top of page


Highlighting trees in Lexington, Kentucky to educate and inform people of their characteristics

June 2024

Golden Raintree

This Golden Raintree  (Koelreuteria paniculata) is located on the University of Kentucky campus near the W. T. Young Library. The Golden Raintree is a medium sized deciduous tree that typically grows between 30 to 40 feet tall with an equal spread. This tree is indigenous to China but has naturalized throughout Eastern Asia, most notably in Korea and Japan. It grows best in full sun to partial shade and though it prefers moist well drained soils, it boasts an incredible adaptability to varied soil conditions. Its leaves are pinnately and occasionally bipinnately compound, 6 to 18 inches long, and they typically have 7 to 15 leaflets. Four petaled yellow flowers appear in June and are held on terminal panicles 12 to 15 inches long. In fall the distinctive lantern-like fruits provide strong ornamental value and are sometimes used in dried flower arrangements. 


This tree was first introduced to North America in 1763 and is named in honor of Joseph Gottlieb Koelreuter, a German professor of botany in the 18th century who experimented with plant hybridization. Because of its ornamental qualities, adaptability, fast growth rate, and benefit to pollinators, this tree has been widely planted across the US. Unfortunately, these positive traits belie this tree's potential to become an aggressive invader. In fact, the Golden Raintree is currently listed on the National Parks Service Mid-Atlantic Exotic Plant Management Team Invasive Plants list, and it is considered to be a noxious weed in many states in the Southeastern US. This species cannot withstand excessively cold winters and does not reseed aggressively in the northern parts of its introduced range. Kentucky used to be included within the northern limits of its range, but due to the effects of climate change, the Golden Raintree has started to successfully reproduce within the state.  What was previously considered a well performing tree in the urban landscape has now become a species that is ill-advised for planting.

Photo Credit: 

(Top, Middle) Golden Raintree at W.T. Young Library, Lexington, Kentucky. Photos by Greg Doyle.

(Bottom) By BETTY from MEMPHIS, TN, USA - Golden Raintree seeds ~ Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata), CC BY 2.0, Size adapted for page.


May 2024

Black Cherry

This 64 inch DBH Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is located on the peninsula off Squires Road near Lexington Reservoir Number 4. This deciduous tree is in the rose family and is not closely related to commonly cultivated trees such as sweet cherry, sour cherry and Japanese flowering cherry. It is the largest type of cherry native to Kentucky. It can grow in full sun to partial shade and will tolerate both alkaline and acidic soils. It has dark green alternate leaves 2 to 5 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide with white flowers appearing in May that are 6 inch long pendulous racemes. The small fruit has a bitter-sweet flavor and is eaten by a variety of wildlife including birds, squirrels, deer, raccoon, opossum and black bears. The strong hard wood is valuable for making furniture and cabinets. The bark, leaves and twigs are poisonous to livestock but not deer.

Wilted leaves of the Black Cherry are more poisonous than fresh leaves. In May 2001 it was theorized that a very late spring freeze damaged Black Cherry leaves that were later eaten by pregnant mares possibly causing mare reproduction loss syndrome (MRLS). During the 3 weeks around the 1st of May 2001 about 20% to 30% of Kentucky mares suffered abortions. Total economic loss to Kentucky Thoroughbred Industry was between $330 to $500 million. It was later determined that the cause of the losses was the ingestion of Eastern Tent Caterpillars, who are hosted by Black Cherry trees. To learn more about MRLS, visit the links at the end of this article. 


The national champion Black Cherry tree is located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Kentucky Champion is in Clark County. This particular tree on the peninsula property could be the largest Black Cherry tree in Fayette County. Before the property was developed by Ball Homes, this Black Cherry was not included in their tree survey, intended to be cut down. Dave Leonard and Julian Campbell helped to save this tree by bringing it to the attention of our city leaders.

To learn more about MRLS, these two articles are a great place to begin:

Photos by Greg Doyle.

April 2024

Green Hawthorn

This beautiful Green Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis) tree is located at Kenwick Park on the corner of Menifee Avenue and Owsley Avenue. It is native to the Southeastern United States with habitat including lowland areas of medium-wet soils in full sun to partial shade. This deciduous tree has attractive deeply lobed leaves with white flowers in spring. Small red fruit appears in autumn and can persist on the tree into winter. The flowers provide nectar for pollinators, including


butterflies, and the berries are eaten by small mammals and a variety of songbirds. Standing 20 to 30 feet tall with a canopy spread up to 35 feet, this low canopy tree can be suitable as a street tree. Cultivated varieties can be highly adaptable to different soil conditions including ones occasionally dry and compacted. It is tolerant of air pollution and offers environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration and stormwater management, which makes it an excellent choice for erosion control. The white blossoms of the Hawthorn Tree is the official state flower for the state of Missouri.

Top - Green Hawthorn tree at Kenwick Park.
Left - Hawthorn flowers. Right - Hawthorn fruits.
Photos by Greg Doyle.

March 2024

American Hazelnut

This Hazelnut Tree (Corylus americana) can be seen in the Arboretum next to the foot bridge on the Shawnee Hills region of the Walk Across Kentucky. Corylus comes from the Greek word "korus" which means helmet, referring to the shape of the hazelnut shell. This deciduous multi-stemmed shrub can grow up to 16 feet tall with a crown spread of 10 to 15 feet. It prefers sandy loam well drained soils and grows best in full sun. Hazelnut Trees have dark green ovate leaves that are 3 to 6 inches long. Native to eastern North America it needs to cross-pollinate in order to produce nuts. Yellow catkins about 2 to 4 inches long appear in late winter. These catkins contain the male pollen required to fertilize the female flowers found at the tips of the branches. The Hazelnut is very hardy and can survive cold wet winters. Many indigenous tribes used the nuts as a food source and the bark for medicinal purposes. The dense low growth habit of this shrub provides cover and nesting sites for birds and others wildlife. Hazelnut is host for numerous lepidoptera including Polyphemus and Io moths. The nuts are eaten by a variety of wildlife including squirrels, chipmunks, deer, foxes, bobwhite, ruffed grouse, turkey, pheasants and woodpeckers.  Hazelnuts are also known as filberts and the ones we eat in roasted mixed nuts mostly come from the European variety (Corylus avellana). Turkey is the world's largest producer of hazelnuts, accounting for 64% of total production on 2021.

