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  • Jon Gallant

Identifying and Caring for Your Common North Carolina Trees

Updated: Apr 6

You might easily spot your favorite brands' logos in just a blink. While many zip through recognizing apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook without a hitch, a bunch of homeowners wouldn't know most trees in their backyards if they had name tags.

 

Apex Tree Company steps in to clear the fog. We've laid out some nifty details to get you acquainted with North Carolina's most common leafy residents.


Index

 

Loblolly Pine

Pinus taeda

 

Picture this: a lone Loblolly Pine branch against a white backdrop. This evergreen, known affectionately as the “southern yellow pine,” towers over 15 southeastern U.S. states. It's the runner-up in America's tree popularity contest, second only to the Red Maple. You'll find it chilling in lowlands and swamps, which is pretty on-brand given that "loblolly" was old-timey slang for a mud puddle. These giants are fast growers, making them top picks for pulpwood and lumber in forest farms.

 

Standing tall at 115 feet and spreading 5 feet wide, this tree's known for its gray, scaly bark and long, dark green needles. It's got some cool nicknames too – The Bull Pine for its massive stature and The Rosemary Pine for its pleasantly scented leaves.


Loblolly Pine Needles - Raleigh NC

 

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) Pine Bark Beetles

Prevention: 

Keep your pines healthy and stress-free. Ensure they're properly watered during dry periods and avoid injuring the bark.


DIY Treatment: 

For minor infestations, remove and destroy infested branches. Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap to deter beetles, following product instructions carefully.


 

Red Maple

Acer rubrum

 

Next up, the Red Maple steals the show with its leaves turning showstopping shades of red each fall. Hitting heights of 100-120 ft, its leaves are uniquely shaped with 3 to 5 lobes and sharp V-shaped spaces in between. Also known as the “swamp maple,” this tree is the most common in the U.S., stretching from one end of the East Coast to the other.

 

Thanks to its easygoing nature, the Red Maple's a bit of a territory hog, edging out oaks, pines, and others along the East Coast. Its root system is dense and fibrous, keeping other plants at bay. Got one in your yard? They're not fussy about soil but flourish in a slightly acidic, moist setting.


Red Pine Leaf - Raleigh NC

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Gloomy Scale

Prevention: 

Water regularly and mulch around the base to maintain soil moisture.

Prune-infested branches to improve tree health.


DIY Treatment: 

Use horticultural oil in the dormant season to smother scales.

Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil for active infestations, focusing on the undersides of leaves and bark crevices.


 

Oak Genus

Quercus sp.

 

Here's a fun fact: there are around 600 types of Oaks, with a good chunk found right here in North America. Oaks stand out with their spiral leaves and acorns. Known for their longevity and majestic growth, these trees are symbols of strength across several U.S. states.

 


Oak Leaf - Raleigh NC

Oak Genus (Quercus sp.) Powdery Mildew

Prevention: 

Increase air circulation by thinning dense branches. Avoid overhead watering to keep foliage dry.


DIY Treatment: 

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 gallon of water and a few drops of mild dish soap. Spray affected areas early in the morning.


 

Yellow Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera

 

Also dubbed the “tulip tree,” the Yellow Poplar is famous for its bright blooms. It's the towering champ of eastern hardwoods, especially in the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains. Despite its rapid growth, it's a bit of a delicate giant, prone to breakage in ice and snow due to its "weak wooded" nature. They love the sun and moist, slightly acidic soil but need their space because of a shallow root system.


Yellow Poplar Leaf and Bark Image - Raleigh NC

Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) Aphids

Prevention: 

Encourage natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings.


DIY Treatment: 

Spray infested leaves with a mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap. In persistent cases, use neem oil.


 

Sweetgum

Liquidambar styraciflua

 

Sweetgums can be a bit of a headache for homeowners due to their spiky fruits. But, their star-shaped leaves, turning various shades of red, purple, yellow, and orange in fall, can soften the hardest heart. They're tall, straight growers, making them excellent for wood. Sweetgums prefer the sun and non-alkaline soil and usually hang out in the Southeast's wetter spots.

 


Sweetgum Leaf and Bark Image - Raleigh NC

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) Sweetgum Ball Weevils

Prevention: 

Clean up fallen sweetgum balls to reduce breeding grounds.


DIY Treatment: 

Apply a beneficial nematode solution to the soil in early spring to target weevil larvae.


 

Hickory genus

Carya sp.

 

Hickories are the hardy slowpokes of the tree world, with 12 species calling the U.S. home. Their serrated leaves group at branch tips, and their nuts are a dead giveaway. Hickory wood is tough stuff, used for everything from tool handles to smoking meats. But, be choosy with your Hickory – while some are adaptable, others have more particular tastes in soil.


Hickory Leaf and Bark Image - Raleigh NC

Hickory (Carya sp.) Hickory Bark Beetles

Prevention: 

Avoid wounding the trees and maintain good tree health through proper watering and mulching.


DIY Treatment: 

Prune and destroy infested branches. For preventative care, apply horticultural oil to the bark in early spring.


