Trees are by far the most revered species of the floral world.  We believe we’ve lived in them.  We’ve  eaten  their fruit, their syrup, sapped them for their rubber,  used them for shelter,  for weapons, for comfort and for fire. 

Countless trees are beautiful with some species considerably more beautiful than others.  Many, many trees are among the landscape gardeners’ worst weeds…..defined as  plants seeded out of place. 

No matter how ugly, how scrawny  or  sick, how out-of-place or  dangerous a tree or trees might be, if they are privately owned,  homeowners will not easily, if at all,  convinced they should be removed.  For many trees are nearly sacred……

……even though, especially in older Twin City communities so many trees arrived as seedling  weeds.

I mulch my garden paths.  Nearly all of my landscape garden is in plantings, not sod.  I use no herbicides and let seed what may seed. 

All of the major weeds in my grounds are tree seedlings….elm, sugar maple, red maple, box elder, elm, Ohio buckeye, buckthorn, crab apple, oak, both red and white, pagoda dogwood, green ash, spiny aralia, and cottonwood.    If I were not vigilant with my tree cleansings, my grounds would become a baby forest in five years.   Ten years later they would be fighting among themselves for survival.

In most major nursery catalogues for climate zones three and four, trees are grouped  as Shade, Ornamental, and Fruit trees for the deciduous broadleafs, and among coniferous evergreens,  as Trees and Uprights. 

In general “Shade” trees of the deciduous, and “Trees” of the conifers  are mostly the great big dominating trees….elm, sugar maple, cottonwood, oak, buckeye,  Kentucky coffeetree, birch, and the cone bearing…..pine, fir, hemlock, spruce, and larch (the latter included even though this conifer is deciduous.   With the exception of the pyramidals and conical shaped trees, these are the trees that shade everything including smaller, understory trees in the “shade” tree category….redbud, pagoda dogwood.   (Crabapples are so many in number, they often are given a listing unto themselves.   Then there is the separate but short list of fruit trees, apples, plums, apricots, pears.

Ginkgo is a weirdo unto itself usually listed as a shade tree.

A shade tree develop a canopy which provides shade.  Upright trees do not.   These days there are “upright” oaks, beech, maple, and ginkgos, but they are still listed as shade trees.

What is the difference of habit  between a big shade tree and  a  big pine, let’s say?

None, except one has broad leaves and the other has needled leaves.

If a white pine and a white oak (both my very favorite large shade trees) were to seed themselves and grew successfully in a completely open piece of land, and were not subjected to animal pests eating their foliage, what would the trees look like in the mature state?

Well, they really wouldn’t be shade trees.    Nothing would be able to grow underneath their crown, only their large lateral branches, all the way to the ground. 

Tradition declares  one, the white pine is not a shade tree, but should look like a Christmas tree; so in the nursery they are sheared into Christmas tree shape.    White Oaks side branches will be removed at various stages of growth to look like a shade tree  from about its fifth or sixth year of life. 

Oaks drop acorns….sometimes  hard and big ones striking bald men on the chrome dome.  That smarts.

White Pine drops its oldest needles in the fall.  No one to my knowledge has ever noticed being struck by a white pine needle.