Urban Trees for Use Under Utility Lines

Revised 11/93 -- Author Reviewed 2/99 HIL-8616

Thomas G. Ranney, Associate Professor
Richard E. Bir, Extension Horticultural Specialist
M. A. (Kim) Powell, Extension Horticultural Specialist
Department of Horticultural Science

 

Selecting trees for use under utility lines presents a unique challenge. It is often desirable to have trees that are large enough to provide shade, architectural effects, and ornamental features, all without interfering with overhead utility lines. Below we have listed trees that have a typical mature height of less than 30 ft. In most cases the mature height listed is very optimistic. If growing conditions are not ideal, the mature height can be considerably less than what is indicated. The height of utility lines vary considerably and care should be taken to select trees with mature sizes that are less than the overhead clearance. If possible, it is often desirable to set trees back from the utility lines. In doing so, larger maturing trees (see HIL-8638, Large Trees for North Carolina) can be selected if they are planted at a distance of 1/2 the diameter of the mature crown from the wires.

In certain cases, specific cultivars have been listed below. These cultivated varieties may have particular merit due to exceptional ornamental features or due to a unique form, size, or habit. The hardiness ratings presented conform to the USDA hardiness zone map. Zones 6,7, and 8 correspond roughly to the Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain regions of North Carolina, respectively.

All planting sites are different and no single species is suited for all sites and locations. Consideration should always be given to local soil conditions, occurrence of diseases and insects, microclimate, hardiness zone, and mature tree size when selecting any plant. Maintaining a good diversity of species in any landscape planting will help ensure that insects, diseases, and changing environmental conditions will not, at some point, result in widespread problems. Use of different species of trees for each adjacent block of street tree plantings is a good practice. As a general rule, it is desirable to have not more than 10% of the trees in an urban area of any one genus and not more than 5% of the trees of any one species.

Although this list includes many desirable plants, it is not all inclusive. Experimentation with new introductions and cultivars is encouraged.

Species

 

Cultivar(s)

Hardiness zones

Mature Ht/Wd (ft)

 

Form

Special considerations / limitations

Acer buergeranum
Trident Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

5-8

30/30

oval rounded

Very adaptable, no substantial problems.

Acer ginnala
Amur Maple

`Flame'
var. smenowii

2-7
2-7

25/25
15/15

rounded

Leaf spot and Verticillium wilt have been reported.

Acer griseum
Paperbark Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

4-7

30/25

oval

Exfoliating bark, slow grower, no serious problems. Best in well-drained sites.

Acer leucoderme
Chalkbark Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

5-9

30/25

oval rounded

Good fall color, tolerates dryness. Avoid poorly drained sites.

Acer nikoense
Nikko Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

5-7

25/25

vase/round

Good fall color, slow growing, does best on well-drained sites.

Acer palmatum
Japanese Maple

`Bloodgood'
`Crimson Queen'
`Sango Kaku'

6-8
6-8
6-8

20/20
10/13
22/18

rounded
globe
globe

Require well-drained, but moist soil conditions. Slow growing and expensive.

Acer platanoides
Norway Maple

`Globosum'

4-6

15/18

globose

Tolerates urban conditions. Shallow roots and various disease and insects are reported.

Acer tataricum
Tatarian Maple

`Rubrum'

3-7

20/15

rounded

Must train/prune to tree form, good fall color.

Acer triflorum
Three-flower Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

5-7

30/30

upright/
rounded

Good bark, foliage, and fall color. Needs low pH.

Acer truncatum
Purpleblow Maple

limited availability
of cultivars

4-8

25/20

round headed tree

Good fall color. Tolerates dry conditions. Tar spot has been reported.

Amelanchier spp.
Serviceberry

`Autumn Brilliance'
`Princess Diana'
`Robin Hill'
Spring Glory
Tradition

4-7
4-7
4-7
4-7
4-7

25/20
25/20
30/15
15/10
30/15

ovate
rounded
ovate
ovate
ovate

White flowers, good fall color, fruit is good wildlife food. Fire blight, lace bugs, and mites can be problems. Tolerates partial shade.

Caragana arborescens
Siberian Peashrub

species
`Sutherland'

2-6
2-6

20/18
20/12

oval
upright

Stress tolerant, yellow flowers (May). Leaf-hoppers can be a problem.

Cercis canadensis
Eastern Redbud

species
var. alba
`Forest Pansy'
`Flame'

4-9
4-9
6-9
5-9

25/25
25/25
25/25
25/25

spreading
spreading
spreading
spreading

Requires adequate drainage, tolerates some shade. Canker disease can be a problem.

Cercis canadensis ssp. texensis
Texas Redbud

`Oklahoma'

`Texas White'

7-9

7-9

18/18

18/18

spreading

spreading

Large flowers, thick leathery leaves. Canker diseases can be a problem.

Cornus kousa
Kousa Dogwood

`Milky Way Select'

5-8

20/20

rounded

Tolerates part shade. Good flowers, fruit, and fall color.

Cotinus coggygria
Smoketree

`Daydream'

5-8

15/15

open

Adaptable, Verticillium wilt.

Cotinus obovatus
American Smoketree

limited availability
of cultivars

4-8

25/25

rounded

Excellent fall color.