Left - Hazelnut catkins. Right - Hazelnut in winter.
Photos by Greg Doyle.

February 2024


Last month we featured the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) which looks similar to the Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum).  The two species are located side by side in the back southeast corner of the Arboretum and were planted by Bob Klausing in the late 1980s. These trees are both deciduous conifers and lose their leaves in winter. Dawn Redwood is native to China and Baldcypress is native to parts of the United States, including western Kentucky. 


Here are some of the characteristics to help identify these trees. The needles of the Dawn Redwood grow opposite one another while the Baldcypress needles grow in an alternating pattern. The cones on both trees are small, 1 to 2 inches, but look different.  Baldcypress can form conical protuberances from its roots known as "knees", while the Dawn Redwood often has a depression below their branches known as "armpits". Both thrive in moist soils with Baldcypress often seen in swampy areas. The Baldcypress can grow to a height of 120 feet with the Dawn Redwood taller at 165 feet.


Researchers have identified an ancient group of Baldcypress trees located in the wetlands of North Carolina's Black River which are over 2,000 years old. One tree they cored dated back 2,624 years making this Baldcypress tree the oldest-known tree in the eastern portion of North America and also the longest-living known wetland tree species on Earth. 

Despite it's love for moist or even swampy areas, the Baldcypress is a fantastic choice for an urban tree here in the Bluegrass. It is a great choice for climate adaptability, both wet and dry planting areas, and is also an approved street tree species in Lexington. 


L - R Baldcypress and Dawn Redwood. Photo by Greg Doyle.


L - R Cones of Baldcypress and Dawn Redwood. Photos by Greg Doyle.


L - R Baldcypress "knees" and Dawn Redwood "armpit". Photos by Greg Doyle.

January 2024

Dawn Redwood

This Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is located on the University of Kentucky campus next to the tennis courts on Cooper Drive. Native to China, this ancient conifer is the only living species of its genus. It was first known from fossils from the age of the dinosaurs, 90 million years ago. In 1941 living Dawn Redwoods were discovered growing in Sichuan Province, China. Metasequoia is named for its likeness to the sequoia, and is closely related to the redwood genera of western North America. It can grow to a height of 165 feet with a trunk diameter reaching 40 inches. The bark is reddish brown and stringy. It has opposite deciduous leaves with small seed cones. It grows best in full sun and tolerates a variety of soils preferring damp areas in open forests. Because it loses its leaves in winter it is known as a deciduous conifer. It is susceptible to canker infections caused by various fungal pathogens and does not like cold winter weather. In the late 1940s the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University began distributing Dawn Redwood seeds to various universities and arboreta around the world. The oldest Dawn Redwood in the United States is located at the Arnold Arboretum.

dawn redwood_gregdoyle.jpg

Photos by Greg Doyle

December 2023

Douglas Fir

This Coastal Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is located in the median along Mentelle Park. It is native to Western North America and is also known as Oregon Pine, Douglas Spruce or Columbian Pine. Besides this Coastal Douglas Fir there are two other varieties, the Mexican Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. Lindleyana) and the Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca). Despite its common name it is not a true fir or spruce but is in the pine, or Pinaceae family. Because of its distinctive cones the genus name is Pseudo-tsuga meaning "false hemlock."


The flat linear needles completely encircle the branch and its cones are pendulous with persistent scales unlike true firs. The thickness of the mature Douglas Fir trees' bark makes them one of the most fire-resistant trees native to the Pacific Northwest. Old growth groves of this tree contain the second-tallest conifers in the world after the Coastal Redwoods. It is common for this tree to live 500 years or more with some reaching the age of 1,000 years old. It was named for David Douglas, a Scottish botanist who identified plants in Oregon during the 19th century. Central Kentucky is not a good location for this tree. Douglas Firs prefer a different climate and different soils than we have, and thus it is prone to disease in our area. We do not recommend planting Douglas Fir trees. 


There is a legend that long ago there was a large fire in the forests of the West and all of the animals tried to escape the flames. The tiny mice tried to find shelter on various trees but were continuously denied. Finally the mice approached the large and mighty Douglas Fir and it agreed to allow the mice to hide in its cones. If you examine the cones of a Douglas Fir tree you can see the tails of the mice sticking out of the cones.

Photos by Greg Doyle


November 2023


This Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) tree is located in the Lexington Cemetery next to Section 49 off of the main drive. Native to the rocky hills and understory of the Appalachian Mountains, this tree enjoys the cooler temperatures of the upland eastern seaboard but can do  well as far south as Louisiana. 


Also known by the name ‘Sorrel’, it is a small to medium ornamental tree that typically reaches a height of 25 feet - 30 feet with a narrower canopy spread, usually about 20 feet wide. It has small, bell-shaped, white, fragrant flowers that bloom in June and are very attractive to pollinators, producing honey prized by beekeepers. They hang in panicles that can reach up to 10 inches in length, and then produce clusters of small brown fruit that last into the fall. 


