Nathan’s Best Picks for Columnar Street Trees

By Nathan Lawrence—ISA Cerified Arborist, OSU Master Gardener and owner of Good News Tree Service, Inc. at in Wilsonville, Oregon

The following is my list of the best street trees for small front yards that have space for only narrow, non-spreading street trees. All of these trees grow well in the western valleys of the Pacific Northwest, are not messy, and have little or no problems with diseases based on my decades of experience as a tree care provider and plant health care expert. You can search online for photos of these trees to see what they look like.

  • Dogwood—Hybrid White Dogwood (Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’): This unusual hybrid is a cross between our native Western dogwood, Cornus nuttallii, and the Eastern North American species, Cornus florida. The large (four inch diameter), bold flowers open in early spring and have broad overlapping bracts (false petals) that are gleaming white and abundant against a dark green foliage making for a striking display. The tree has a narrow, upright and rather pyramidal in form, with slightly drooping branching. It has shown resistance to dogwood anthracnose, a common foliage disease. This tree grows to height of 20 to 30 feet and a width of 15 to 20 feet. The leaves turn reddish pink in the autumn and small red berries decorate its branches in the winter. The tree can tolerate full sun to partial shade.
  • Dogwood—Starlight Dogwood (Cornus x nuttalii ‘Starlight’): A close relative to Venus is the variety Starlight® which is the result of crossing Korean dogwood with the Pacific dogwood. 35 feet high and 20 feet wide Resistant to anthracnose. Abundance of 4-5” creamy white flowers create a showy spring display against its deep green foliage. Orange strawberry-like fruit in early fall, followed by a show of red fall color. Resistant to anthracnose. Full sun to partial shade; size 25-30 feet tall by 15-20 feet wide.
  • Ginkgo—Sky Tower Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba ‘JN9 Sky Tower’): Rich green foliage. Narrow crown. Brilliant yellow fall color. Height 20 feet by 6 feet wide. Make sure you plant only male trees. Female trees produce a messy and nasty-smelling fruit.
  • Hornbeam—American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana): This North American native grows to about 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It is slow-growing, deciduous, small to medium-sized with an attractive globular form. It prefers moist soil and is not drought tolerant.
  • Hornbeam— (Carpinus Lucus pyramidal): Narrow, slender growing habit. Dense canopy. 16 to 18 foot height. Attractive yellow, green catkins in the spring.
  • HornbeamUpright European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘fastigiata’): Dense green foliage with golden fall color. Height 40 feet and width 20 feet.
  • Maple—Crimson Sentry (Acer platanoides ‘Crimson Sentry’): This tree grows to a height of 25 feet and width of 15 feet. It has purple leaves, which turn maroon to reddish bronze leaves in the fall. Oregon State University says of this tree, “In western Oregon the trees appear rather susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease. This is especially noticeable in mid-to-late-summer. The affected leaves become a dull maroon color followed by a white-gray color, as if dusted with powdered sugar. One authority suggested that Crimson Sentry™ should not be recommended for mass or street plantings ‘unless a ghostly pallor on purple foliage is actually wanted.’”
  • Maple—Karpick Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Karpick’): This columnar red maple grows to a height of 45 feet tall and 20 wide with red-orange foliage in the fall.
  • Oak—Columnar English Oak (Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’) and Crimson Spire Oak (Quercus robur x Q. alba ‘Crimschmidt’): These trees are slow to moderate growing reaching a height of 50 to 60 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They are extremely adaptable and very tolerant of urban conditions. The trees tolerate drought, but do best with occasional irrigation.
  • Oak—Pacific Brilliance Pin Oak (Quercus palustris ‘Pacific Brilliance’): The crown height is 50 feet and the crown spread is 20 to 25 feet at maturity.
  • Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum): This tree grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet and width of 12 to 20 feet. Its crown is oval to oval rounded. Tree is noted for its unique copper orange to cinnamon reddish brown peeling bark and its showy orange to red colored leaves in the fall.
  • Stewartia—Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia): This slow-growing tree grows to crown height of 12 to 40 feet and a crown spread 10 to 25 feet with white camellia-like flowers that bloom in the late spring. Several smaller varieties of stewartia are available too (e.g. Korean stewartia [Stewartia koreana] and tall stewartia [Stewartia monadelpha]).
  • Tupelo, Afterburner (Nyssa sylvatica ‘David Odom’): This tree grows moderately fast to a height of 35 feet and a crown spread of 20 feet. The shape of its crown is upright and pyramidal to oval and is symmetrical and uniform. Its high gloss foliage is bright green tuning bright red in the fall. It has a blue-black berry-like fruit that’s less than a half-inch in size.

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