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Medium Deciduous Trees

Trees can live for an exceptionally long time, especially if they are given the right environment to perform at their best. Deciding on a tree species in haste isn’t advised because they can either provide years of purpose and beauty or years of continual maintenance and regret. Selecting a tree for the home landscape should be based on growth potential of the tree itself, along with proven hardiness, freedom from pests/diseases, and ornamental value.

Trees that shed or drop their leaves on a annual basis are classified as deciduous. Deciduous trees can be found all over the world. In temperate climates, deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter on account of below freezing temperatures, lower light intensity, and thus, the lack of photosynthetic activity. In more tropical climates, deciduous or the shedding of leaves may be more dependent on the variations of rainfall; the process of abscission allows plants to shed plant parts for increased survival in drought.

Common examples of deciduous trees found throughout the Iowa landscape are oak, maple, linden, hickory, honeylocust, willow and birch. A variety of forms (oval, vase-shaped, pyramidal, etc.), purposes (shade, flowering, fruiting), and sizes (small, medium, and large) of deciduous trees are available in the nursery trade today. The Arboretum showcases two separate collections of deciduous trees based on their growing height. In this particular case, medium deciduous trees are those that grow 25 to 40 feet tall. Keep in mind that different hardiness zones, soil conditions, and pest pressure could alter a tree’s growth potential. According to the USDA, Iowa occupies parts of Zone 4b (northeast and northwest sections) and Zone 5b (southeast section), but the majority of Iowa is in Zone 5a (central section, hardy to -20°F).

The Medium Deciduous Trees collection covers a large area in the center of the arboretum’s main campus. These trees are very suitable for home landscapes due to their intermediate size; providing shade and shelter to houses, patios, private yards, streets, and curb-sides. It is important to note that varying tree forms, leaf types, and branching angles provide different levels of shade. A medium deciduous tree such as honeylocust will provide a more filtered, dappled shade effect compared to the dense shade of a three-flowered maple.

This collection was severely impacted by the August 2020 derecho and many trees have been removed. The plant list was assembled before the derecho and does not reflect those that were removed or have since been planted. Please also note that not all trees in this collection are classified as medium deciduous trees. Accession numbers with a asterisk (*) will mature as large deciduous trees in the Iowa climate.


Click for list of trees in this collection in 2019.

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