Sourwood’s fall colors are stunning and can range from red to purple, and even yellow leaves, sometimes on the same tree. Sourwood trees are adaptable to various light conditions making it versatile in ornamental horticulture. The best fall color and flower production will be on trees that receive more light. They prefer moist acidic well-drained soils and will not tolerate soils that are alkaline, dry, compacted, or exposed to deicing salt, and therefore are not a recommended species for planting in urban conditions. Few neighborhoods in Lexington would be a good site to plant a Sourwood tree. If necessary soil conditions of this species are met, it would be a good selection for smaller spaces. The slow growth of this tree allows the wood to become strong, making care relatively easy, and it has no serious problems with pests or disease. Pruning is best done in the fall for structure and establishing a single leader. It gets its name because the leaves of the Sourwood are edible but leave a very sour taste.


Photos by Greg Doyle

October 2023

Sawtooth Oak

This Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima) is located in the median of Mentelle Park. This median is one of our city's smallest public parks. The Sawtooth Oak is in the red oak family and is native to China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Indochina and the Himalayan Mountains. This oak has been widely planted around the world and in parts of North America has become naturalized. It is closely related to the Turkey Oak which also is characterized by bristle-tipped leaf lobes and acorns that mature in about 18 months. It has the ability to adapt to a wide range of soil and climate conditions, but prefers well-drained acidic sandy clay soil in full sun. The leaves open a bright golden yellow in spring, turning dark green in summer and then yellow to golden-brown in autumn. Its widespread canopy can provide great shade, while its acorns are a popular food source for wildlife. At maturity its height is 40 to 60 feet with a canopy spread of 40 to 60 feet. This oak tree is one of the last deciduous trees to lose its leaves in winter.The first Sawtooth Oaks were introduced to America in 1862. The Cincinnati Arboretum has a Sawtooth Oak tree that stands over 80 feet tall with a DBH of 29 inches.


Photos by Greg Doyle

September 2023


This American Persimmon (Diospyrus virginiana) stands over 60 feet tall and is located in the corner of Woodland Park next to Kentucky Avenue. This native Persimmon tree can be found as far north as New England, as far west as Kansas, and in the south from Texas to Florida. This tree likes sunny or partially sunny areas in forests as well as along stream banks and in bottomland swamps.


The distinctive bark is gray-black blocks about 1.5 inches across in a mosaic pattern. Its blooms are urn-shaped and appear in late spring. Vibrant reddish orange fruit ripens in fall and can be seen hanging on branches into winter, providing food for wildlife. Native Americans and early settlers used ripe Persimmon fruit as a food source during the winter months. The immature fruits should not be eaten as they contain a large amount of tannin and are astringent. Persimmon trees are also valued for their strong and resistant wood which is commonly used to make golf club heads, veneers, flooring, and billiard cues. The Kentucky State Champion Persimmon tree stands 75 feet tall and is located in Ballard County.

Photos by Greg Doyle

August 2023

Downy Serviceberry

There are six to thirty different species of Serviceberry (genus Amelanchier) found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, depending on your source. Many of the species bear a close resemblance to others, and hybridization between two Serviceberry species happens easily. The two most common species of Serviceberries in Kentucky are Downy (arborea) and Allegheny (laevis), both of which are a popular native ornamental in the home landscape. The Downy Serviceberry has a native range from Maine to Iowa, and as far south as Louisiana and Northern Florida. Every U.S. state except Hawaii has a native species of Serviceberry. The common name is said to refer to the timing of the Serviceberry bloom coinciding with the thawing ground in spring. This was supposedly an indication that the ground was ready for grave digging to resume.


Serviceberries are single or multi-stemmed understory trees that can grow up to 30 feet or more in height, depending on the species. In early spring, white fragrant flowers appear for only 4 to 7 days, and are followed by fruit that turns reddish-purple in June. As you can see in the video, this tree is a popular food source for our native birds. This tree needs moist, well-drained, and acidic soils. It is not tolerant of pollution, becoming unreliable under stress. For this reason, we do not recommend this as a street tree, but it can be planted with success in a front yard. The Kentucky champion Downy Serviceberry tree stands over 70 feet tall and is located in McCreary County. 

This video of Cedar Waxwings eating Serviceberry fruit was filmed by local photographer and former Trees Lexington board member Marcia Hopkins in her backyard this past June. The still photo is of a large Downy Serviceberry located in a front yard on Beaumont Avenue in Chevy Chase.

Serviceberries are one of the most popular understory trees at our Tree Giveaways. For our Fall 2023 event, we will have Allegheny and Shadblow species to share for planting in Lexington, Kentucky. Read more about that event here.

Video by Marcia Hopkins


Photo by Greg Doyle

July 2023

Post Oak

This 45 inch DBH Post Oak (Quercus stellata) could be the largest of its species in Fayette County. It is located in Meadowthorpe on Hillsboro Road. Post Oaks, also known as Iron Oaks, are in the white oak family and native to the central and eastern United States. It can be found on the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida and as far inland as Nebraska and central Texas. It is a slow growing tree that is tolerant of various types of soil, is drought tolerant, and resistant to rot and even fire. It has alternate leaves that are 4 to 8 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide, with 5 lobes. This particular Post Oak Tree is a street tree planted in a large verge with no overhead utility lines. The Kentucky Champion Post Oak is located next to the McCracken County Court House.


June 2023


This magnificent American Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) is located at the corner of Fairlawn Avenue and North Limestone Street. Native to our Bluegrass Region, Yellowwood trees are common along the Kentucky River palisades. Its white fragrant pea-like flowers hang in 15 inch-long clusters blooming in mid to late May. In fall its leaves turn an attractive yellow color with light brown seed pods. This tree prefers deep, moist well-drained soil, tolerating both high pH and acidic soils. It is usually a medium sized tree growing 30 to 50 feet tall. Pruning is important to ensure good branch angles with a single leader as far up as possible. A multiple trunk habit makes Yellowwood trees prone to limb breakage at the crotch, where the two branches or trunks meet. If left unpruned, the Yellowwood will often fall apart after 30 to 40 years. It has thin bark that is easily damaged, so care should be taken when working around it. The Kentucky champion Yellowwood is located in Louisville at Cave Hill Cemetery and stands almost 80 feet tall.


