Spring has sprung the last few weeks as evidenced by flowering shrubs and trees and the local plant nurseries are moving container plants out of the hot houses for their retail trade. It’s a good time of year to get acquainted with the native and ornamental trees says Stan Stevens with the Hermann Tree Commission. He should know.

“When I tell people where I live, they always say, ‘Oh, that’s the place with all the trees!’” he shares.

For those area residents that are interested in planting a few trees, Stan recommends a quick trip to City Hall.

“They have a 3-ring binder full of recommended trees, whether short, medium or tall,” he says. “If you have considerations such as shade-loving, sun-loving trees—you can start with that book and get some ideas. It’s an idea book.”

He says this “book of recommended trees” and a visit with a Tree Commission member is of particular help if the chosen planting site is anywhere near the street.

“If someone wants to do something that isn’t laid out in black and white, come talk to us,” he offers.

The clerks at City Hall can take requests to pass on to the Tree Commission or help a resident get in touch with a Tree Commission member.

Once a tree site is selected, the Commission reminds residents to call Hermann Utilities to check for underground utilities before any digging takes place.

Two trees that are currently blooming on the Historic Hermann Museum grounds are the Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea – possibly the Perkins Pink variety) and White fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)—both excellent for a showcase patio planting, or in groups for a native woodland look, according to Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Check with the local nurseries to see if they have these trees in their inventory.


Family: Fabaceae (beans)

Description: Yellowwood is a medium-sized tree with a short trunk and a broad, open, rounded crown. Leaves are alternate, feather-compound, 8–12 inches long, with 5–11 leaflets, not always in opposite pairs; leaflets oval to egg-shaped to broadest in the middle, 2–4 inches long, 1½–3½ inches wide, margin entire, abruptly pointed at the tip; leaf stalk enlarged at the base, enclosing a bud. Bark is gray to light brown, thin, smooth. Twigs are slender, smooth, shiny, zigzag, brittle, reddish-brown, pores numerous; bud at end of twig absent, side buds usually 2–4, clumped, appearing as one, hairy. Yellowwood flowers in May–June, in elongated, hanging clusters 10–14 inches long; flowers white, fragrant, about 1 inch long, pea-shaped with 5 petals; upper petal founded with a yellow blotch at the base. Yellowwood fruits in August through September. A flattened pod 3–4 inches long, late to split into 2 halves, persisting into winter. The seed count can be from two to six, flattened and dark brown.

Size: Yellowwood can grow to a height of 60 feet.

Habitat and conservation: Occurs along moist wooded slopes and bluffs and along rocky drainages in somewhat sheltered areas. Yellowwood is often planted as an ornamental. It grows well in partial shade or sun and is relatively free of serious insect pests and diseases. It grows slowly and its branches are somewhat brittle, making it relatively susceptible to storm damage. In nature, Yellowwood is primarily limited to a few southwestern MO counties, but it’s cultivated statewide.

Uses: Planted as an ornamental. Excellent small tree for residential lawns, particularly on smaller properties. Also may be planted near patios and terraces. May be effectively grouped on larger properties. Roots go deep, so other plants may be easily grown underneath.

The wood has been used for fuel and for gunstocks. Early Appalachian settlers made a yellow dye from the root bark (hence the common name).

(Missouri Department of Conservation)

White fringetree

Family: Oleaceae

(Chionanthus virginicus) is a deciduous, Missouri native shrub or small tree. It is also native to the savannas and lowlands of the southeastern United States, from New Jersey south to Florida, and west to Oklahoma and Texas.

Description: White fringetree has a spreading, rounded growth shape. The common name refers to the slightly fragrant, spring-blooming flowers which feature airy, terminal, drooping clusters (4-6" long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals. Dioecious (separate male and female plants), but also may have perfect flowers on each plant. Male flowers are showier than female flowers. Fertilized perfect or female flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black in late summer. Wide, spear-shaped leaves (to 8" long) turn yellow in autumn.

Size: White fringetree typically grows 12-20' tall (up to 35' in the wild)

Habitat and conservation: Most often occurs in rich, moist woods and hillsides, moist stream banks, limestone glade margins and rocky bluffs and ledges. Fruits are a food source for birds and wildlife. 

Garden Uses: Grow in groups or as specimens in lawns or in shrub or woodland borders. Also may be used in native plant gardens or near streams or ponds. Can be spectacular in full bloom. Seldom needs pruning. Tolerant of air pollution and adapts well to urban settings. Intolerant of prolonged dry conditions.

(Missouri Botanical Garden)

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