5 Most Common Trees in the U.S

Some places have more trees around than others, but no matter where in the U.S. you live, chances are good that some trees are around.  Trees produce oxygen, prevent erosion, provide a place for critters to live, and they’re just nice to look at.  What are the most common tree species in the USA?

5. Quaking Aspen, or Populus tremuloides

The state tree of Utah is the “quaking aspen”, also known by many other names.  Although it only makes up about 3% of the trees in the United States, that’s still about 9 trillion trees!  Quaking aspen thrive in colder climates, but they spread all over the U.S. from south to north — in fact, they’re the most widely distributed tree species in all of North America.  The word “quaking” refers to the way their leaves shake in the wind. Aspen wood is not particularly useful for lumber or firewood, but it’s so easy to find that we still use it a lot.

4. Douglas Fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii, usually known as the douglas fir, is a coniferous tree that mostly grows in the Northwest — Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, along with some more nearby areas. They’re used for softwood lumber in many construction projects and are quite popular as Christmas trees — resulting in them being farmed on tree plantations.  There are almost 10 trillion of these trees growing in the U.S.

3. Sweetgum or Liquidambar

Sweetgum is a deciduous tree with pretty red leaves and sweet-smelling sap, and there are over 13 trillion of them in the USA.  Sweetgum is a hardwood and was once popular for carving furniture; today the lumber is mostly used for less pretty boards. Dried sweetgum sap is often used as a form of chewing gum, especially in the American South, but their hard, spiky seeds are kind of painful and annoying when they scatter and cover the sidewalks.

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2. Loblolly Pine – Pinus taeda

The second most common tree in the U.S. is the oddly-named “loblolly pine”, at just over 19 trillion trees.  They’re a kind of pine tree, most common in the South, and their name has to do with their preferred habitat — they like lowlands and swamps.  (Loblolly is old British slang for thick porridge, and in the South, it’s used to refer to bogs and muddy areas.) Interestingly, several loblolly pine seeds were sent to the Moon and back via one of the Apollo missions, and are now happily growing back here on Earth; they’re known as “moon trees”.

1. Acer rubrum – aka Red Maple

At almost 22 trillion trees, the red maple is believed to be the most common tree in the U.S.  It’s so common partly because it’s very adaptable — thanks to its flexible root systems, it can thrive in a variety of climates, from near-desert to swamps.  It’s also common because it looks nice and produces maple syrup and good lumber, so humans tend to plant more of it wherever they go (luckily, it’s easy to transplant).  Red maples are found as far south as Texas and Florida and as far north as Canada.  We have to be careful, though, because the leaves are toxic to horses.

No matter what tree you like best, it seems like we can always use more.  Remember, if we plant enough trees in the near future, we might even be able to reverse global warming … let’s get busy!

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