May 2023

Black Locust

This 30.5 DBH Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is located at the corner of Ashland Terrace and Marquis Avenue. This particular tree we know to be about 75 years old, planted when this area of Chevy Chase was developed. It is a deciduous hardwood native to the Southern Appalachian region of the Eastern U.S. and is one of the most rot-resistant woods in North America.  Black Locust are fast growing and can reach 80 feet tall and 30 feet wide and grows best in full sun and well drained soils. Flowers appear in May with beautiful white fragrant pendulous racemes. Leaves are pinnate with 7 to 21 oval leaflets creating a dappled shade underneath. Locust trees are in the legume family and produce dark brown seed pods 4 to 8 inches long that are distinctively twisted. It is considered a pioneer species, often planted along property lines and was used as fence posts and hardwood lumber. They are good trees to use for erosion control and land reclamation and are also host to many native moth species. In some places Black Locust is considered invasive, as it can spread aggressively via seeds and rhizome shoots in open areas.

April 2023

Eastern Redbud


This Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) has been planted as a street tree on Kastle Road between Tremont Avenue and Melrose Avenue. Redbud trees are a good species to select for small areas between sidewalks and roads, but should not be planted under electric and cable wires because of pruning needs as they grow taller. Recognized for their early spring blooms, redbuds have long been a nurtured and highly sought tree species. George Washington reported in his diary about the beauty of the Redbud and spent time on his property transplanting seedlings from the nearby forest. Redbuds grow in

partial shade to full sun at a medium growth rate of 1 to 2 feet per year. At maturity they can have a spread of 15 to 35 feet with a height of 20 to 30 feet. They are one of the first trees to flower in the spring, and can do so as young as 4 years of age. The rosy pink blooms attract nectar seeking insects, including early season butterflies, and are also edible for humans. The leaves are heart shaped and 2 to 6 inches in length. Redbuds yield seeds pods (also edible!) 2 to 3 inches long that turn brown when mature and remain on the trees throughout winter. These seed pods provide food to some of our songbirds, such as Chickadees. 

small gray blueish berry that is extensively eaten by CedarWaxwings. The evergreen foliage provides nesting and roosting cover for sparrows, robins, juncos, warblers and mockingbirds. This Cedar is an ancient tree where fossil evidence shows that it once covered large portions of North America. Colonial craftsmen used the wood from this tree for furniture and fences, as it has superior weathering capability and was easy to work with. A row of Eastern red cedars makes an excellent wind break, but be sure not to plant them near apple trees due to causing cedar-apple rust. If you are looking for a native conifer to attract our native birds and wildlife the Eastern red cedar is the perfect tree to plant on your property.

March 2023

Old Schoolhouse Bur Oak


The wind event of March 3, 2023 blew down many trees and branches, causing structural damage, widespread power outages, and sadly, one fatality in Lexington. Extensive damage of this nature impacted communities across across Kentucky and in neighboring states. 

The very first tree we highlighted for Tree of the Month was the large Bur Oak off Harrodsburg Road at Military Pike. Known as the Old Schoolhouse Oak, this incredible tree, standing before white settlers arrived in the Bluegrass region, could not withstand wind gusts that approached 80 mph, equal to the force of a Category 1 hurricane. This tree was estimated to be

200 - 300 years old, but because

it was hollow the exact age cannot be determined. 

Other Lexington destinations popular for their trees and affected by this wind event included The Lexington Cemetery, the Arboretum and at Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate, where more than 15 large trees came down. The estimated cost of damage to trees at Ashland was $20,000. 

As clean up continues, structures are repaired, and new trees are planted with the onset of spring, it becomes a bit easier to see our urban forest for the trees that were able to withstand these strong winds. Lexington is fortunate that the damage to our homes, businesses, residents, and tree canopy was not more severe. 

February 2023

Eastern Red Cedar


These two Eastern Red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) trees are located at the University of Kentucky Arboretum along the asphalt path just after entering the Appalachian Plateau region. This cedar - which isn't actually a cedar but a Juniper as its name indicates - is the only native conifer to our Bluegrass Region. It prefers to grow in direct sunlight in well-drained soil that can be either acidic or alkaline. It can withstand occasional flooding but also has good drought tolerance. Eastern red cedars grow in a columnar or pyramid shape to a height of 40 to 50 feet with a spread of 8 to 20 feet a maturity. It produces a

January 2023

American Beech

This North American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) in Woodland Park is in front of the entrance to Woodland Pool. Native to the Eastern United States & extreme Southeastern Canada, Beech trees can provide excellent shade with their wide-spreading canopy. These trees thrive in moist, well-drained, somewhat acidic soil and can grow in full sun to partial shade. Its light silver-gray bark, elliptical leaves and horizontal branches, are easily recognizable. In the fall the leaves change to a golden bronze and linger on the branches well into winter. The soft bark is easy to carve initials or designs into, but we don’t

recommend doing that to a living beech tree, as the wound makes the tree more susceptible to disease. In Madison County, Tennessee, there is a Beech tree aged at over 500 years old that is said to have Daniel Boone's name with the date 1776 carved into its bark. It is known as “Daniel Boone Beech #8” and is the last of the trees with his carvings still standing. Though the American Beech is a slow growing species, it makes up for it in longevity, shade, providing food for both humans and wildlife, and of course, beauty.

