Top 8 Trees to Know in North America

There are over 1,000 tree species in North America, so it is difficult to pick just 8, so we decided to look at the most common (Red Maple and Loblolly Pine), the oldest (Bristlecone Pine), and the tallest (Coastal Redwood) species, adding a few family members.


Originally from Asia, Maple species are found in the Northern Hemisphere. Some varieties can grow to 145 feet. Folklore describes the Maple as a symbol of strength, endurance, and tolerance. 

There are said to be 128 different species of Maple, but the Sugar Maple may be a favorite for its sugary syrup - a favorite of people all around the world. So revered in Canada, they use the Maple leaf as their national symbol on their flag and money. 

Native American Stories that contain a reference to the Maple Tree.

Musquakie –Chasing the Bear

TraditionalTalking Stick 

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Most common tree in the north. Red maple accounts for over 7% of all trees in the U.S. and Eastern Canada. 

In Japan, the Maple signifies strength and endurance and is a symbol of love.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) grows in Eastern Canada and Northern U.S. In early spring the sap is used in the making of syrup and sugar which is enjoyed worldwide. 

Sap is taken when temperatures go above freezing during the day but drop below freezing at night. This is when the sap begins to run and offers energy to the growth of the tree. Once the trees begin to bud, the sap ceases and photosynthesis becomes the source of energy for the tree. 

The Sugar Maple was once the only source of sugar for native peoples of North America. Some tribes conducted maple ceremonies to ensure good sap for the coming year. 

Pines (Pinus)

Pines grow mainly in the Northern Hemisphere and consist of nearly 125 different species. It is common to see furniture made of pine, which is soft yet durable. 

Native peoples believe the resin of the pine has protective properties and symbolizes the return of the sun and birth. Chinese believed that planting a lodgepole pine on a grave it would strengthen the souls of the dead and protect them from decay. 

All around the world, the pine is a species mentioned in folklore and religion. To many native peoples, the pine tree is a symbol of wisdom and longevity. Evergreens generally symbolize immortality and eternal life because they retain their leaves in winter.

The Pinus species grow well in cold, snowy environments. They also grow well in rocky soil and can withstand high winds and drought conditions. 

Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) is the oldest non-clonal species on the planet and can live up to 4,000 years. The oldest is said to be 4,800 years old, which is the oldest known individual tree of any species. They prefer to be in sub-alpine environments at high altitudes in Western U.S.

Lodgepole Pine(Pinus contorta) grows in western North America. Populations are threatened by logging, pine beetle infestation, and climate change. 

The Lodgepole gained its name during colonization for its use to build log cabins. 

Eastern White Pine(Pinus strobus) was a big part of colonization in the U.S. England had already depleted its own forests and began logging these majestic trees as instructed by King George. The king wanted the biggest for his use, but colonists also used the wood to build their homes. Fights broke out and resulted in thePine Tree Riot of 1772, which was a precursor to the Revolutionary War. 

The Eastern White Pine is considered theTree of Peace by the Iroquois people. 

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) is native to the east coast of North America. It represents over 6.5% of all trees and is considered the most commercially important tree in the Southeast. It’s called loblolly because it mostly grows in lowlands and swampy areas. 

The Loblolly Pine grows more than 2 feet per year which makes it popular for tree farms that produce timber for the lumber industry. 

Largest Tree Species

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is the most widely distributed tree in North America. One Quaking Aspen grove in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah is estimated to be 80,000 years old!

The Quaking Aspen has the widest natural range of any tree in North America.

Aspens grow in clones which means it reproduces by sending up sprouts from their roots, so a grove is basically the same organism. Another interesting note is that the bark carries out photosynthesis, which is normally the job of leaves. This allows it to produce sugar during the winter for energy. 

Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the world's tallest tree species with an average height of 250 feet. The tallest, called Hyperion, is 380 feet tall. The oldest Redwood is 2,200 years old and was alive during the time of the Roman Empire. 

Unfortunately, Redwoods are an endangered species with only 5% of the original old-growth redwood forest remaining.

All trees have interesting folklore and purposes through time. What is your favorite tree?

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