17 Wonderful Trees That Grow In Michigan

Planting a tree is a big investment and not just because it’s hard work! With any luck, your new tree will outlive you by many years. So it’s important to choose a tree well suited to its future growing environment.

For gardeners and homeowners within the United States, one of the easiest ways to select a high-quality tree is by looking at which species are native to your state. Native trees have a natural advantage when it comes to climate, temperature, and overall health.

Here I’ve compiled a list of 17 trees that grow in Michigan. You’ll also find advice and know-how for planting each of these trees and caring for them throughout the years.

Important Facts About The Michigan Climate

The entire state of Michigan is classified as having a humid, continental climate. While all parts of Michigan have hot summers and cold winters, the southern third of the state is notably warmer than the rest of the region throughout the year.

In terms of USDA Hardiness Zones, you can find Zones 4, 5, and 6 in the state. Some maps of the Upper Peninsula also include a very small segment of Zone 3.

Michigan soil is generally of good quality and droughts are rare. When selecting trees and other plants for this area, it’s most important to choose species that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and relatively short summers.

By the way, our site is supported by visitors like you. Some links on this page may be affiliate links which means if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support! You can find out more here.

Native Trees To Grow In Michigan State

While many, many trees can be found growing throughout Michigan, it’s easy to agree that some are more significant than others. 

The species I’ve listed below represent some of the most common, attractive, and ecologically important trees in the region. They’re also some of the most recommended trees for planting in Michigan landscapes.

American Basswood

1. American Basswood

(Tilia americana)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 60-80’

Also known as an American Linden, this native tree can be found throughout the state of Michigan. It’s commonly used as a large shade tree in yards and public spaces. 

American Basswood trees have heart-shaped leaves and produce small, yellow flowers in the spring and early summer. The flowers are incredibly fragrant and attract a variety of pollinators to the area. Japanese Beetles are also extremely attracted to the scent.

This tree can thrive in a range of growing environments and soil qualities. It can also tolerate mild drought without issue.

American Hornbeam

2. American Hornbeam

(Carpus caroliniana)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial shade
  • Mature Height: 20-40’

The American Hornbeam is a colorful understory tree that tolerates intense shade with relative ease. It will grow best when it receives between 2 and 6 hours of bright sunlight per day but can also survive in total shade.

Some people may know this tree as ‘musclewood’. This odd moniker comes from the trunk and limb furrows that resemble muscle tissue. 

American Hornbeams are cold-hardy and capable of growing in damp conditions. They are also moderately drought-tolerant for short periods. 

Bigtooth Aspen

3. Bigtooth Aspen

(Populus grandidentata)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 50-75’

While this tree closely resembles its relative the Quaking Aspen, it can be easily identified by the deeply serrated leaf margins. 

Bigtooth Aspens easily adapt to almost any soil type but struggle to grow in shady areas. Established trees spread quickly by sending out new shoots from their root systems — frequent pruning is required to keep this species under control.

The Bigtooth Aspen is prized for its rapid growth rate and is often used for erosion control on recently cleared pieces of land.

Black Cherry

4. Black Cherry

(Prunus serotina)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 50-85’

This species is often touted as the most important native cherry tree in North America. Its natural range encompasses almost the entire eastern half of the continent, including Michigan.

When allowed to grow wild, Black Cherry trees can become extremely tall. Some landscapers opt to prune back these trees every few years to maintain a shrub-like growth habit. Otherwise, light pruning is all that’s needed to shape and control the canopy.

According to North Carolina State University, all parts of the Black Cherry tree except for the fruit are moderately toxic. Avoid planting this tree near grazing livestock or where pets play.

Black Gum

5. Black Gum

(Nyssa sylvatica)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 30-50’

The Black Gum tree is a slow-growing native also known as a Tupelo. It’s commonly planted as a landscape ornamental for its fall colors.

In the summer, Black Gum trees have glossy, green leaves. As the weather transitions into fall, the foliage turns yellow, orange, red, and purple. A single tree may boast all of these colors at one time.

Mature Black Gum trees have grey bark with a texture reminiscent of alligator skin.

Eastern Redbud

6. Eastern Redbud

(Cerces canadensis)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 20-30’

Though Eastern Redbuds are only native to the very southern edge of Michigan, these trees are hardy enough to survive throughout most of the state. 

The Eastern Redbud is one of the first trees to flower in the spring. The fuchsia blossoms usually appear well before the tree sends out any leaves. 

Once established, the Eastern Redbud is low-maintenance and relatively drought-tolerant. Just keep in mind that it takes a couple of years for these trees to settle in after transplanting.

Eastern Red Cedar

7. Eastern Red Cedar

(Juniperus virginiana)

  • Type: Evergreen
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 40-50’

Despite the name, this tree is not a cedar at all. Instead, the Eastern Red Cedar is a type of juniper tree.

Eastern Red Cedars are extremely widespread both in and around Michigan. Mature trees have scale-like leaves but may be more pointed when they first emerge.