December 2022



This month we’re highlighting the Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with a photo taken of the grove in the Arboretum Woods. Native to the Eastern United States, Pawpaw trees are members of the custard apple family and grow in thickets in the forest understory and along woodland edges. This deciduous tree can grow in sun or shade, and prefers moist soils that are slightly acidic. The blooms appear before the leaves in the spring with a flower about 2 inches across,

turning from pale green to maroon or purple. The fruit - which is technically a berry - is up to 5 inches long and the largest produced by any tree native to the U.S., and ripens in the fall. Pawpaw has long been a source of both food and medicine for Native Americans. Pawpaw extract can be used to help overcome the ability of some cancer cells to reject chemotherapy. The ground-up bark and twigs from Pawpaws are used as an organic insecticide. The first reference of Pawpaw came in writings of Hernando DeSoto's expedition in the Mississippi Valley in 1541 when the fruit was used to feed his men. At the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Asimina spp. At KSU in Frankfort, Kentucky, there are more than 1700 trees acquired from stands of Pawpaws across 17 states. Pawpaws are medium-sized native understory trees and a good choice to plant in our parks and yards. They have surged in popularity in recent years as people look to bring native plants and food sources back to their landscape. Pawpaws require pollination from a second tree with different genetics, and are pollinated by flies and wasps rather than bees. Some people seek out grafted cultivar stock for quicker flowering, earlier fruiting, and better flavor. There are 45 or more cultivars of Pawpaw selected for their fruit characteristics. Next time you walk through the woods at the Arboretum, take a moment to appreciate these lovely and fascinating native fruit trees, and consider adding one to your yard. 

November 2022


This beautiful Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) located in the Lexington Cemetery is also known as a tupelo, black tupelo, or sour gum tree. A Kentucky native, Blackgum trees are a medium sized deciduous tree that is one of our most attractive in the fall with shades of yellow, orange, red and purple leaves that often appear on the same branch. It prefers well-drained acidic soils with full to partial shade and grows at a rate of 1

rate of 1 to 2 feet a year with a height of 30 to 50 feet and a canopy spread of 20 to 30 feet. This tree produces white flowers in spring that attracts our native pollinators and small bluish-black fruit in early fall that is a good food source to many of our birds and other wildlife. The Black Gum is a perfect native tree to replace non-native pear trees since they are of a similar size and have similar leaf color in the fall. This species is excellent for the landscape and because of ‘gum’ in the name is sometimes confused for Sweetgum, a different native tree that drops spiky seed balls, which are not appealing to some people. 

October 2022

Osage Orange

A large 73 inch DBH Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is located on Parkers Mill Road near the corner of Tiverton Way. Originally native to the southwestern United States, these trees were used so extensively to create natural fences in the 19th century throughout the Midwest that they are now considered naturalized to the region. Osage orange is also known as a “hedge apple” tree because of its use as a hedge, and for its wrinkled yellow-green softball sized fruit. It can withstand almost any growing conditions, has long thorns and can grow up to 50 feet tall. Small green flowers appear in May

and June. The fruit matures in September and early October. This tree is dioecious, meaning that it produces male and female flowers on separate plants. The female trees are not recommended for landscape use because the large fruit can pose a considerable litter problem. The large fruit have little value as a food source for wildlife. There is an unproven theory that these hedge apples were eaten by Mammoth and large ground sloths, both of which are extinct. It has also been said that the strong stems made excellent bows and arrows that Native Americans used for hunting. One of our arborists, Dave Leonard, has suggested a good variety to

use in landscaping is White Shield Osage-orange, which is a fruitless cultivar with few or no thorns. 

September 2022

Weeping Willow

Near the entrance to Lansdowne Estates, three weeping willows (Salix babylonica) are located along a small stream. Weeping willow is native to China and has gracefully arching stems that dangle down, sometimes touching the ground. The leaves of his fast growing deciduous tree are lance-shaped and grow 3 to 6 inches long, and turn yellow before dropping in autumn. It blooms with yellow catkins in 

early spring and has a rough gray bark with long deep ridges. Weeping willow grows best in moist soils with full sunlight and has a relatively short lifespan of about 30 years, during which it may reach a height and width of 50 feet. Willows are excellent trees for planting in our riparian zones next to streams and reservoirs where they help filter water and stop erosion. Look for these beautiful trees next to waterways in many of our city parks.

August 2022

Cucumber Magnolia

Near Section 29 in the Lexington Cemetery you'll find this 47.5 inch DBH Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata). This species is native to eastern North America and reaches its largest size in the southern Appalachian Mountains. This is a deciduous magnolia that produces 2 to 4 inch tulip-like flowers on late spring. Cone-like fruits mature to a showy red in late summer. These fruits release red-coated seeds suspended on slender threads at maturity. Also known as Cucumbertree or Mountain Magnolia, this tree prefers moist well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade, and is sensitive to heat and drought with a low tolerance for soil compaction. The trunk can reach over 4 feet in diameter with a height of 80 feet and canopy spread of 60 feet. Cucumber Magnolia trees belong to one of the oldest plant families with fossilized remains dating back 20 million years. There is another Cucumber Magnolia tree in Lexington Cemetery that measured over 54 inches DBH, possibly making it the largest in Kentucky.

July 2022

Sweetbay Magnolia


Native to the Southeast United States, Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) can grow to a height of 50 feet. In southern climates, they may grow even taller, and tend to hold onto their leaves year round. In northern areas they rarely exceed 30 feet & can lose their leaves in the winter. Best grown in moist acidic soils, Sweetbay Magnolia trees feature creamy white flowers with a sweet lemony fragrance in the late spring and summer. The fruiting cones consist of pinkish colored fruit that burst open to release the seeds when ripe. This is an outstanding ornamental tree because it creates less mess than other magnolia tree species. Look for Sweetbay Magnolia trees in many of our neighborhoods this summer to experience the intoxicating fragrance of their flowers. This gorgeous specimen is on Fontaine Road near the corner of High Street in Lexington, Kentucky.

