Colorado is known for its mountainous terrain and lush forests. The state has a range of ecosystems, which means there are plenty of different trees to explore. Here’s an introduction to some of the most common Colorado trees.
- 1. Colorado Blue Spruce (picea pungens)
- 2. Norway Spruce (picea abies)
- 3. Ponderosa Pine (pinus ponderosa)
- 4. Douglas Fir (pseudotsuga menziesii)
- 5. Lodgepole Pine (pinus contorta)
- 6. Colorado Aspen (populus tremuloides)
- 7. Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia)
- 8. Quaking Aspen (populus tremuloides)
- 9. Rocky Mountain Juniper (juniperus scopulorum)
- 10. Gambel Oak (quercus gambelii)
- 11. Boxelder Maple (acer negundo)
- 12. Peachleaf Willow (salix amygdaloides)
- 13. Catalpa (catalpa speciosa)
- 14. Western Hackberry (celtis occidentalis)
- 15. Japanese Tree Lilac (syringa reticulata)
- 16. Autumn Purple Seedless Ash (fraxinus americana ‘autumn purple’)
- 17. Common Horse Chestnut (aesculus hippocastanum)
- 18. American Elm (ulmus americana)
- 19. American Sycamore (platanus occidentalis)
The Colorado climate is diverse, with a wide range of climates from dry to humid. The state’s elevation ranges from 3,500 feet (1,067 meters) in the east and south to 14,000 feet (4267 meters) at the highest point of Mount Elbert near Leadville on the western border.
This geographical diversity has led to an equally varied mix of tree types found across Colorado. Some native trees include aspen trees that grow in some places such as Rocky Mountain National Park and ponderosa pine that can be found throughout much of southeast Colorado.
There are also many introduced species such as Norway spruce which was brought over for logging purposes but now grows widely throughout central and northwestern Colorado due its ability to withstand cold temperatures better than native species.
1. Colorado Blue Spruce (picea pungens)
The colorado blue spruce is a popular state symbol. It can be found growing in many mountainous regions of the state. A large majority of Colorado’s forests contain blue spruce trees, particularly in lower elevations (3,500 ft/1,067 m).
Blue spruce trees are very strong and resilient to harsh weather conditions such as cold temperatures and wind. These native trees are also popular for their forested aesthetic appeal, making them a great choice for almost any landscape design.
2. Norway Spruce (picea abies)
Although this tree is an introduced species to Colorado, it can be found throughout the state in many ecosystems due to its ability to withstand cold temperatures better than other tree types.
This means the Norway spruce can be found in mountainous regions but also in lower elevations, such as along the Front Range of Colorado, including places like Denver and Fort Collins.
Norway spruce trees are resilient to windy conditions and have been known to create beautiful landscapes from mountainsides to city suburbs. Furthermore, they can
3. Ponderosa Pine (pinus ponderosa)
Ponderosa pine is a widely distributed conifer in the western United States, which includes Colorado. This tree is particularly abundant in south east Colorado and can grow in a variety of soil types.
These trees are able to survive in hot weather conditions due to their ability to store water within their trunks. They also have a thick bark that allows them withstand harsh mountain weather.
This tree can be found in mountainous regions but also in lower elevations. Ponderosa pine forests provide cover for large mammals, such as black bear and elk, while also providing key habitats for smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles.
4. Douglas Fir (pseudotsuga menziesii)
The douglas fir is a widely distributed conifer across western North America. This tree has small, flat needles and distinctive cones that have two long protruding “wings.”
Douglas firs adapt well to a variety of environmental conditions and can be found in mountainous regions all the way down to lower elevations, such as along the Front Range of Colorado.
These trees can grow into large forests that provide a habitat for many mammals and birds. Many species of tree squirrel and bird, such as the mountain bluebird, make their nests in douglas fir forests.
5. Lodgepole Pine (pinus contorta)
The lodgepole pine is an evergreen conifer found throughout Colorado, but is most abundant in central and southern parts of the state.
They are typically found growing in large forests, specifically at low to middle elevations (6,000 ft/1,829 m). Lodgepole pines are special because they are one of the longest-living trees , often reaching over 500 years old!
These trees are known for their resiliency and ability to regenerate. They also have shallow roots which make them less susceptible to winds, such as during the ice storm of January 2011 in Colorado.
However, lodgepole pines are not able to withstand harsh weather conditions for long periods of time. During the big snowstorm of 1991 , many trees fell prey to the heavy snow and low temperatures.
6. Colorado Aspen (populus tremuloides)
Aspens are found throughout Colorado, specifically within Rocky Mountain National Park . These trees are known for their unique bark which is able to grow in thin strips of new wood every year, creating a smooth outer layer.
During the fall season, aspens turn their leaves a bright yellow color and become a popular tourist attraction. Aspen groves provide habitat for many mammals, such as elk and deer, and also attract migrating birds , such as swifts and nuthatches.
7. Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia)
Narrowleaf cottonwoods are found throughout Colorado and serve as a crucial riparian ecosystem along the Front Range from the foothills to Denver and north to Fort Collins.
These trees grow in wetland areas and can tolerate very cold temperatures, often reaching up to 2 feet (0.61 m) of ice during winter storms!
Cottonwoods are also able to fix nitrogen in the soil, which makes them great trees for re-vegetating river banks.
8. Quaking Aspen (populus tremuloides)
Quaking aspen are a type of wide-spreading aspen that is found all across Colorado. These trees have a unique way of reproducing – the new generation starts from a single root, which spreads out to form a large clonal colony!
Aspen colonies provide habitat for many small mammals and birds, such as squirrels and songbirds. Quaking aspen forests are also great forage areas for elk and deer.
9. Rocky Mountain Juniper (juniperus scopulorum)
The Rocky Mountain juniper is a conifer that can be found throughout Colorado, but are more abundant in the western part of the state.
These trees have scale-like leaves which help retain water during periods of drought. Junipers also have berries that are an important food source for many mammals and birds.
10. Gambel Oak (quercus gambelii)
Gambel oak is a species of shrub that can be found throughout Colorado, but are more common in southern parts of the state.
These trees grow to about 20 feet (6 m) tall and have very small leaves. During late winter/early spring Gambel oaks produce white flowers which are attractive to bees. They also produce acorns, which provide a food source for animals such as squirrels.
11. Boxelder Maple (acer negundo)
The boxelder is a species of maple that can be found throughout Colorado. It is one of the few deciduous trees found in the state, meaning it loses its leaves during winter.
Boxelder maples are known for their compound leaves which come in threes and consist of 5-11 leaflets . Boxelders are also unique because they have seeds that drop in the fall and grow into new trees.
12. Peachleaf Willow (salix amygdaloides)
The Peachleaf willow is a sub-species of willow that can be found throughout Colorado at low to middle elevations.
These trees are known for their unique leaves, which turn bright yellow in September/October! They also have reddish bark and produce catkins (male flowers) during the winter months.
13. Catalpa (catalpa speciosa)
Catalpas are trees that can be found throughout Colorado, but mostly in the western part of the state along rivers and creeks.
These trees have heart-shaped leaves with wavy edges and provide shade in Colorado for many animals during hot summer months. Catalpas also produce fragrant flowers during June/July which attract bees and butterflies!
14. Western Hackberry (celtis occidentalis)
Hackberrys are trees that can be found throughout Colorado, but are most abundant in the western part of the state.
Western Hackberry trees are a bit more shrub-like and have leaves that look similar to a maple leaf. They produce sweet berries that are a food source for many birds and mammals, such as squirrels.
These trees have leaves with teeth on them, which give them a lacy appearance! Hackberrys produce berries during late summer months, which provide food for many animals such as birds and mammals.
15. Japanese Tree Lilac (syringa reticulata)
Japanese tree lilac is a sub-species of tree that can be found throughout Colorado, but are mostly abundant in the western part of the state.
There are several different types of this species; my particular favorite is the weeping form! Tree lilacs grow between 20 and 40 feet (6 to 12 m) tall and produce purple spring flowers.
16. Autumn Purple Seedless Ash (fraxinus americana ‘autumn purple’)
The autumn purple ash is a species of tree that can be found throughout Colorado at low to middle elevations.
These trees are known for their purple leaves, which turn a beautiful orange in the fall! Autumn purple ashes have compound leaves that consist of 7-15 leaflets. These trees produce winged fruits in late summer/early fall, which provide food for many birds.
17. Common Horse Chestnut (aesculus hippocastanum)
The common horse chestnut is a species of tree that can be found throughout Colorado at low to middle elevations.
These trees have compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets and produce large brown seed pods in the fall which contain chestnuts! Chestnuts are an important food source for many animals, especially deer! Horse chestnuts also produce white flowers during May/June, which provide a means for pollination by bees and other insects.
18. American Elm (ulmus americana)
Elms are a species of tree that can be found throughout Colorado, but are most abundant in the eastern part of the state.
They grow 50-75 feet (15 to 23 m) tall and have very unique bark! The trunk of an elm tree is fluted which creates ridges, similar to the bark of a crocodile. They also produce winged fruits in the fall that provide food for many birds and mammals!
19. American Sycamore (platanus occidentalis)
The American sycamore can be found throughout Colorado at low to middle elevations.
This species has large leaves with 5-9 lobes; it’s easy to tell them apart from other species because of these features! Sycamores are also known for their flowers during summer months, before the leaves appear. They have distinctive seed capsules that split open when mature, revealing shiny black seeds inside! These trees provide shade and fruit during summer months, both of which important for many animals.