SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — If you live in Sioux Falls, chances are you’ve seen some of the trees in parks and along city streets disappear. More often than not, the reason for this removal is a little pest called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).
The EAB is a tiny green beetle that arrived as an invasive species from China and has so far killed more than 100 million ash trees in the United States.
In 2018, due to the threat of the EAB, the City of Sioux Falls began a preemptive process to removing ash trees in city parks and properties, as well as those in the public right of way, such as in the boulevard in front of houses and apartments.
According to Kelby Mieras, the city’s Park Operations Manager, there were around 22,000 ash street trees in the community when the city began it’s process, which is expected to be completed in 2028.
While trees in the boulevard are removed by the city, the work and cost of replanting is up to the property owner. When it comes time to replant, the city has a recommended list of ‘street trees’ that you can plant between your sidewalk and the street.
With fall now in effect, many are eagerly awaiting the changing colors of trees, and if you’ve lost an ash tree on your property, you may be wondering which of the recommended trees on the city’s list may look best in its fall foliage.
To get some input, KELOLAND News spoke with Wayne Larsen, Owner of Country Acres Tree Farm, to find out more about the following trees:
- Northern Catalpa
- American Yellow Wood
- Black Locust
- Kentucky Coffee Tree
- Thornless Honey Locust
- Bur Oak
- Heritage Oak
- Northern Pin Oak
- Northern Red Oak
- Swamp White Oak
- Ohio Buckeye
- Black Walnut
- Shagbark Hickory
- Black Cherry
- Amur Corktree
- American Linden
- Little Leaf Linden
- Silver Linden
- Common Hackberry
- Elm Hybrids
- Japanese Elm
- Wilson Elm
According to the city list, this tree is slow growing with a short lifespan. It has a round shape and grows to a height of 20-40 feet.
Larsen tells us that when it comes to Ironwood trees, there are not many in the area. When it comes to color, he says there is not much as the leaves change.
The Northern Catalpa is listed on the city list as an oval-shaped tree with a medium growth rate and a short lifespan, which tends to grow to a height of greater than 40 feet.
Larsen points out that this tree has long seed pods, which may lead to some need for clean-up throughout the season. He says that while this tree has large leaves, they will change from green to yellowish, unimpressive shade.
The American Yellowwood, according to the city, is a vase-shaped tree that produces 2-3 inch seed pods. It has a medium growth rate, and has a long lifespan, growing to a height of 20-40 feet.
When it comes to fall colors, Larsen says the tree shows bright yellow leaves, making it a clear contender for a perfect fall tree.
The city list describes the Black Locust as an oval-shaped tree with a fast growth rate and a short lifespan. It produces 2-4 inch seed pods and grows to a height of more than 40 feet.
Larsen says the leaves of the Black Locust also change to yellow, though in a less bright fashion than the American Yellowwood. On distinct advantage of the Black Locust that Larsen points out is its small leaflets, which can make autumn maintenance such as raking and mulching easier.
Thornless Honey Locust:
The Thornless Honey Locust is seedless in many varieties, and the city list describes it as a fast-growing tree with a medium lifespan, which grows to a height of greater than 40 feet.
Larsen says this tree is similar to the Black Locust tree, with yellow colors and similarly small leaflets.
Kentucky Coffee Tree:
The Kentucky Coffee Tree, according to the city, is a medium growth, medium lifespan tree which grows to a height of greater than 40 feet.
Larsen says this tree is similar to the Locust trees, with slightly muted yellow colors. When considering a Kentucky Coffee Tree, Larsen says to get the Espresso variety, which has been bred to be seedless, reducing the mess that can be made by non-seedless varieties.
There are five types of Oak trees listed on the city list, all of which have a medium to slow growth rate and long lifespans.
Larsen says the Bur Oak and the Heritage Oak both present rusty red foliage in the fall, though he notes that the Heritage Oak is ‘not spectacular’ in its colors.
The Northern Pin Oak and Northern Red Oak both have reddish fall colors, but Larsen mentions reasons to use caution with both.
The Northern Pin Oak, he says, struggles to grow in the clay rich soil surrounding Sioux Falls, though he notes that certain areas of town with rich soil, such a McKennan Park, are fertile ground for these trees.
