Connecticut is home to over 600 species of trees. That’s a lot of shade! Some are more common than others, so I compiled this list of the 21 most common tree varieties in Connecticut. From the white oak to the black cherry, you’ll find all your favorites here.
- 1. White Oak (quercus alba)
- 2. Red Maple (acer rubrum)
- 3. Black / Sweet Birch (betula lenta)
- 4. Eastern Hemlock (tsuga canadensis)
- 5. Northern Red Oak (quercus rubra)
- 6. American Beech (fagus grandifolia)
- 7. Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus)
- 8. Black Cherry (prunus serotina)
- 9. Pignut Hickory (carya glabra)
- 10. White Ash (fraxinus americana)
- 11. Musclewood (carpinus caroliniana)
- 12. Eastern Redbud (cercis canadensis)
- 13. Smooth Sumac (rhus glabra)
- 14. Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus)
- 15. Hawthorn (crataegus viridis)
- 16. Serviceberry (amelanchier arborea)
- 17. Tupelo/Sour Gum (nyssa sylvatica)
- 18. Sweetbay Magnolia (magnolia virginiana)
- 19. Tulip Tree (liriodendron tulipifera)
- 20. Flowering Dogwood (cornus florida)
- 21. Sugar Maple (acer saccharum)
The state of Connecticut is a green state, with over 4,451,036 acres (1.857 million hectares) of forest land. In spring and summer, the foliage in the forests is so thick that you can get lost for hours just by traveling through one county. But luckily there are lots of maps, trails and signposts to keep us on the right path.
In the Fall season the Maple and Oak trees in Connecticut turn into a distinct color. This beautiful foliage attracts visitors from all over the globe who wish to experience Fall, or Autumn, in all its glory.
Connecticut’s trees provide homes for many species who rely on them for food or shelter. They also provide materials like wood and paper, fuel to keep us warm, and leaves that help replenish the soil by holding on to essential minerals.
Every time you are walking through a forest in Connecticut take a moment to appreciate trees, they are truly beautiful specimens. I have compiled this list of most common tree varieties in Connecticut today. So, if you want to know what kind of tree you’re looking at, keep on reading.
1. White Oak (quercus alba)
The White oak, also called the Charter Oak, is the state tree of Connecticut as well as the most common tree in our state. It can grow up to 60 or 80 feet high and have a spread of 40 feet, though it is usually found with a crown width of around 30ft.
They are recognizable by their leaves which come together at a single point rather than having lobes like the red oak. They also have a velvety upper leaf surface as well as a white, furrowed bark. The acorns are small and sessile (having no stalk).
2. Red Maple (acer rubrum)
The Red Maple is closely related to the sugar maple, growing up to 80 feet in height. It has a crown width of around 35ft.
Their leaves are 5-9in long and 3-4in wide with serrate margins below a pair of sharp-tipped lobes on the stem. The bark is striking red on young trees, but often becomes dark brown with black ridges as the tree gets older. They are slow growing, taking around 25 years to reach maturity.
3. Black / Sweet Birch (betula lenta)
The Black Birch grows up to 70 feet tall with a crown width of 35ft. It is common in Connecticut, as well as New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Their leaves are alternate, simple and doubly serrate (each tooth having smaller teeth). The white bark is smooth until it finally develops small vertical cracks as the tree gets older. They are short-lived but fast-growing, taking only 10 years to reach full maturity.
4. Eastern Hemlock (tsuga canadensis)
Eastern Hemlock is the largest species of hemlock in North America, and Connecticut is no exception. It can grow up to 90ft tall, with an average crown width of 40ft. Their leaves are 5-7in long, flattened and come to a sharp point at the tip.
They are green on top and whitish-green below with smooth margins. The bark is thin and grayish-brown in color and flakes off easily.
They are very shade-tolerant, which is one of the reasons they have been heavily logged lately. They are fast-growing trees, but only live to be around 80 years old.
5. Northern Red Oak (quercus rubra)
Connecticut has no shortage of Northern Red Oak. They grow up to 80ft tall, with an average crown width of 40ft.
Their leaves are simple and lobed with a bristly surface on the underside. They have a grayish-brown bark that becomes furrowed as it grows older.
