It is hard work growing trees in Wyoming. One look at our prairies would suggest that trees weren’t really in the cards! Yet as most homeowners would attest, trees are the single most important plant in their landscape. For some folks, trees are like annual flowers –grow them for a year and by next year replant! However, there are trees that do very well here, in fact they are native and ‘adapted’ to the conditions presented to most of Wyoming such as, difficult soils, heavy wind, huge temperature fluctuations, and persistent drought. The two most commonly planted natives are Aspens and Cottonwood trees, which are not drought tolerant and have plenty of insect and disease issues. But there are some other exceptional native trees that should be considered for your landscaping.
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), is native to the Black Hills area of Wyoming and will do well anywhere in Wyoming. This great shade tree will take several years to truly get established in your yard, but after that it will develop into a broad maturing tree with a massive trunk and stout branches. This oak is long-lived, often exceeding several human life spans and is perfect choice for celebrating landmark events like the birth of a child or a marriage or a new home. Expect the mature height to be 60 feet and a width of 40 feet. Bigtooth Maple (Acer granidentatum), is probably the best kept secret in terms of trees in Wyoming! Native to far western Wyoming, this maple is very drought tolerant and performs very well in our high alkaline soils. Ecologists believe that this western maple is the equivalent of the Sugar Maple found along the eastern US. Its fall color is truly spectacular with colors ranging from orange to bright red. It can be trained as a single tree or allowed to have multiple trunks. Mature height will be 30 feet and the width 20 feet. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) is found throughout Wyoming on the mid to lower slopes of our mountains. Very tolerant of windy dry areas, this tree matures into a large open growing pine with long medium green needles. As the bark ages, it turns a beautiful cinnamon color. The tree itself produces that woodsy smell we commonly associate with the forest. This is another long- lived tree and it is not uncommon to come across trees exceeding 500 years of age. Mature height 70 feet, width 30 feet. Western River Birch (Betula occidentalis) is a clump forming tree/shrub found along many of our riparian areas. It does very well in maintained landscapes. What is striking about this tree is the beautiful brownish red to cherry like bark that offers exceptional winter- time interest to the landscape. It is more resistant to borer (insect) damage than the European variety. Tolerates shade very well. Mature height is 25 feet and 15 feet wide.
Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus Scopulorum) is a native small evergreen tree, which is very drought tolerant and works well as a windbreak. The berries provide good wildlife value especially for birds. The wide range of soil types and ability to grow in alkaline areas is a real plus. This slower growing evergreen reaches a mature height of 15 feet to 20 feet.
There are many other species of native trees to choose from, as well as a whole venue of shrubs that will give your landscape a beautiful native look and feel to it. Some of these may be a little hard to find, however give natives a try!