Trees come in many different shapes and sizes. Far from the simple drawings of trees we made as children, tree shapes span a wide variety of designs. Whether they are the familiar cones of Christmas trees or the stately columns found in hedges, tree shapes are as varied as the different tree species out there. It is no wonder then, that selecting the perfect tree to plant, also involves thinking about the shape of it. Which shape appeals to you? What shape would work best in the space available? These are important questions to ask yourself before selecting a tree, so we thought we would highlight some of the more common tree shapes and give examples of some of them.
Trees with a triangular shape that is wider at the base than at the top are considered cone-shaped or pyramid-shaped trees. They tend to have a strong central trunk, with branches that extend out horizontally. While many coniferous trees have a conical shape, some deciduous trees also have pyramid shapes.
ex. – hemlock, ginkgo, balsam fir, white ash
Trees with a columnar shape tend to be taller than they are wide. They often have a straight trunk with upright branches. Their elongated shape make them a perfect choice for hedges and screening.
ex. trembling aspen, emerald cedar, pin oak
Trees with a rounded crown fall into the category of round tree shapes. They usually have a dominant central leader with strong shade. Their dense leaves often obscure their branches. Rounded trees make excellent specimen trees with their distinct round or oval shapes.
ex. bitternut hickory, sugar maple, red oak, black walnut
Vase shaped trees have an upright, spreading habit. Their branches reach upwards from the trunk and flare out. Vase shaped trees work well as street trees, as they don’t block sight lines.
ex. white elm, hackberry, pin cherry, redbud
Weeping trees are recognizable due to their drooping branches. Their branches are often flexible and sway in the breeze, making for attractive specimen trees. Due to their flowing branches, they should not be planted near roadways, where they obstruct vision.
ex. weeping willow, weeping mulberry, weeping Japanese maple, weeping larch
Trees with umbrella shapes have wide crowns. Branches are horizontal and wide-spreading, making them seem very wide. Their crown is often rounded, giving them an appearance of an umbrella shape.
ex. ironwood, dogwood, white oak
Irregularly shaped trees are just as they sound—irregular. They may have several trunks, which may also be crooked. Their crowns are irregularly shaped, with branches that are spreading, columnar, upright or bent.
ex. black locust, crab apple, sassafras, witch hazel