgia and the Southeast, they discovered many trees. Georgia has more than 215 native trees. Unfortunately for Georgia, many of our trees were first found and identified in neighboring states. So we have many trees here named after Virginia, Florida and the Carolinas either as a common or scientific name.
Georgia does have a few trees dedicated to our ecological heritage including the following:
Georgia buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica) will grow in the Piedmont and mountains and reach 25 feet in height. It has uniquely shaped, beautiful greenish-yellow flowers shaded with red. The seeds are large, dark, round buckeyes. Humming birds adore this tree.
Georgia hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia) will grow throughout Georgia. A small tree that will grow 35 feet, it has an uneven, spreading crown. It looks like a small sugarberry tree with smooth-edged leaves. Georgia hackberry does well on well-drained soils and handles drought well.
Georgia plume (Elliottia racemosa) will grow in the coastal plain. It is a small to medium sized tree seldom reaching beyond 40 feet in height. It is one of the rarest wild trees in Georgia and is protected. It produces white flower plumes in early summer.
Georgia holly (Ilex longipes) will grow in the north Georgia mountain area. It is a very small tree or large shrub reaching no more than 18 feet in height. The small flowers and showy fruits make this holly a winter holiday favorite.
Georgia oak (Quercus georgiana) will grow in the piedmont and mountain areas of Georgia. It is a small to medium sized tree reaching 45 feet in height. In nature, it is found on granite outcrops. As such, Georgia oak is well-proportioned, tough, drought tolerant and useful in many places in a landscape.
Georgia bark (Pinckneya pubens) will grow in the coastal plain. It is sometimes called fever tree because it was used as a folk medicine to fight swamp fever. Georgia bark is a small shrubby tree that needs wet areas of a landscape in which to live. The tree has large, showy, pinkish-rose colored flowers which bloom on branch ends in early summer.
There are a few other trees with Georgia ties. Two are named after Georgia places.
One is the Oglethorpe oak (Quercus oglethorpensis) which is named for Oglethorpe County. The medium-sized tree will grow in the piedmont and mountain areas of Georgia. Unfortunately, it is difficult to grow successfully because of a serious disease, which can disfigure and kill the tree. It is a wonderful oak with dark green leaves that have minute, star-shaped hairs on their underside.
Another tree is Ogeechee lime (Nyssa ogeche). It is named after the Ogeechee River of southeastern Georgia where it grows. It does well in wet and poorly drained areas. The fruit is greenish-red to red in color. The fruit juice was used as a lemonade drink, although real citrus-based drinks are much better.
Georgia-named trees can be diverse and wonderful. Why not add a Georgia tree to your landscape? You’ll add diversity and a bit of history to your landscape.