31 Most Common Trees in Kentucky

Located in the Southeastern region of the United States, Kentucky is a state that is filled with plentiful flora, fauna, and natural landscapes. In fact, the State is often dubbed as the “Bluegrass State” because of the grass pastures found all over the area there, which is also known as the Kentucky bluegrass. It has been this grass that has also supported the thoroughbred horse industry there for years.

Kentucky is undoubtedly known for its beautiful natural landscapes extending all throughout the State. It is also riddled with stunning blue rivers, streams, lakes, and national parks. Besides Alaska, Kentucky is the only State with navigable miles of a water system.

Nearly half of the land, about 12.4 acres, in Kentucky is forested, so there are many species of trees in the land. It is believed that there are 31 families of trees in Kentucky. There are also over fifty national parks in the State where you can find them at.

This article will provide a brief description of all 31 of these trees found in Kentucky, highlighting their main features, origin, and special characteristics that you should know about.

1. Tulip Tree/Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera)

Liriodendron tulipifera
Crusier Liriodendron tulipifera

This is the State Tree, which is why it is one of the most popular species you will find in Kentucky. These are large trees that grow between 100-200 feet tall and bloom into creamy yellowish bell-shaped flowers. Even the leaves of this beautiful tree have a tulip shape. The tree grows large swiftly. It is believed that they grow up to 50 feet in just 20 years!

2. White Oak (Quercus Alba)

Quercus alba
Bruce K. Kirchoff Quercus alba

A native tree of Kentucky, this is truly one of the most majestic species of shade trees that have the habit of their leaves turning into a rose-colored shade during springtime. Although this tree does not reach looming heights like the Tulip tree, it can grow up to the maximum height of a little over 100 feet. Normally, they attain a height of 50-80 feet.

Related: 8 Typical Types Of Oak Trees In Kentucky

3. Hickory (Carya) 

The Hickory tree has been harvested in Kentucky for many years. The tree has a sweet maple-like smell, and the fruit that grows out of it has been a significant part of many animals’ diets. The wood of the Hickory tree is also used for a variety of products, including fuel for heating homes.

4. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Red Maple Acer rubrum
wikimedia | Willow Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

 These are one of the most recognizable and beautiful trees you will find in Kentucky since some, or all, of their leaves, are red all year round. During some time of the year, even the flowers of the tree turn into a beautiful shade of red. You can find the Red Maple trees on both wet and dry sites throughout the State. These trees normally grow up to a height of 40 to 60 feet, but in the wild, they can be quite massive and have a height of 120 feet.

Related: 2 Beautiful Types Of Maple Trees In Kentucky

5. American Beech (Agus Grandifolia) 

American Beech
Katja Schulz American Beech

The American Beech is a graceful tree you can find in many parts of Kentucky. The leaves emerge from the buds of the tree branches as feathery tassels. Compared to European Beech, this type of species is much whiter and paler. This tree expands to a much larger size, yet it grows to a height of 50 to 70 feet. In some cases, it can be longer and grow to become 120 feet tall.

6. Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus Virginiana)

Eastern red cedar Juniperus virginiana
Nicholas A. Tonelli Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

 This is not a very tall tree since it only grows up to 16 to 66 feet tall. It also has a short trunk that is a reddish-brown color. Depending on how old the tree is, the leaves of the tree are often sharp and long. They are longer if the tree is older.

Related: 7 Cedar Tree Benefits

7. Black Gum (Eucalyptus Ovata)

Black Gum
jrfinesimages Black Gum

This is a small to medium-sized tree that you can even plant at home if you live in Kentucky. The Black Gum Tree, which has glossy and smooth branches and barks, grows up to a height of 56 to 98 feet tall. It has egg-shaped leaves, white floral buds, and conical bell-shaped fruit.

8. Sourwood (Oxydendrum Arboreum)

Sourwood Oxydendrum arboreum
Msact Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

 This is truly one of the most beautiful trees found in Kentucky that is blooming and vibrant all year round. It is also a relatively smaller tree since it grows up to a maximum height of 30 feet. During the fall season, the tree has a lovely shade of red. Moreover, in the springtime, this tree becomes even more stunning as the flowers open in mid-summer.

9. Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)

Eastern Redbud
Robert Lyle Bolton Eastern Redbud

This is a common tree you can find on the roadsides in the Shelby County of the State. The tree can be easily identified due to its gorgeous lavender-colored leaves. The Easter Redbud is a small tree that grows up to a height of 20 feet. This is why it is grown on the roadsides since it is small, easy to maintain, and looks absolutely beautiful.

10. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida)

Cornus florida.
H. Zell Cornus florida.

Flowering Dogwood is a common understory tree that is found in the wooded areas of the State. It has tiny white or pink flowers that bloom during the springtime. During the summer and fall time, the tree has lovely foliage. However, this tree is unfortunately quite vulnerable to disease and insect infestations.

Related: 12 Common Flowering Trees For Kentucky Gardens

11. Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum) 

Sassafras Tree
Sassafras Tree

This is an ideal tree that can be planted nearly anywhere. This is because it is beautiful and unique all year round. During the springtime, the yellow flowers with their aromatic leaves bloom. During summer, the leaves turn yellow, and during fall, they turn into bright red. Even dark blueberries grow on female Sassafras trees.

12. American Basswood (Tilia Americana)

Tilia americana
Virens Tilia americana

 This is a massive tree that has been used for centuries for its fragrant flowers and inner bark. It grows to become nearly 60 to 80 feet tall and has large, heart-shaped leaves. The American Basswood is more spread out when it is young but becomes rounder as it ages.

13. American Sycamore (Platanus Occidentalis)

Platanus occidentalis
ZbnKhl Platanus occidentalis

The American Sycamore, found in Kentucky, is a tree that is truly beautiful all year round. It is quite massive and bears fruits with large leaves. It has a long-form with massive branches spreading outwards. The medium-to-fast growing tree can attain a maximum height of 100 feet.

14. Black Cherry (Prunus Serotina)

Prunus serotina
Andreas Rockstein Prunus serotina

 This is the largest cherry native tree in Kentucky. You can find it in various National Parks and forests since it requires deep soil to grow and flourish. The larger black cherry trees are used for their wood to make various valuable wooden items. Though it reaches the height of 50 to 60 feet, it is not exactly an ornament plant you can grow in the house since it prefers massively deep and moist soil.

15. Black Locust (Robinia Pseudoacacia)

Robinia pseudoacacia
Andreas Rockstein Robinia pseudoacacia

 Black Locusts are relatively small to medium-sized trees that grow up to a height of 20 to 30 feet. They are an excellent option to plant in the house since they grow well on all types of soil except for extremely wet ones. They offer aromatic flowers that turn white or pink during the springtime.

16. Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra)

Black Walnut Tree
Jim Linwood Black Walnut Tree

This is quite a unique tree found in the State. It used to grow to 150 feet tall, but now there are fewer trees that are this tall. The trees have a lemon-scented fruit that has an edible nut. The wood of the Black Walnut tree is also quite valuable because it is used for fine woodworking.

17. Buckeye (Aesculus)

Buckeye Tree
Jitze Couperus Buckeye Tree

 This type of Buckeye, native to Kentucky, can flourish well in various soils than other types. They have a distinct look that features palm-shaped leaves, large yellow flowers, and uniquely shaped seeds. The lightweight but sturdy wood of the Buckeye has been used for making various items.

18. Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus Dioicus)

Kentucky Coffee Tree Gymnocladus dioicus
Bruce Marlin Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

The Kentucky Coffee Tree, which grows up to a height of 90 feet tall, is one of the most common trees in Kentucky. At one point, it was also the State tree. Now, you can find them at most open grounds, but especially on the BluegrassBluegrass. The name comes from the fact that pioneers used the seeds of the tree as a substitute for coffee.

19. Pawpaw (Asimina Triloba)

Asimina triloba
James St. John Asimina triloba

 You can find Pawpaw in various forests and woodland edges where there are various grass and plants around. The tree prefers moist, slightly acidic soil. Pawpaw is known widely due to its large fruit that has been used for years due to its nutritional benefits, including aiding in cancer therapy.

20. American Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana)

Diospyros virginiana
Plant Image Library Diospyros virginiana

 This is undoubtedly one of the most valuable trees in the State. You can find the American Persimmon in the woodland areas of Kentucky. Various species of wildlife have widely consumed the fruit from the tree. Moreover, since the wood from the tree is quite sturdy and hard, it is commonly used for making golf clubs.