 

Leyland Cypress

Cupressus x leylandii

 

If you're big on privacy, you've likely got a Leyland Cypress or two. These fast growers can hit 50 feet in just 15 years, making them a favorite for creating quick hedges and screens. With dark green, aromatic foliage and a penchant for shallow roots, they're a bit vulnerable in rough weather but aren't picky about soil.


Leyland Cypress Image - Raleigh NC

Leyland Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii) Seiridium Canker

Prevention: 

Ensure proper spacing for air circulation and water at the base to avoid wetting the foliage.


DIY Treatment: 

Prune out infected branches well below the cankered area. Clean pruning tools with a 10% bleach solution between cuts.


 

Bradford Pear

Pyrus calleryana

 

Despite their initially welcomed ornamental vibe, Bradford Pears have become the bullies of North Carolina's tree scene. They're tough cookies, weathering droughts, pollution, and heat with ease. But their takeover tendencies and storm susceptibility make them less than desirable.


Bradford Pear Leaf - Raleigh NC

Bradford Pear (Pyrus Calleryana) Fire Blight

Prevention: 

Minimize Fire Blight in Bradford Pear trees by choosing resistant varieties, avoiding overhead watering, and limiting nitrogen-rich fertilizer use to reduce excessive new growth.


DIY Treatment: 

For early signs of Fire Blight, promptly prune the affected branches 8-12 inches below the visible damage and sterilize pruning tools with a 10% bleach solution or alcohol between cuts to prevent the disease from spreading.



Crepe Myrtle

Lagerstroemia

 

Crepe Myrtles are the showoffs of the tree world, blooming when everyone else is off duty. Their smooth trunks and crepe paper-like flowers in white, purple, and red hues make them landscape favorites. They're pretty chill about soil and conditions, thriving best with plenty of sunlight and moist soil.

 


Crepe Myrtle leaf and bark image - Raleigh NC

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) Powdery Mildew

Prevention: 

Plant in full sun and avoid overhead watering.


DIY Treatment: 

Apply a homemade baking soda solution (as described for Oaks) or sulfur-based fungicides following label instructions.


 

River Birch

Betula nigra

 

River Birches are the cool kids, thriving in the heat and even tolerating salty soils and floods. Found near water bodies, their peeling bark and love for moist soil make them unique. They're not fans of dry spells, though, and tend to drop leaves when the going gets tough.


River Birch leaf and bark Image - Raleigh NC

River Birch (Betula nigra) Bronze Birch Borer

Prevention: 

Maintain tree vigor through mulching and adequate watering.


DIY Treatment: 

Use a systemic insecticide in spring or early summer for trees showing early signs of infestation.


 

Magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora

 

Nothing says "the South" quite like a Magnolia, with its glossy leaves and huge, fragrant flowers. They need space to flourish and don't play well with others, thanks to their shallow roots. Easy to care for, Magnolias don't need much pruning to look their best.


Magnolia tree leaf and bark image - Raleigh, NC

Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) Magnolia Scale

Prevention: 

Regularly inspect the undersides of leaves and branches.


DIY Treatment: 

Apply horticultural oil during the dormant season or neem oil when crawlers are active, following label directions.


 

American Beech

Fagus grandifolia

 

Last but not least, the American Beech is a beauty, with smooth bark and dark green leaves that turn golden in fall. These trees love the shade and rich, moist soil, marking places where the land is fertile and ready for farming.


American Beech leaf and bark image - Raleigh NC

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) Beech Bark Disease

Prevention: 

Avoid injury to the bark, which can invite disease.


DIY Treatment:

Infected trees should be assessed by a professional, but maintaining general tree health can slow disease progression.


 

There you have it – a quick dive into some of North Carolina's leafy locals. Whether you're looking to identify, plant, or just appreciate, there's a tree in this guide for you.


Conclusion of the Most Common North Carolina Trees

In the heart of North Carolina, where the greenery unfolds in its majestic splendor, Apex Tree Company stands as your guide through the diverse arboreal landscape. As a family-owned business deeply rooted in Apex, North Carolina, we pride ourselves on our expertise and dedication to preserving the beauty and health of our local trees. With a certified arborist among our owners, we bring a level of care and professionalism to each service that's hard to match.

 

Our journey across the state's most common trees in North Carolina is more than just an educational endeavor; it's a testament to our commitment to the environment and the communities we serve, including Raleigh, Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, and Fuquay Varina. From the towering Loblolly Pine to the elegant Magnolia, each tree tells a story, contributes to our ecosystem, and adds to the charm of our neighborhoods.

 

At Apex Tree Company, we understand the importance of each branch, leaf, and root. Whether you're seeking to enhance your property's aesthetic, manage tree health, or navigate the challenges of tree care, our team is equipped with the knowledge and tools to assist you. We cherish the opportunity to work with homeowners and businesses alike to ensure that our urban forest thrives for generations to come.

 

As we close this guide, we invite you to look at the trees around you with a new perspective. Recognize their beauty, understand their challenges, and remember that Apex Tree Company is here to help with all your tree service needs. Let's nurture and protect North Carolina's awesome trees together, ensuring they remain an enduring legacy of our natural heritage.

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