Suitable Trees for Palos Park

We are looking for trees for our neighbors in Palos Park to plant in their yards. We want ones with a high survival rate. Therefore, we will recognize some prevailing conditions in the area. First, the area is mostly clay, alkaline soil. Second, our trees will come in contact with road salt. Third, we are an old growth woods and so have a lot of shade. Because we are an urbanized woodland, we are dryer (with pavements, roads and roots) than the open countryside. So fourth, we must consider drought resistance in our choices.

We also are aware of the beauty of the native trees that are growing in Palos Park. We know that time has proven that they can withstand the negative forces at work here. So, we are going to list trees for Palos Park that are native (in most cases) and that have proven that they can grow here. We will also list some cultivars from natives and three exotic trees from China.

Large Trees

  • Coffeetree, Kentucky, Gymnocladus diorira. Native. This is an average growing large tree of good longevity. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay and salt. The doubly compound leaves with large leaflets, the short thick legumes (beans), and the thick twigs readily identify this tree.
  • Gingko, Gingko Biloba. This tree is a native of China and is called the “fossil tree”. It was growing at the time of the dinosaurs and is not propagated in nurseries. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil, and salt. It is noted for its fan shaped leaves and beautiful yellow fall color. Male trees are preferred because the fruit is offensive to some. The tree has been grown successfully in this area. The Blue Island library has some gorgeous specimens in their landscape.
  • Hackberry, Common, Celtis occidentalis. Native. It is a large, slow-growing tree of good longevity. It can tolerate drought, poor drainage, clay soil, but not salt. It closely resembles the American Elm. It has the vase shape. It has interesting “warty” bark and good fall color.
  • Hickory, Bitternut, Carya cordiformis. Native. It is a large, fast-growing tree of good longevity. It can tolerate drought, poor drainage, clay soil, and salt. It has interesting bark.
  • Hickory, Shagbark, Carya ovata. Native. This is a large, slow-growing tree of good longevity. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil, and salt.
  • Honeylocust, Thornless, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis. Native. This is one tough tree. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil, and salt. It is a large, fast growing tree with moderate longevity. The leaflets are small - do not require raking. It is a bright yellow in fall. The Honeylocust has become a favorite street tree.
  • Linden, American (Basswood), Tilia americana. Native. This is a large tree with a moderate growth rate and long life. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil, but not salt. It is a strong straight, oval shaped tree, frequently multi-stemmed.
  • Oak, Burr, Quericus macrocarpa. Native. This is a hardy tree, well suited to the Prairie State. It becomes a large tree (120’, 5’ trunk diameter) and enjoys a long life. It can tolerate drought, poor drainage, clay soil and salt. It has been shown that it can withstand prairie fires due to a thick corky bark. The leaves and acorns are distinctive. The leaves have broad lobes above deep sinuses and little lobes below. The large fringed acorns are also distinctive. Often called the “Halloween Tree” because the leaves resemble witches and the branding - crooked and grotesque. A quick look at a bare leaf burr oak in winter is a spooky and foreboding sight. Growth rate is moderate.
  • Oak, Chinquapin, Quercus muehlenbergii. Native. This is a slower growing large, long lived native oak. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil, and salt. It has good fall color. This tree is enjoyed for its unusual non-typical oak leaves. They are many lobed, small with needle like tips. The acorns are small and born on a short stalk of two.
  • Oak, Hills, or Northern Pin Oak, Quercus ellipsoidalis. Native. A slower growing, large oak of good longevity, it is a pyramidal, like its relative, the Pin Oak, but it is more tolerant of clay, salt and poor drainage. It has good fall color.

Medium Size Trees

  • Dogwood, Pagoda, Cornus alternifolia. Non-native. Slow growing small tree (up to 20’ trunk 3″), ornamental, horizontal branching. Plant with white flowers in May and June and blue (1/3″) berries in October along with good fall color. This is the only dogwood with alternate leaves.
  • Ironwood, (Hophornbeam), Ostrya virginiana. Native. It is a small tree (35’) that can grow in the shade of large trees. It tolerates drought, poor drainage, clay soil and salt. You need a mal and female tree to have the interesting fruit. Fall color is yellow. Ironwood can be used as a screen because the Elm like leaves stay on all winter.
  • Maple. Amur, Acer ginnala. Non-native. This is a short, often multi-stem shrub or tree from the cold climate of Mongolia. It can tolerate clay and sand and salt. It is noted for its red and yellow fall color and interesting fruit. Growth rate is slow.
  • Pawpaw, Common, Asimina triloba. Native. This shrubby tree (rarely 40’ tall) forms thickets through root suckers. It tolerates clay soil and salt. The large smooth edge leaves are attractive and turn yellow in fall. It is an under story tree liking shade and soil moisture content. The scratchy bark is interesting. The maroon flowers turn into greenish-yellow thick fruit. These are delicious when fully ripe. Growth rate is slow.
  • Plum, Wild, Prunus americana. Native. This is a small tree, slow growing which loves the sun. It can tolerate clay soil and salt. It has high ornamental interest because of its fall color, white or pink flowers, which appear just as or before the leaves come out, and it has juicy and sweet fruit.
  • Redbud, Cercis canadensis. Native. This is a small tree (35’) which grows wild in the under-story on the edge of the woods. The tree has a roundish top. Its ornamental value is in its pinkish purple flowers, which appear before the leaves emerge. The flowers are edible raw or better fried. It likes to be planted with close neighbors. It is intolerant of poor drainage and salt.
  • Serviceberry, Shadblow, Amelanchier arnorea. Native. It is a small tree (40’). It is prized for its bark, flowers, fruit and fall color. It does badly in areas of poor drainage. Otherwise, it tolerates clay soil and salt. It is called shadblow because it blooms just as the shad (fish) run.
  • Serviceberry, Allegheny, Amelanchier laevis. Native. A small tree (40’). It is prized for its bark, fruit, and fall color. Its flowers appear with the leaves in showy drooping clusters. The berries can be made into pies or dried like raisins. All kinds of wildlife eat the fruit.
  • Arborvitae, Oriental, Thuja orientalis. Native. A slow growing, medium sized tree with flat, compressed scale-like leaves. A true native, it thrives in wet, clay soil. Landscapers use this tree to form a tall screen-like hedge in urban landscapes with little room. It is called “the tree of life” because a tea made from its leaves would cure scurvy (lack of vitamin C) among the early settlers.
  • Juniper, Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana. Native. Grows slowly to be a medium size tree. It likes full sun and is drought resistant. It is from this tree that we get juniper berries. It is spreading naturally along our highways. It is prone to a rust disease; but disease resistant forms are available.
  • Pine, Eastern White, Pinus strobus. Native. This specimen becomes a tall, long-lived tree very quickly. It should be planted with the root ball up high because like most evergreens, it does not tolerate poor drainage. This tree does not tolerate salt and should be planted away from roads that are salted. The white pine is feathery in appearance and forms a transparent screen.
  • Pine, Austrian (Black), Pinus nigra. Non-native. Grows into a broad, compact, dense tree and might be preferred to the white pine. It is tolerant of salt and will provide a denser screen. Growth rate is moderate.


Below is a listing of cultivars taken from native trees, which have been designed especially for the Chicago urban league.
  • Accolade Elm
  • Freeman Maple
  • Marmo Maple
  • New Harmony Elm
  • Valley Forge Elm