21. Pignut Hickory (Carya Glabra)

Carya glabra Pignut Hickory
Plant Image Library Carya glabra (Pignut Hickory)

The Pignut Hickory was also quite a valuable tree for pioneers since the wood could be used as fuel for heating. The foliage from the tree turns into an elegant shade of white during the summers, but it is particularly beautiful during the winters when the flowers bloom. Wildlife also widely consumes Pignut’s seeds since it is quite nutritious.

22. Shortleaf Pine (Pinus Echinata)

Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
Kenraiz Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)

This is one of the most common types of pine trees that are widely found in Kentucky. The large tree extends to a height of 100 feet. The branches of the tree also extend outwards, creating a crown-shaped tree. The wood from the Shortleaf Pine provides lumber for construction, millwork, and more.

Related: 4 Prevalent Kinds Of Pine Trees In Kentucky

23. Serviceberry (Amelanchier Arborea)

Amelanchier arborea
Plant Image Library Amelanchier arborea

 This is a tree native to Kentucky that’s name refers to the memorial services that are held in the State during springtime. The Serviceberry is a medium-sized tree that has a height between 15-30 feet. However, the tallest Serviceberry in the State is 70 feet tall and is planted in McCreary County.

24. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)

Rhus typhina Staghorn Sumac
TERRY HUGHES Rhus typhina – Staghorn Sumac

 This naturally grown tree is commonly found anywhere in Kentucky. However, these trees have a reputation for being weedy because their hairy leaves fall off during most times of the year. However, it is especially attractive during the fall when its leaves turn into a bright red color.

25. Yellowwood (Cladrastis Kentukea)

Yellowwood. Cladrastis kentukea
karen_hine Yellowwood. (Cladrastis kentukea)

The Yellowwood tree is most common in Eastern Kentucky but especially found along the Kentucky River, where there is a plethora of BluegrassBluegrass. The tree produces a myriad of pea-like flowers that turn into a white shade during spring. In some areas, these flowers don a yellow color.

26. American Linden (Tilia Americana)

american linden
StillRiverside american linden

The American Linden was widely used in previous times due to its sturdy bark and aromatic flowers. It has large, heart-shaped leaves as well. Moreover, they are normally found as a cluster of small trees together unless the base of the tree is removed. In that case, it can grow to become a large singular tree.

27. Blue Ash (Fraxinus Quadrangulata)

Blue ash Fraxinus quadrangulata
Masebrock Blue ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata)

 Like the American Linden, the Blue Ash tree is a common tree in Kentucky that can either be found in small clusters or single trees. They are normally found in the Bluegrass region, along the Kentucky river, or anywhere else with a limestone soil base. Though this is a stunning tree, it is difficult to plant and look after at home.

28. Bald Cypress (Taxodium Distichum)

Bald Cypress
Chris M Morris Bald Cypress

The Bald Cypress is a common tree found on wet and moist soil, typically along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Green Rivers. The tree is found along rivers or in swampy areas since they require acidic soil to thrive. If grown on standing waters, these trees often form a unique shape, termed as ‘knees,’ that grow out of the root system.

29. Yellow Birch (Betula Alleghaniensis)

Betula alleghaniensis
Plant Image Library Betula alleghaniensis

The Yellow Birch is quite similar to the Cherry tree since they have dark-colored barks, such as red or black. However, what makes them stand out is definitely the bright yellow foliage emerging from the tree during fall. Another thing that Yellow Birch is known for is the strong wintergreen scent from it.

30. Butternut (Juglans Cinerea)

Juglans cinerea
Erwin Gruber Juglans cinerea

Often known as the Butternut or Walnut tree, this is a native walnut tree found in Kentucky. This tall tree has a height of 130 feet and is considered to be a slow-growing species of tree. The tree, however, does have a long life since it can live up to 75 years.

31. Cottonwood Trees (Populus deltoids)

These fast-growing and vase-shaped trees grow to a maximum height of 80 feet. They have dark green-colored deltoid leaves that turn into a bright shade of yellow during the fall time. The Cottonwood Trees can easily be planted and looked after since they are considered to be a low-maintenance plants. They only require an average medium to wet soil to thrive in.