Crataegus viridis
Green Hawthorn

`Winter King'

4-7

30/30

rounded vase

Tolerates dry soils and poor drainage.

Tetradium daniellii*
Korean Evodia

limited availability
of cultivars

4-8

30/30

rounded

Adaptable, dark lustrous foliage, white flowers in July.

Heptacodium
miconioides
Seven-Sons Flower

limited availability
of cultivars

6-8

20/10

open vase

Autumn flowering, needs to be pruned/trained to tree form.

Hovenia dulcis*
Japanese Raisintree

limited availability
of cultivars

6-7

30/20

oval

No serious problems, adaptable.

Ilex spp.
Hollies

`East Palatka'
'Foster's #2'
`Nellie R. Stevens'

7-9
6-9
6-9

25/15
25/12
25/15

pyramidal
pyramidal
broad pyr.

No serious problems. Tolerates dry soils and pollution.

Lagerstroemia spp.
Crapemyrtle

'Apalachee'
'Osage'
'Sioux'
'Yuma'
'Choctaw'
`Natchez'

7-9
7-9
7-9
7-9
7-9
7-9

15/12
15/12
15/12
15/12
20/20
25/20

upright
arching
vase
vase
vase
vase

Adaptable. Aphids can be a problem on certain cultivars. See Hort. Info. Leaflet No. 8642 for more information.

Maackia amurensis*
Amur Maackia

limited availability
of cultivars

3-7

30/30

round

White flowers in June, exfoliating bark, adaptable.

Magnolia spp.
Magnolia

`Ann'
`Ballerina'
`Betty'
`Merrill'
stellata

5-8
3-8
5-8
3-8
5-8

20/15
20/20
20/15
25/25
20/15

upright
rounded
upright
rounded
rounded

Best on moist but well-drained soils.

Malus spp.
Flowering
Crabapple

`Adirondack'
`David'
floribunda
`Prairifire'
Sugar Tyme®

4-8
4-8
4-8
4-8
4-8

18/10
12/12
18/25
20/20
18/15

upright
rounded
horizontal
spreading
oval

These varieties are recommended based on superior ornamental merit as well as good disease resistance. See Hort. Info. Leaflet No. 8613 for more information.

Myrica cerifera
Southern Waxmyrtle

limited availability
of cultivars

7-9

20/20

upright/
rounded

Can be trained/pruned to a tree form. Tolerates salt. Anthracnos can be a problem.

Prunus caroliniana
Carolina
Cherrylaurel

limited availability
of cultivars

7-10

20/15

oval

Can be trained/pruned to a tree form. Leaf spot. Best on well-drained soils.

Prunus cerasifera
Cherry Plum

`Krauter Vesuvius'
`Thundercloud'

5-8
5-8

20/15
20/20

oval
rounded

Purple foliage. More tolerant of poor drainage than other Prunus spp.

Prunus mume
Japanese Apricot

over 250 cultivars

6-9

20/20

rounded

Winter flowering. Best on well-drained sites.

Prunus serrulata
Japanese Cherry

`Amanogawa'
`Shogetsu'

6-8
6-8

25/8
18/18

columnar
rounded

Best on well-drained sites. Japanese beetles, root rot.

Prunus x spp.
Hybrid Cherries

`Accolade'
Big Cis
blireiana
`Hally Jolivette'
`Newport'
`Okame'
`Snow Goose'
`Spire'

4-7
2-8
5-8
5-8
5-8
5-8
5-8
5-7

25/25
14/12
20/20
20/20
20/20
25/20
25/25
30/12

open
rounded
rounded
rounded
rounded
ovate
rounded
fastigiate

Best on well-drained sites. Japanese beetles and root rot can be problems.

Styrax japonicus
Japanese Snowbell

`Emerald Pagoda'
`Pink Chimes'

5-8
5-8

30/25
25/20

oval/round
upright

Flowers in May/June.

Syringa oblata var. dilatata
Early Lilac

limited availability
of cultivars

4-7

12/10

oval

Profuse early flowering (April), red/purple fall color.

Syringa reticulata
Japanese Tree Lilac

`Ivory Silk'
`Summer Snow'

3-7
3-7

30/20
25/25

ovate
globose

Large white fragrant flowers in June.

Thuja orientalis
Oriental Arborvitae

species

6-9

25/15

columnar

Many cultivars available. Bagworm and mites can be problems.

Viburnum prunifolium
Blackhaw Viburnum

limited availability
of cultivars

3-9

18/12

rounded

Needs to be pruned/trained to a tree form. Tolerates dry soils. Few problems.

Viburnum sieboldii
Siebold Viburnum

`Seneca'

4-7

20/15

open

Must be trained/pruned to a tree form.

Xanthoceras sorbifolium*
Yellowhorn

limited availability
of cultivars

4-6

20/15

upright

Striking white flowers (May). Tolerates high pH.

* Limited testing in North Carolina and should only be used on an experimental basis.

 

For Further Reading

Bir, R.E. 1992. Growing and propagating showy native woody plants. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Dirr, M.A. 1990. Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and use. 4th. ed., Stipes, Champaign, IL.

Gerhold, H.D., W.N. Wandell, and N.L. Lacasse. 1993. Street Tree Fact Sheets. Municipal Tree Restoration Program, School of Forest Resources, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.


Published by

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service


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