June 2022

Chinese Chestnut

This beautiful Chinese Chestnut Tree is located in section 32 at the Lexington Cemetery. Native to northern China and Korea, it is a medium sized deciduous tree that at maturity reaches 40 to 60 feet tall with a canopy spread of 40 to 60 feet wide. This chestnut grows best in well-drained acidic soils. The Chinese Chestnut is resistant to the fungal canker blight, responsible for decimating the American Chestnut in eastern United States forests in the early 20th century. In June the cream flowers produce a fragrance that some find unpleasant. These flowers


develop into an abundance of edible chestnuts which are enclosed in a spiny casing about 2 to 3 inches across. Because these casings create a mess, it is best to plant Chinese Chestnut trees away from pavement or recreational areas. The nuts are also a source of food to many different types of wildlife.

May 2022

Red Buckeye

This beautiful Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is located on Providence Road near the corner of Eldemere Road. Native to the southern and eastern United States this ornamental tree can attain a height of 20 feet or more and has a canopy spread of up to 20 feet at maturity. It grows at a slow to medium rate and prefers a daily minimum of four hours of direct unfiltered sunlight. Red Buckeyes like acidic loamy well-drained soil. It's canopy tends to be an oval shape with numerous red blossoms arranged in erect 4 to 8 inch long panicles in springtime. Hummingbirds are


attracted to the flowers which bloom as migration cycles bring them back to our area. In early fall the RedBuckeye loses its leaves and produces fruit about 2 inches in diameter with a smooth tan shell that encloses 1 to 3 dark brown seeds. The buckeye tree was named for the brown seeds that have a whitish spot and give the seed the appearance of a deer's eye. Look for Buckeye trees blooming the first week of May. Besides the Red Buckeye, there are also the Yellow Buckeye and Ohio Buckeye in our area, which both have yellow blossoms.

April 2022

American Basswood


This National Champion American Basswood (Tilia americana) is located in Lexington Cemetery next to the memorial for Henry Clay. With a height of 102 feet, circumference of 276 inches, and crown spread of 85 feet, this truly is a magnificent tree. In summer, Basswood trees produce creamy white to pastel yellow bracts of flowers that have both male and female parts. The flowers have a pleasing fragrance that attract bees and butterflies, but their abundant production of pollen can be aggravating to people with allergies. After the bloom fades pea-size winged


nutlets with thick skins appear. The heart shaped leaves are up to 6 inches long and wide, with a green upper surface and a paler green under side. In autumn, the leaves turn light yellow to gold or tan before falling. This National Champion Basswood Tree has been estimated to be close to 250 years old. In 1987, the National Arborist Association and the International Society of Arboriculture recognized this significant tree as having lived since the signing of the U. S. Constitution in 1787.

March 2022

American Sycamore

This massive 64.5 inch DBH American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is located on Richmond Road near the corner of Sycamore Avenue. Sycamore trees are medium to fast growing and can attain a height of 70 to 100 feet with a crown spreading 65 to 85 feet. Their native habitat are the Eastern deciduous woods of the U. S. and are abundantly found along streams and in bottom lands. Its bristly rounded fruit hang on a pendulous stalk that turn to 1-inch brownish balls and persist into winter. The maple-like leaves vary in size and shape turning brown in fall. Leaf drop can be messy with chemicals released in


decaying leaves that can prevent growth in underlying grass. The outer brown bark tends to flake off in patches exposing an appealing white inner bark. This particular Sycamore tree was used as a landmark on some maps of Lexington from the late 1800's. This would date this tree as being close to 200 years old or more. Sycamores are an important tree species to help maintain the health and beauty of our riparian areas.

February 2022

Weeping Nootka False Cypress

Located on the Clay Avenue side of Woodland Park is this beautiful Weeping Nootka False Cypress (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'). This conifer tree is a part of the Woodland Park Tree Trail and has a plaque at its base installed by the Lexington Tree Board. Native to the Pacific Northwest Coast, this False Cypress is best planted in well drained, slightly acidic soils with full sun. It can grow to a height of 50 feet with a spread of 20 feet and has small cones. Although it likes moist soil, it has some drought resistance. In our region the Weeping Nootka False Cypress seems to be pest & problem free.


January 2022

American Holly

220114_TL_Tree of the Month_Holly.jpg

These two American Holly (Ilex opaca) trees are located in the Lexington Cemetery. Holly trees are dioecious, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are in separate individuals. In this photo, the tree on the left is a male American Holly, and the tree with the red berries on the right is a female. Native to the Eastern United States, American Holly trees prefer well-drained soils with normal moisture, but the tree has shown some drought resistance. It features leathery leaves, 2-4 inches long with sharp tipped margins. Flowering in spring, the male has stamens with yellow pollen, while the flowers of the female tree have a round ovary in the middle.

The female must be pollinated by a male tree to produce the red berry-like fruit – one that is quite popular with a variety of native birds. Stacy Borden, our Board President, has noticed that a flock of robins always seems to show up on Superbowl Sunday every year to feast on the berries of his next door neighbor's American Holly tree. 

December 2021

Norway Spruce


Located on the Henry Clay Estate along Richmond Road between Sycamore Road and Woodspoint Drive is this beautiful, stately Norway Spruce (Picea abies).  The tree stands over 60 feet tall with a DBH of 48.5 inches. Spruce trees are conifers as they do not lose their leaves during the winter. Native to Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe the Norway Spruce is the fastest growing of the spruces and is easy to transplant. It likes well-drained acidic soils and has been shown to be drought tolerant. The branches typically hang downwards with 4" to 6" cones that sit upright on the branches until fertilized. Once they have been fertilized, the cones gradually turn downward. A wide variety of wildlife are supported by Norway Spruce trees, especially during winter months. In many European countries this conifer is a Christmas tree favorite.