While they are hardy evergreens, it’s normal for Eastern Red Cedars to turn slightly red or brown during the cooler months. 

Eastern White Pine

8. Eastern White Pine

(Pinus strobis)

  • Type: Evergreen
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 50-80’

The Eastern White Pine is an attractive, cold-hardy evergreen commonly found in Michigan landscapes. This is the largest conifer species native to the eastern half of North America. 

You can identify an Eastern White Pine by its long, blue-green needles that grow in bundles of five. The leaves are noticeably softer than many other types of pines. 

Eastern White Pines can grow in both full and partial sun but their preference varies depending on the climate. In Michigan, this tree will perform best with at least 6 hours of sun per day.

Kentucky Coffee Tree

9. Kentucky Coffee Tree

(Gymnocladus dioicus)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 60-75’

The Kentucky Coffee Tree is named such because its seeds were once used to make a hot, coffee-like beverage. But the tree has no relation to actual coffee plants. Instead, it belongs to the legume family.

Kentucky Coffee Trees are known for losing their leaves very early in the fall. The bare branches offer seasonal interest, especially around Halloween.

Paper Birch

10. Paper Birch

(Betula papyrifera)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Partial sun
  • Mature Height: 50-70’

If you’re in the market for a tree whose bark is as attractive as its foliage, a Paper Birch might be exactly what you’re looking for. 

In the wild, these trees prefer moist environments and commonly form small, multi-trunked thickets. Although the Paper Birch is classified as a short-lived tree, it is more than capable of outliving the average person.

The white bark naturally sloughs off as the tree grows and the trunk expands. You can manually harvest the bark for various projects — be careful not to remove too much at a time.

Red Maple

11. Red Maple

(Acer rubrum)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 40-60’

The easiest time to identify a Red Maple is in the fall when its leaves turn scarlet red. This tree also has red flowers, fruit, and stems throughout the year.

Maple leaves are palate, which means that they have five pointed lobes. The margins of a Red Maple leaf tend to be serrated. 

Red Maples are fast-growing and highly adaptable. They can grow in wet or dry areas and tolerate a variety of light conditions. In Michigan, these trees typically prefer moist, acidic soils.

Red Oak

12. Red Oak

(Quercus rubra)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 50-75’

Oak trees are tall, durable trees well-known for their acorns and stunning fall colors. According to Iowa State University, the Red Oak is one of the best native oak trees for the Midwest due to its adaptability and growth rate. 

Red Oak trees have muted-green leaves with pointed lobes and acorns that require two growing seasons to mature. The foliage turns orange, red, or rust in the fall.

The Red Oak works great as a shade tree in sunny areas. While these trees can survive in mild shade, they much prefer dull, bright sunlight.

Shagbark Hickory

13. Shagbark Hickory

(Carya ovata)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Mature Height: 60-80’

You can find Shagbark Hickory trees scattered throughout many Michigan forests. This species is native to most of Michigan — the Upper Peninsula and northern tip of the Lower Peninsula are excluded from its range.

The most distinct characteristic of the Shagbark Hickory (and the inspiration for its name) is the peeling bark. This gives the trunk a ‘shaggy’ appearance from even a short distance.

Shagbark Hickory flowers are insignificant but the nuts these trees produce are edible.

 Sugar Maple

14. Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Sun or shade
  • Mature Height: 60-75’

If you enjoy maple syrup for breakfast, you have the Sugar Maple to thank. These Michigan natives are the primary source of sap used to make maple syrup and also make excellent landscape trees.

Sugar Maples have fairly round canopies that turn bright red or orange in the fall. During the summertime, the leaves provide functional shade to residential lawns and public parks.

This tree will tolerate full shade but struggles when exposed to city pollution, salt, or confined spaces.


15. Tamarack

(Larix laricina)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 40-80’

Sometimes called a Larch tree, the Tamarack is a deciduous conifer. This means that the tree has needle-like leaves and cones but drops its foliage each year for winter.

Tamaracks are very cold-hardy and all-around easy to grow and maintain. Site selection is most important to this tree’s success, as it needs full sun and plenty of room.

The green needles turn vibrant yellow in the fall, adding ornamental interest throughout the year. You can take advantage of the Tamarack’s deciduous nature to provide shade in the summer but allow for full sun exposure in the wintertime.

Tulip Tree

16. Tulip Tree

(Liriodendron tulipifera)

  • Type: Deciduous
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Mature Height: 70-90’

The Tulip Tree, or Tulip Poplar, is native to the southern half of Michigan and surrounding areas. It belongs to the magnolia family and shares several things in common with these relatives.

In the spring, the Tulip Tree develops upright, cupped flowers along its branches. These flowers are usually yellow and orange and measure up to 2 inches across. 

FAQs Trees That Grow In Michigan

What Is The Most Common Tree In Michigan?

The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is Michigan’s most common tree species. These trees are found all over the state but predominantly in its northern forests. Michigan is ranked as the fifth largest producer of maple syrup, which is made from Sugar Maple sap.