23 Most Common Trees in Nebraska

Nebraska is known for its vast, rich landscapes that are absolutely teeming with wildlife and vegetation. There are approximately 10,000 plant species native to the state of Nebraska and one such example is the eastern cottonwood (populus deltoides). This tree serves as a keystone species that helps support not only Nebraska’s ecology, but also its economy.

The Nebraska state tree is the cottonwood. This tree can be found lined along Nebraska’s rolling rivers and streams. Cottonwood trees provide food, shelter and habitat to a large number of birds. In Nebraska, there are roughly 60 species of birds that have been observed nesting in cottonwood trees alone!

Although Nebraska does not have a designated Nebraska state flower, Nebraska’s state tree is often regarded as the Nebraska state flower because of its importance to Nebraska ecology.

If you find yourself in Nebraska and need a little help identifying trees in the state, this article describes the most commonly found trees with a photo for each. Hopefully this will help you figure out what kind of tree you’re looking at.

1. Eastern Cottonwood (populus deltoides)

Eastern Cottonwood
Nick Varvel Eastern Cottonwood

The Cottonwood is Nebraska’s state tree. This is also one of the most common trees in the state. Eastern cottonwood trees are characterized by their long, narrow leaves and diamond-shaped bark.

Cottonwood trees are also known for their fast-growing nature. In fact, eastern cottonwoods can grow up to a foot in height per day during the summer.

Eastern Cottonwood trees produce a large amount of seeds that are important to both waterfowl and songbirds. Not only does this tree provide for wildlife, but it also provides lumber and paper pulp.

2. Eastern Redcedar (juniperus virginiana)

Juniperus virginiana
Plant Image Library Juniperus virginiana

Nebraska is not a place where you’ll find a lot of cedars, however the eastern redcedar can be found in select areas of the state. The eastern red cedar is a coniferous evergreen that is characterized by its mature size and reddish-brown bark. Birds commonly use this tree for nesting purposes.

This is actually a non-native species to Nebraska, but it can be found in the eastern and northwestern parts of the state. Red cedar trees need full sun and well-draining soil to grow and thrive in Nebraska’s harsh climate.

3. Ponderosa Pine (pinus ponderosa)

Pinus ponderosa
Forrest and Kim Starr Pinus ponderosa

Nebraska is not a place where you’ll find many pine trees, however the Ponderosa pine is one of Nebraska’s most common types of trees. These large pines are characterized by their long needles and lightweight cones.

Ponderosa pine trees can be found in Nebraska’s western and central regions and typically grow at high altitudes. These trees tend to adapt well to a variety of soil types and terrain, making them great for planting along riparian areas.

4. Green Ash (fraxinus) 

Green Ash
Katja Schulz Green Ash

Nebraska is home to a large number of ash trees. The green ash is one such species that can be found in the state, particularly near waterways. Green ash trees feature long, thin leaves and a prominent stem.

These trees also provide important ecological benefits such as erosion control and woodpecker habitat. Green ash trees are one of the most important commercial hardwoods in Nebraska, and they grow quickly, sometimes sprouting up to six feet or more in height per year!

5. Hackberry (celtis occidentalis)

Celtis occidentalis
Adam Shaw Celtis occidentalis

Hackberry trees are another common type of tree spotted in Nebraska. Hackberry trees look very similar to elm trees and feature leaves that come in two different shapes: lance-like and ovate.

Hackberry trees feature twigs with corky ridges and grow from 30 to 50 feet in height. These trees are important to Nebraska ecology because they provide both food and shelter for wildlife.

6. Red Mulberry Tree (morus rubra) 

Morus rubra
Frank Richards Morus rubra

Red mulberry trees are a type of deciduous tree with tough bark and broad leaves. These trees can grow up to 60 feet in height and feature red mulberry fruits (hence the name of the tree). These fruits are eaten by birds and other types of wildlife. Red mulberry trees can be found in Nebraska’s central and eastern regions. The Red Mulberry is also common in Illinois and lots of other regions in North America.

7. Bur Oak (quercus macrocarpa)

Quercus macrocarpa Bur Oak
Plant Image Library Quercus macrocarpa (Bur Oak)

Bur oak trees are the state tree of Iowa. You can also find these trees growing in Nebraska, particularly along waterways. Bur oaks have a broad crown and characteristically grow from 80 to 100 feet in height. Bur oaks are one of Nebraska’s most valuable hardwood trees, and they are often used for lumber.

The Bur Oak is a very common type of Oak tree found in lots of US states.

8. American Elm (ulmus americana) 

Ulmus americana.
Stavast22 Ulmus americana.

One of Nebraska’s most common shade trees is the American elm. These trees do not grow taller than 60 feet and feature a smooth bark that is shiny when it is young. American elms are easy to identify because of their broad, oval leaves that feature saw-toothed edges.

9. Honeylocust (gleditsia triacanthos)

Gleditsia triacanthos Honeylocust
Plant Image Library Gleditsia triacanthos (Honeylocust)

The honeylocust tree is another common shade tree in Nebraska. Honeylocust trees are fast growing, producing seeds that are consumed by both insects and birds. These trees are often planted in parks and along highways because they can grow to be fairly large. Besides Nebraska the Honey Locust is also prevalent in Iowa.