November 2021

Ginkgos of the Henry Clay Estate


There are two large Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) trees, both over 50 inches DBH, near the front of the house at the Henry Clay Estate. Also known as the maidenhair tree, the unique fan shape of ginkgo leaves makes it easy to identify. The trees are native to Eastern China and were first brought to America in 1784. The oldest fossils of ginkgo leaves date back 270 million years to the Permian Period. Though not native to our region, Ginkgo trees do well as street trees because they are highly adaptable and drought tolerant. When planting it is best to choose a male Ginkgo because female trees produce fruit with a unique odor. The mid-November autumn color display of Ginkgos is spectacular with its bright yellow leaves changing and falling over just a few days. These two beautiful 160+ year old trees were planted after the death of Henry Clay, most likely by his son James Brown Clay who built the current house in 1857. 

October 2021

S. Ashland American Elm

This large American Elm (Ulmus americana) is located on the 200 block of South Ashland Avenue. It has a DBH of 62 inches and stands about 50 feet tall. The age of this tree is possibly older than the neighborhood that dates back to 1900. As you approach it on the sidewalk, you can see the sidewalk has been adjusted to curve around this big elm tree. Although it has lost some good size limbs in the past it appears to be otherwise healthy. American elm trees have been subject to what is known as Dutch Elm Disease. This disease is caused by fungi spread by elm bark beetles which are originally native to Asia. These beetles were accidentally


introduced to Europe and America where they have devastated native elm trees that lack resistance to this disease. The name Dutch Elm Disease refers to its identification by Dutch phytopathologists in 1921. American elm trees are extremely hardy and have been known to withstand temperatures of minus forty degrees Fahrenheit.

September 2021

Richmond Road Pin Oak

This large beautiful Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) located at 2891 Richmond Road stands over 70 feet tall and has a DBH of 55.5 inches. We have chosen this large mature healthy Pin Oak tree because it is located on property for a planned new development. The current new development plan would result in the removal of this significant tree and most of the other trees on this site. The LFUCG Tree Board has asked for the new owner to save this tree by redesigning their plan for this property. The city's Planning Department is going to be working with the developer to hopefully adjust their development plan. The environmental benefits of this mature significant Pin


Oak with its wide spreading canopy cannot be replaced by replanting many smaller trees. Large mature trees are becoming more scarce in our city and these trees need everyone to help protect them.

Woodland Park Shumard Oak

July 2021

This stately Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardi) located in Woodland Park stands approximately 70 to 80 feet tall and has a DBH of 61.5 inches. This red oak species is native to our Bluegrass Region and is considered one of our significant trees. Shumard Oaks are fast growing and drought tolerant, preferring well-drained soils. It is a good tree to grow in an urban environment because of its ability to tolerate pollution and compacted soils. It has 4 to 8 inch deep-lobed pointed leaves and produces small acorns every 2 to 4 years which are a favorite food source for deer, squirrels, chipmunks and some birds. In the spring these oaks have brown or greenish catkin flowers that have both male and female parts, making

this tree monoecious or unisexual. Shumard Oaks make a dramatic addition to our fall color with leaves that turn a brilliant red to red-orange. Woodland Park is one of Lexington's oldest parks and is the site for Ballet Under the Stars and the annual Woodland Arts Fair.

There was a Woodland Park Tree Trail brochure done in 2010 by the University of Kentucky Forestry Department that is accessible on the LFUCG Tree Board website: Look under Supporting documents for Woodland Park Tree Trail project.

This year Trees Lexington! volunteers will be helping LFUCG Parks employees mulch the trees in Woodland Park from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday July 17th and Saturday July 24th.

August 2021

Rosemont Garden Northern Red Oak


This beautiful mature Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) located on Rosemont Garden has a DBH of over 47 inches and stands about 70 feet tall. It has alternate leaves with 7 to 11 spine-tipped lobes that are 4" to 8" long. In the spring this oak tree produces pale yellow-green catkins that appear at the same time as new foliage. In Autumn the bristle pointed leaves turn a lovely russet-red to bright red color. It yields acorns that are round and 3/4 to 1 inch long with a flat saucer-like cap that provide a preferred food source for wildlife including, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, bears, blue jays and turkeys. In the wintertime deer are known to browse on its

buds and twigs. Northern Red Oak trees can tolerate pollution and compacted soil and if given enough space can be a good tree for a front yard or possibly be a street tree. It appears in the upper forests of the Bluegrass and has been a favorite of both the lumber and landscape industries since colonial times. Northern Red Oaks grow best in full sun and have a fast growth rate, with height increases of two feet per year.  It needs acidic well-drained clay soils and prefers normal moisture but shows some drought tolerance. It offers good shade due to a dense crown and is easier to transplant than most trees. Look for the spended red leaf display of the Northern Red Oak every October. 

June 2021

SCAPA Northern Catalpa


This large 65 DBH Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is located on the campus of the Fayette County Public School know as SCAPA, the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. When this building site was being considered in the 1990’s, FCPS had the foresight to have the architect design a building around this beautiful tree.  Northern Catalpa Trees have a white orchid type bloom that appear in dense clusters about the end of May or beginning of June. Because of its flower, the Catalpa is considered an ornamental tree. Later in the summer they have long bean like seed pods that can grow 8 to 20 inches. The Catalpa is the sole food source for the Catalpa Sphinx Moth. The caterpillar of this moth eats the leaves and is known as the catalpa worm, which is often used as bait for fishing. The word

catalpa originates from the Native American Creek word meaning “winged head”, describing the flower. First cultivated in 1754, the wood from this tree was used as fence posts, and later also as railroad ties, because of its resistance to rot and its fast growth rate.  Catalpa is sometimes pronounced “catawba”, and they have also been called “fish bait trees”, “bean trees” or “cigar trees”. The Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) differs from its northern cousin by being smaller with blossoms that are lavender or purple in color and having shorter seed pods.