Larsen describes the Northern Red Oak as having a reddish-purple coloration, but does says he does not recommend it as a boulevard tree due to the width to which it grows. The city list notes that the Northern Red Oak grows to a width of 45 feet, and Larsen says the hanging branches will require large amounts of upkeep.
The final Oak on the list is the Swamp White Oak. Larsen says that unlike the other oaks, the Swamp White Oak has a yellowish-brown coloration in Autumn as opposed to a reddish hue. As a plus, he notes that it grows well in the soil around Sioux Falls.
The city list notes that the Ginko tree is seedless in many varieties, that it has a long lifespan with a medium growth rate which will grow to more than 40 feet.
Larsen says that he has been growing these trees for a few years, and that in his experience they can be difficult to start, but can be grown in the Sioux Falls area. He says he has seen these trees planted more frequently as the city pushes for greater diversity in its tree population.
He says the Ginko has a unique leaf shape, and that they turn to a bright yellow in the Fall.
As listed on the city list, the Ohio Buckeye grows slowly and has a medium length lifespan. It produces 1 inch nuts and grows to a height of 20-40 feet.
Larsen says that while his not the most familiar with this particular tree, he has found it difficult to transplant. He says that in the Fall it has an orange coloration.
The Black Walnut tree produces 1.5-2 inch walnuts and grows fast with a long lifespan. Larsen says that this tree, which grows to over 40 feet tall, does not make a good boulevard tree. While he says the tree has a pale yellow color in the fall, the issue is in what happens beneath the leaves.
Larsen says the Black Walnut tree produces a toxin that will kill other vegetation surrounding the tree. Due to this, he does not recommend this tree as a street tree, or as a part of landscaping.
The Shagbark Hickory is a slow-growing tree with a long lifespan, which produces a 1.5 inch nut. It grows to 20-40 feet tall, and according to the city list has poor fall colors.
Larsen had little to say on this particular tree, though he noted that the Shagbark Hickory does not not survive well through the South Dakota winter.
The city list notes that the Black Cherry tree has a fast growth rate, and that it produces small, pitted cherries. Larsen says that while these trees produce some fall colors, they are also prone to sores on their bark and have shorter lifespans (15-20 years).
The Amur Corktree is seedless in many varieties, and has both a medium growth rate and lifespan. Growing to 20-40 feet tall, Larsen notes that in the Fall, this tree has a yellowish color.
Larsen says one of the selling points of this tree is its copper-colored bark, which provides the tree a point of interest, even in the winter.
Three Linden trees are listed on the city street tree list; the American Linden, the Little Leaf Linden and the Silver Linden.
Larsen had good things to say about Lindens overall. Starting with the American Linden, he says that it has bright yellow coloration in the fall. Beyond just autumnal beauty however, he points out that Lindens also flower in the spring, giving off a fragrant scent.
The main downside to the American Linden is that in the spring, after flowering, the tree showers down its seeds, which can make a mess on sidewalks and parked cars.
A remedy for the American Linden’s issue can be found in the Little Leaf Linden, which Larsen says he prefers out of the two. With similar bright yellow fall colors, the appropriately names trees have smaller leaves and produce less of a mess.
The Silver Linden is similar to the American and Little Leaf Lindens, also presenting bright yellow colors in the fall.
The Common Hackberry produces a one-third inch pitted berry, and has a long lifespan. Growing to more than 40 feet tall, Larsen says that this is a slow-growing tree with pretty, rugged bark. Larsen says the Common Hackberry displays a pale yellow coloration in the fall.
The final three trees on the list are all Elm trees; Elm Hybrids, the Japanese Elm and the Wilson Elm.
Elm trees are fast-growing, and Larsen says Elm Hybrids in particular make for great street trees. This is due to their quick growing speed, the vase-like shape that keep the branches out of the way and the fact that certain varieties are bred to be disease resistant.
The final selling point for Elm Hybrids is that they present with bright yellow colors in the fall season. These colors are also present in the Japanese Elm and Wilson Elm, according to Larson.
Asked about his opinion on the best street trees on the list, Larsen pointed to Elms, Little Leaf Lindens, Swamp White and Heritage Oaks, and the American Yellowwood.