10. American Basswood (tilia americana) 

Tilia americana
Virens Tilia americana

American basswood trees are one of the largest types of Nebraska trees, growing up to 100 feet in height. These large trees can be identified by their leaves, which are heart-shaped and feature a double row of teeth along the edge.

11. Black Walnut (juglans nigra) 

Black Walnut Tree
Jim Linwood Black Walnut Tree

Black walnut trees are another type of large tree that can be found in Nebraska. These trees feature compound leaves with five to seven leaflets and produce green fruits that turn black when they ripen. Black walnut trees can be found in Nebraska’s eastern and western regions.

12. Aspen Trees (populus tremuloides)

Populus tremuloides
Mitch Barrie Populus tremuloides

Aspen trees are a type of poplar tree that grow in the state’s western region. Aspen trees have smooth bark and characteristically grow in large patches. Aspen trees are fast growing, but they do not last long.

13. Boxelder Maple (acer negundo)

Box Elder Maple acer negundo
Public Domain Box Elder Maple (acer negundo)

Boxelder maple trees are one of Nebraska’s most common trees and can be found throughout the state. These trees are identified by their large compound leaves that feature three or more leaflets. The leaves of these trees turn yellow in the fall, and they produce small fruits that are attractive to birds.

14. Ohio Buckeye (aesculus glabra)

Ohio Buckeye Aesculus glabra.
Daderot Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra).

Ohio buckeye trees are a type of deciduous tree that grow in Nebraska’s western region. Ohio buckeye trees feature compound leaves and produce abundant seeds and nuts. This tree is the state tree of Ohio because of its buckeye nut, which has a similar shape to a buck’s eye.

15. Downy Hawthorn (crataegus mollis) 

Crataegus mollis
Magnus Manske Crataegus mollis

Downy hawthorn trees are Nebraska’s only native hawthorn tree. These trees can be identified by their downy looking bark, jagged leaves, and bright red berries. Downy hawthorn trees are prized by homeowners because they produce abundant fruit that is eaten by both humans and animals.

16. Kentucky Coffee tree (gymnocladus dioicus)

Kentucky Coffee Tree Gymnocladus dioicus.
Leonora (Ellie) Enking Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus).

The Kentucky coffee tree is one of Nebraska’s most unique trees. This tree has compound leaves, flowers that are often fragrant, and fruit pods that look like beans. Kentucky coffee trees grow in the state’s eastern and central regions and can become quite tall.

17. Rocky Mountain Juniper (juniperus scopulorum)

Rocky Mountain Juniper juniperus scopulorum
J Brew Rocky Mountain Juniper (juniperus scopulorum)

The rocky mountain juniper is a type of evergreen tree that only grows in the state’s western region. These trees are low growing, reaching between 5 and 20 feet in height. Rocky mountain junipers can be identified by their blue-green needles, which are arranged in threes on the branches.

18. Sycamore (platanus occidentalis)

Sycamore Tree
Amanda Slater Sycamore Tree

The sycamore tree is another common Nebraska shade tree that can grown to be very tall. Sycamores are identified by their rough bark that is similar to the bark of an elephant, their large compound leaves that feature five leaflets, and their brown fruits that grow in hanging clusters.

19. Black Cherry (prunus serotina) 

Prunus serotina
Andreas Rockstein Prunus serotina

Black cherry trees are Nebraska’s only native cherry tree. These trees are common throughout the state and feature simple leaves with serrated edges. Black cherry trees produce small fruits that are eaten by a wide variety of animals.

20. Peachleaf Willow (salix amygdaloides)

Peachleaf Willow salix amygdaloides
Matt Lavin Peachleaf Willow (salix amygdaloides)

The peachleaf willow is a type of small tree that can be found in Nebraska’s eastern region. Peachleaf willow trees are identified by their leaves, which are long and narrow with serrated edges. This tree produces small fruits that are eaten by various birds.

21. Black Locust (robinia pseudoacacia)

Robinia pseudoacacia
AnRo0002 Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

The black locust is a type of flowering tree that grows throughout the state and is in fact native to Nebraska. This beautiful tree can be identified by its compound leaves with 7 to 13 leaflets, yellow flowers that grow in ball-like clusters, and small seed pods that contain two seeds.

22. Eastern Hophornbeam (ostrya virginiana)

Ostrya virginiana
David J. Stang Ostrya virginiana

Eastern hop-hornbeams are a type of deciduous tree that grow throughout the state. These trees have compound leaves, small nut-like fruit, and a smooth gray bark. These trees grow to be 50 feet tall, but they can live 200 years or more.

23. Umbrella Tree (schefflera actinophylla)

Schefflera actinophylla
Forest and Kim Starr Schefflera actinophylla

The umbrella tree is a member of the aralia family and grows wild in Nebraska’s southeastern region. Umbrella trees can reach a height of nearly 150 feet and feature compound leaves with 7 to 11 leaflets on each branch. These trees produce small berries that are eaten by such animals as ruffed grouse, pheasants, and songbirds.