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What is your favorite understory/small tree?

Understory trees are often shaded from the light by their taller brethren, the overstory tree.  In the forest the understory is often young saplings, but there are understory specialist that often evolved to be able to use wavelengths that canopy plants cannot. Some leaf out before the canopy trees to take advantage of that sun light.  Many of these trees have been cultivated to be small trees for the landscape that are shade tolerant.  Share with us your favorite smaller tree, even if it is not strictly an understory tree, perhaps anything less than 60 feet.    

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  • dogwoods are a favorite. They are hummingbird magnets.

  • I conducted a tree preference study with local (Kansas City) experts to find the best trees specific to KC.  The list may be of value to some of you as well.  My goal is to conduct a similar study for other cities if they can access the funding to do so.


    See the KC list here:

  •   Thank you,Chris Mest for agreeing with me about the redbuds. I have seen them with purple leaves. I need to get some of those started here in OK.(Thanks for the mention on Bootsie Rose.),I am usually in Boots out there in the Roses and Redbuds! Thanks!

  • I agree with Bootsie Rose(if that is your real name!LOL! Just kidding!) I love the Eastern Redbud! They do well in the landscapes here in Chicagoland and there is even a variety with purple leaves.

  •   I LOVE the Eastern Redbud. It seeds itself,I can keep them small for a number of years with pruning and still enjoy the pretty pink flowers.It tends to grow to 30 ft. I've had no trouble growing them 10ft.Off subject ,I'd rather have trees than pasture. Folks think pastures are less work but that is not so.

  • Allegheny Chinqapin.

  • Either Amelanchier canadensis, or Amelanchier laevis

  • Magnolia virginiana. Semi-evergreen, shade tolerant, wonderfully fragrant, mid-summer blooms.

  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Pawpaw Intrigue

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