Common Trees in Utah

By J.W. Carpenter , last updated April 14, 2011

With three distinct climatic regions, including humid, semi-arid, and arid, the Utah landscape sustains over 240 native and non-native varieties of tree on its 50 million acres of natural landscape. From ashes and bristlecone pines to white firs and yucca palms, the diversity of tree life in Utah is spectacular. The following is a brief guide to some of the more common trees of Utah.

Pinaceae Family (Pines, Firs, & Spruces)

A variety of slow-growing, drought tolerant pine trees dot mountain landscapes in Utah, including Bristlecone, Lodgepole, Pinyon, and Ponderosa pines. Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines are important lumber sources. Douglas and White fir trees are both found throughout Utah’s mountains, and do well in valleys provided there is adequate moisture. Both trees are sources of timber, with the Douglas fir being especially important. The beautiful Blue spruce is Utah’s state tree. It is widespread in landscaping applications.

Fagaceae Family (Oaks)

Native to Utah foothills and low mountain slopes throughout the state, the Rocky Mountain White Oak can reach sixty feet in height. It is tolerant to especially dry sites and is good for fall color. The Shrub Live Oak and the Wavyleaf Oak are both small, shrubby evergreen trees seen mostly in the low canyons of southern Utah. Utah oaks are poor commercial wood sources, but are sometimes cut for firewood.

Aceraceae Family (Maples)

Several deciduous maple tree varieties are seen throughout Utah, providing wonderful fall color to the state. Logan Canyon and other northern Utah locations feature the outstanding autumn oranges and reds of the medium-sized Bigtooth maple tree. The Norway maple is a non-native tree that has escaped cultivated landscapes into the natural environment. It features dark purple to green leaf colors in summer. The Rocky Mountain maple is a relatively small, shrubby tree rarely used in cultivated landscapes, but seen often along streams.

Oleaceae Family (Ashes)

The Green Ash has been cultivated in landscaping in Utah since pioneer times. It has large deciduous leaves that turn bright yellow in the autumn. It is a good source of hardwood for tool handles and furniture. The Velvet Ash is a small, shrubby tree found throughout southern and eastern Utah canyons.

Other Common Trees

The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), sometimes called a Yucca palm, is a strikingly attractive evergreen tree native to southwestern Utah below 3,500 feet. The Joshua tree was named by Mormon settlers in the mid-19th century. It has long, narrow leaves that taper to a point and flowers that emerge from February through April.

The Quaking Aspen tree (Populus tremuloides) is common throughout the higher elevation areas of Utah. It has a smooth, pale-colored bark and satiny green leaves that change to yellow in the fall. It reaches 25 feet in height and prefers a cool, moist climate. The tree has

Utah Junipers are small, shrubby trees with scale-like leaves and blue-green berry-like fruits. They typically grow on low-to-middle altitude hillsides, preferring dry, rocky environments. Look for wind-twisted, gnarled Utah Junipers on middle-altitude hikes throughout the state.

Still other trees include the Utah Serviceberry, the Peachleaf Willow, the Netleaf Hackberry, the Water Birch, and the Balsam Poplar.

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