The acorns are 1in long and 0.5in wide with a pointed tip. They are a long-lived species, often living up to 300 years.
6. American Beech (fagus grandifolia)
The American Beech is known for its smooth, gray bark and triangular leaves with saw-toothed margins.
They can grow up to 75ft tall and have a crown width of 40ft. They are most easily identified in winter by their smooth, brown buds with sharp points.
Their acorns (0.5in long and 0.25in wide) are surrounded by a scaly bract. They can live up to 400 years. Besides Connecticut, it is also commonly found in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.
7. Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine is an evergreen conifer, growing up to 80ft tall with a crown width of 40ft.
Their needles grow in bundles of five and can be up to 5in long and 1/2in wide, thin and blue-green in color. The bark is gray and scaly.
The large pine cones also help identify this tree. They are 2-3in long and mature to brown. Many of our older buildings have beams made from this species because it is easy to split, peels well, and doesn’t shrink or warp as it dries.
The Eastern White Pine is the official state tree of Connecticut.
8. Black Cherry (prunus serotina)
The Black Cherry tree can grow up to 90 feet tall with a crown width of 40ft. It has dark brown bark and smooth, green leaves which are glabrous (having no hair or down on the surface). It is identified by its gray-brown buds that are covered by overlapping scales.
The tree is deciduous, its leaves turning orange in autumn before falling off the tree. It produces small, black fruits which are 0.5in across and edible for humans or birds.
9. Pignut Hickory (carya glabra)
Despite the funny name, Pignut Hickory is a serious tree. It can grow up to 100ft tall and has a crown width of 40ft.
Their bark is grayish-brown with smooth ridges which become more deeply furrowed as the tree gets older. Their leaves are alternate, pinnately compound (made up of several leaflets), and serrate (with teeth along the edge). The leaf veins are parallel.
The nuts are 0.4in long and 0.2in wide with a husk that splits into four sections when mature, revealing the hard nut inside.
10. White Ash (fraxinus americana)
The White Ash grows up to 100ft tall with a crown width of 40ft.
It has dark gray bark which becomes scaly with age. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound and blue-green in color. They can be up to 8in long (including the stalk) and 5in wide.
The fruit is also called an ash, and it splits into 2 parts when mature to reveal the winged seed inside.
11. Musclewood (carpinus caroliniana)
Musclewood is a deciduous tree with an average height of 60ft and crown width of 40ft. It’s name comes from its smooth, green bark which looks like it has muscles underneath.
Their leaves are simple, alternate, and have a prominent midrib. The seeds inside the green husks are pale brown and 1/4in long.
12. Eastern Redbud (cercis canadensis)
The Eastern Redbud is a small tree that only averages 10ft tall with a wide crown. They are easily identifiable by their heart-shaped leaves and drooping racemes (flower clusters) of purple flowers.
Besides Connecticut, the Eastern Redbud is commonly found in many parts of the United States, and the redbud is the state flower of Kentucky and the official tree of Oklahoma.
13. Smooth Sumac (rhus glabra)
Smooth Sumac is usually a small tree (25ft tall and wide) with smooth bark and compound leaves.
The leaves are alternate, trifoliate (made up of 3 leaflets), and serrate (toothed). The leaflets can be up to 2in long and 1in wide, yellow green in color, and droop down from the stems.
The smooth sumac produces tiny, yellow flowers in spring before it bears its red berries (1/4in) which mature to dark brown. At the base of each leaf stem is a double-winged fruit called a drupe.
14. Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine is a tall, long-needled pine that can grow up to 80ft tall with a crown width of 40ft.
Their needles are in bundles of 5 and can be up to 6in long and 1/2in wide, soft blue-green in color. The bark is reddish brown to gray, scaly, and flaky.
The white pine has cones which are about 6in long, 3in wide, and green to blue-violet in color. They have thin scales with sharp points. The cones open when mature to reveal the winged seeds inside.
15. Hawthorn (crataegus viridis)
The state of Connecticut also has plenty of Hawthorn trees, which are small trees that average about 15ft tall with a wide crown. Their leaves are simple, alternate, and serrate. They have slender thorns at the base of each leaf stem.
