I've picked ten best trees that tolerate compacted, infertile soils and the general environment found in cities and along streets and sidewalks. These recommeded best trees are also considered to be the most adaptable of all trees to the urban environment and highly praised by horticulturists.
I have also eliminated messy, brittle trees that can cost property owners significant time and money for clean up. Several of these trees have been chosen "Urban Tree of the Year" as picked by The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA).
Acer campestre 'Queen Elizabeth' - Hedge MapleHedge maple tolerates urban conditions with no serious pests or disease problems. Acer campestre also tolerates dry soil, compaction and air pollutants.
The small stature and vigorous growth of hedge maple makes this an excellent street tree for residential areas, or perhaps in downtown urban sites. However, it grows a little too tall for planting beneath some power lines. It is also suitable as a patio or yard shade tree because it stays small and creates dense shade.
Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' - European HornbeamThe smooth, grey, rippling bark of Carpinus betulus shields the extremely hard, strong wood. Fastigiata European hornbeam, the most common hornbeam cultivar sold, grows 30 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. A very densely-foliated, columnar or oval-shaped tree making it ideal for use as a hedge, screen, or windbreak. The European hornbeam is usually preferred over American hornbeam as it grows faster with a uniform shape.
Ginkgo biloba 'Princeton Sentry' - Princeton Sentry Maidenhair TreeGinkgo or maidenhair tree thrives in a wide range of soils, tolerant of urban stresses, beautiful fall color. Only fruitless males should be selected. 'Princeton Sentry' is a narrow, columnar, male form excellent for street planting.
This male cultivar of Ginkgo is practically pest-free, resistant to storm damage, and casts light shade due to the narrow crown. The tree is easily transplanted and has a vivid yellow fall color which is second to none in brilliance, even in the south.
Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis 'Shademaster' - Thornless HoneylocustShademaster is an excellent fast growing street tree with essentially no fruit, dark green leaves. Many horticulturists consider this to be one of the best cultivars of North America's honeylocust.
Since Thornless Honeylocust is also one of the last trees to leaf out in springtime and one of the first to lose its leaves in fall, it is one of the few trees well-suited for growing a lawn beneath it. The tiny leaflets turn golden yellow in fall before dropping and are so small they easily vanish into the grass below, without any raking being necessary.
Pyrus calleyana 'Aristocrat' - Aristocrat Callery PearThe Aristocrat's superior structure compared to Pyrus calleyana 'Bradford' makes it less susceptible to wind breakage, also requires less pruning. Tolerates pollution and drought, abundant white blossoms appear in early spring. In spring before the new leaves unfold, the tree puts on a brilliant display of pure white flowers which, unfortunately, do not have a pleasant fragrance.
Pyrus calleyana 'Aristocrat' - Aristocrat Callery Pear has been chosen "Urban Tree of the Year" as determined by responses to an annual survey in arborist magazine City Trees. This magazine serves as the official Journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and readers select a new tree each year.
Quercus macrocarpa - Bur OakBur Oak is a large, durable tree tolerant of urban stresses and also of poor soils, will adapt to acid or alkaline soil, suitable for parks, golf courses, and wherever adequate growing space is available. This beautiful but huge tree should only be planted with plenty of space.
Quercus macrocarpa or Bur Oak has been chosen an "Urban Tree of the Year" as determined by responses to an annual survey in arborist magazine City Trees. This magazine serves as the official Journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and readers select a new tree each year.
Taxodium distichum 'Shawnee Brave' - Shawnee Brave BaldcypressAlthough baldcypress is native to wetlands along running streams, growth is often faster on moist, welldrained soil. 'Shawnee Brave' A tall, narrow form reaching 60 feet high and only 15 to 18 feet wide. Has excellent possibilities as a street tree.
Baldcypress has been chosen "Urban Tree of the Year" as determined by responses to an annual survey in arborist magazine City Trees. This magazine serves as the official Journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and readers select a new tree each year.
Tilia Cordata - Littleleaf LindenLittleleaf linden is selected for its vigor and improved branching habit, tolerable of a wide range of soils but somewhat sensitive to drought and salt, good specimen tree and suitable for areas where adequate root space is available.
Architects enjoy using the tree due to its predictably symmetrical shape. Littleleaf Linden is a prolific bloomer, the small, fragrant flowers appearing in late June and into July. Many bees are attracted to the flowers, and the dried flowers persist on the tree for some time.
Ulmus parvifolia 'Drake - 'Drake' Chinese (Lacebark) ElmChinese Elm is an excellent tree that is surprisingly under-used and possesses many traits which make it ideal for a multitude of landscape uses. Lacebark elm makes a fast-growing and nearly evergreen tree as leaves tend to stay on.
Lacebark elm extremely tolerant of urban stress and resistant to Dutch elm Disease (DED). The elm thrives under drought conditions, and will adopt to alkaline soil, relatively free of pests and diseases.
Zelkova serrata - Japanese ZelkovaZelkova is a fast growing, graceful tree suitable as a replacement for American Elms, tolerant of urban conditions, under extreme conditions splitting can occur at the crotch because of the narrow angle, resistant to DED. The cultivar 'Green Vase' is an excellent selection.
Zelkova has a moderate growth rate and likes a sunny exposure. Branches are more numerous and smaller in diameter than American Elm. Leaves are 1.5 to 4 inches long, turning a brilliant yellow, orange, or burnt umber in the fall. Best suited for a place with plenty of room and space.