May 2021

Kenton's Blue Hole Chinquapin Oak

Located off Parkers Mill Road at the corner of Chinquapin Lane is this 74 inch DBH Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii). This oak is one of the largest of its kind in Fayette County, and is growing near Kenton's Blue Hole, named after the early pioneer landowner Simon Kenton. Chinquapin Oaks are one of the iconic oaks native to Central Kentucky, and grow well in our alkaline soil. The acorns from these oak trees are known for being especially sweet and palatable, and were used as a source of food for Native Americans and early pioneers. Chinquapin Oaks can be seen growing along side large Blue Ash and Bur Oaks in many of the horse farm pastures in the Bluegrass.


March 2021

 When Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay purchased 600+ acres just outside of Lexington in 1804, he decided to name it Ashland in honor of the Blue Ash trees on the property. Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) is a member of the olive family, and has twigs that typically have four corky ridges giving them a square appearance, hence the species name, quadrangulata, meaning four angled. Blue Ash are either female, with flowers & seeds, or male, with no seeds. The large male Blue Ash at Ashland is located closer to Richmond Road near the corner of Woodspoint Road and has a DBH of 60.4 inches. The female Blue Ash is located off Woodspoint Road near Ashwood Road, and has a DBH of 57 inches. Both of these Blue Ash trees have an estimated age of over 250 years, older than the original purchase of the property by Henry Clay.


The name Blue Ash was given to this tree because it has a gelatinous substance on its inner bark that turns blue when exposed to air. It was used by the early European settlers as a blue dye to color yarn. Blue Ash trees have a gray platy bark, grow in limestone soils and are drought tolerant. They are often seen in our Bluegrass region alongside Bur Oaks and Chinquapin Oaks in horse or cattle pastures. It has also been observed that healthy Blue Ash trees seem to be resistant to the Emerald Ash Borer, that has killed most untreated ash trees in our area. This resistance might be due to the fact that Blue Ash are genetically and physiologically different from other types of ash trees. Another large Blue Ash tree is located close to these trees at the corner of Ashwood Road and Barrow Road.

The Blue Ash Trees At Ashland


 Marcia Lamont Hopkins @2021

April 2021

Duncan Park is located at the corner of North Limestone Street and Fifth Street, and encompasses about five acres. This beautiful big Bur Oak stands near the entrance and has a DBH of 66.5 inches. This neighborhood park has a number of mature large trees, including red oaks and more Bur Oaks. Also located in this park is the William Morton House built in 1810, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 1838 this house was bought by the abolitionist Cassius Clay, who published Lexington's first abolitionist newspaper, which he called The True American. In the 1850's Henry T. Duncan, who later became mayor, bought the house and put considerable effort into maintaining the grounds. The property became a city park about 1912 with a design from the Fredrick Olmstead firm. Sadly Duncan Park was designated a whites only park by the state until 1956. For some time now the Morton House has been occupied by the Center for Women, Children, and Families. The city is currently considering selling the house to this organization. The first Peace Walk of 2021 was held in Duncan Park on Saturday April 24th.

Duncan Park Bur Oak


February 2021

The McConnell Springs Oak

The giant Bur Oak tree at McConnell springs is estimated to be at least 250 years old. This beauty thrived due to the Oak Savannah system that was prevalent in the Bluegrass region. Oak trees such as this one survived thanks to low competition from other trees in addition to the open fields surrounding them.

This gorgeous oak was even alive in 1775 when the McConnell party made a camp in the area now known as McConnell Springs. By this tree is where they decided to name the new settlement Lexington after the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts.


Through a long chronology of events and changes, the tree has thrived, though one side of its branches have grown out and over a pedestrian path. Prior to this project, the tree was not able to provide itself the support needed to counterbalance these large branches. Professionals had climbed the tree to determine if installing a cable system would be the answer, however, they instead noticed that the core of the tree is hollow, compounding the problem. To create the necessary support and keep the Bur Oak from falling over, a collaboration between LFUCG arborists, the Citizen’s Environmental Academy, University of Kentucky Interior Design faculty and students, as well as local Tree Specialists and a Metal Artist, elicited the design and installation of a unique tree crutch that signifies the reciprocal relationship between man and nature.

January 2021

​The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) ranges from Manitoba and Nova Scotia, west to Wyoming and Kansas, and south to Texas. Nowhere does it grow better than in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. It was named bur oak in 1801 by Francois Michaux, a French explorer and botanist, when he documented many of the oaks in Kentucky.

An outstanding example of the bur oak is growing on a former buffalo (bison) trace in Lexington known currently as Harrodsburg Road. It is 63” in diameter and over 300 years old, predating the arrival of white settlers. It is hollow and has housed many generations of groundhogs and foxes over the years. The Schoolhouse Bur Oak is named for the South Elkhorn Elementary School that was active prior to 1887 and taught students through the Depression and into WWII. 

There used to be two large bur oaks on this site. The larger one fell 20 years ago, crushing a car but not harming anyone. In 2008 the area was slated for development and the tree was to be removed. Many residents spoke against the plan and the developer agreed to move a road to save the tree. The Schoolhouse Oak enjoyed a respite as the housing market collapsed and the project was abandoned. 

In 2013 another developer, Ball Homes, wished to develop the area. This time they consulted with several arborists and street layouts were adjusted to save the tree. It was placed in a mulched preservation area, was pruned to remove deadwood, and had a lightning protection system installed in it.  As inspected in January of this year the mulch circle is now covered with fescue and the lightning system is in need of maintenance.  The preservation efforts need to be renewed and maintained.

The Old Schoolhouse Oak

bottom of page