The Hawthorn produces white flowers in spring before it bears its red to dark purple berries (1/3in) which mature to black color. Each berry has a single seed inside.
This is a great tree for landscaping since it grows well in a variety of soils, doesn’t require much water to survive, and produces pretty flowers and berries. Be warned though… the thorns can be hazardous!
16. Serviceberry (amelanchier arborea)
Serviceberry trees (also called Juneberry and Saskatoon serviceberry) are small trees (8-15ft tall and wide) with compound leaves.
The leaves are simple, alternate, and pinnately compound (made up of several leaflets). The leaf edges are finely serrated. They produce white flowers in the spring before they bear their red to black berries (1/4in) which mature to dark blue. Each berry has a single seed inside.
The serviceberry is an excellent choice of tree since it grows well in dry conditions and provides shelter for wildlife such as birds and insects.
17. Tupelo/Sour Gum (nyssa sylvatica)
Tupelo, or Sour Gum, is a deciduous tree with a moderate rate of growth that can grow up to 80ft tall and 2ft in diameter.
The leaves are simple, alternate, and oblong-lanceolate (narrowly lance shaped) with an acute tip and rounded base. They have a prominent midrib on the upper side as well as pale green to white colored stomatal bands (lines) on the underside. The young leaves are slightly lustrous and wavy edged.
The tupelo produces yellow flowers in May before it bears its dark blue to black berries (1/2in) which mature to light brown color. Each berry has 2 hard seed inside.
18. Sweetbay Magnolia (magnolia virginiana)
Sweetbay Magnolia, also called Swampbay and Southern Magnolia, is a medium to large tree (30-60ft tall) with shiny evergreen leaves that are simple, alternate, ovate-oblong in shape with a pointed tip and rounded base.
The Sweetbay Magnolia flowers in spring before it bears its white berries (3/8in) which mature to dark blue-black color. Each berry has 4 or 5 hard seed inside.
This is another great choice of tree for landscaping since it tolerates wet conditions, can grow in many soil types, and provides ornamental appeal with fragrant white flowers and blue berries.
19. Tulip Tree (liriodendron tulipifera)
The Tulip Tree (also called Yellow Poplar or Tuliptree) is a large tree (70-110ft tall with a trunk diameter of 2.5-3.5ft) with tulip shaped leaves.
The leaves are simple, alternate, and 6-18in long. The leaf margin has large teeth which curl around the blossom end. The petiole has a flattened top which is yellow in color.
The Tulip Tree produces greenish-yellow flowers which later become pendulous, tuliplike, and bright orange-red in color before they bear their conic to cylindrical shaped fruit (3/4in) that mature to pale yellow. Each fruit contains 1-2 seeds.
The Tulip Tree is a great choice of tree for gardens in Connecticut since it grows well in moist conditions and can grow in a variety of soils. Also, it produces beautiful tuliplike flowers followed by orange-red fruit which birds love to eat!
20. Flowering Dogwood (cornus florida)
Flowering Dogwood, also called Redtwig Dogwood, is a small tree (15-25ft tall and wide) with compound leaves.
The leaves are simple, opposite, and decussate (alternately set at right angles to each other along an axis). They have dark green upper surfaces and pale green lower surfaces which become lustrous as they age. The leaf edges are serrated.
The Flowering Dogwood produces white flowers in spring before it bears its small red fruit (7/16in) which mature to black color. Each berry has 4-5 hard seeds inside.
Flowering dogwood is an excellent choice of tree since it grows well in shade, tolerates a variety of conditions, and provides ornamental appeal with its lovely white flowers followed by bright red berries.
21. Sugar Maple (acer saccharum)
The sugar maple is most easily recognized during the fall months when its leaves turn beautiful shades of red and gold. During the summer months they are most often mistaken for their close relative, the red maple. Sugar maples are relatively easy to identify by their form and their leaves.
Sugar maple leaves have a few features that distinguish them from other maples. They have a palmate veination with five lobes separated at the base. The teeth on the leaves are long, slender, and curve sharply down toward the leaf tip which is also drawn out into a long point. Sugar maples also tend to be tall trees with smooth, gray bark which is not as distinctive as the multi-colored bark of the red maple.