There are over a million acres of national forest land in Mississippi. The vast majority of this land is made up of loblolly-shortleaf pine, longleaf-slash pine, oak, and hickory trees. These native trees are better adapted to Mississippi’s soils than trees from other areas. Mississippi’s acidic mineral-rich soils make it difficult for many ornamental trees to perform well.
Trees native to Mississippi are better adapted to the state’s climate. They can better withstand the occasional floods, droughts, freezes, heat waves, and strong winds that arise from the Gulf of Mexico.
Native trees are also critical for wildlife, providing food, shelter, and nesting space for many species of butterflies, birds, and animals. Using native trees in the home landscape can increase the amount of animal life in the yard.
Native trees don’t need as much care. They’re used to the soil and climate here, so they don’t need as much fertilizer, insect and disease control, or irrigation as some exotic plants. Here are some of our favorite trees native to Mississippi.
1. Loblolly Pine
The loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is Mississippi’s most common type of tree. It grows to be 80 to 100 feet tall and 2 feet wide, although it can sometimes grow up to 5 feet wide. Loblollies are often planted on abandoned or eroded land to help prevent floods. Although the wood is not very durable, the tree is still used in the pulp and paper industry.
The loblolly pine is a very important species in Mississippi’s ecosystems. It provides food and shelter for many animals, such as birds, rodents, and small mammals. The tree produces large cones containing edible nuts enjoyed by many wildlife species. In addition to providing sustenance for these animals, it also protects them from the elements and predators. Loblolly pine needles create dense layers of foliage that can provide refuge from wind or rain. With its tall stature, this tree also acts as a home for nesting birds like owls, which typically nest high up in trees away from ground predators. This majestic evergreen has become an iconic symbol of Mississippi’s forests and should be appreciated for all it does to support our local wildlife!
2. Slash Pine
Slash pines (Pinus elliottii) are tall trees with a narrow, regular crown of horizontal branches. They grow in low-lying areas such as ponds, fields, and swamps.
Slash pine trees produce large, green needles and cone-shaped seed clusters, which are excellent food sources for local wildlife such as gray and fox squirrels, wild turkeys, and other birds. The seeds of these pines contain high amounts of fat and protein that provide the necessary nutrition for animals in their habitat.
3. Longleaf Pine
The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is one of the most majestic of all Mississippi’s native pines, often reaching heights of over 100 feet. Once covering much of the state’s Coastal Plain area, it now has a reduced habitat. It can be found in either moist or dry pinelands and can be recognized by its long needles and silvery winter buds. The young trees go through a “grass stage,” where there is little aboveground growth until the roots become firmly established. Due to its tolerance to dry conditions, it is an ideal tree species to choose when planting on exposed sites or areas with low moisture levels.
4. White Oak
White oak (Quercus alba) is native to the woodlands of the eastern United States, including Mississippi. It can reach more than 100 feet tall with a striking canopy that can reach 100 feet wide in sunny conditions. It is often found growing near tulip and white ash trees, which share similar soil types and climate preferences. This tree grows slowly but makes an excellent shade tree due to its large size.
Additionally, it is a generous acorn bearer making it an important food source for many wildlife species, such as deer, squirrels, birds, bears, and other animals. White oak has strong wood, making it great for furniture making or flooring, where strength and durability are desired qualities.
American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is native to Mississippi and grows best in warm temperate regions of eastern North America. It has become a popular ornamental tree due to its star-shaped leaves, vibrant fall colors, and unique fruits. The hard spikey balls, known as “sweet gumballs,” are favorites among local wildlife, such as squirrels and birds who feed on the seeds from within them. Sweetgum trees can grow up to 80 feet tall with a spread of 40 feet, making this an ideal shade tree for larger spaces. Additionally, when planted together, they provide attractive privacy screens along property lines or streetscapes.
6. Shortleaf Pine
Shortleaf pine trees (Pinus echinata) are an evergreen species of tree native to Mississippi and the southeastern U.S. These trees grow between 65 to 100 feet tall and have needles in bunches of two or three, which are typically 4 or 5 inches long and pale yellow-green in color. The cones on shortleaf pine trees are nearly 3 inches long, oblong shaped, brownish-gray in color, and have scales that overlap each other like roof tiles. They open up to release their seeds when they mature and can remain intact for years before breaking apart naturally. This pine species prefers sandy or rocky soils with plenty of sunshine exposure but is drought resistant once established. It also does well in windy conditions making it perfect for use as a windbreak or buffer zone for wildlife habitats.
Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), also known as black tupelo, is a deciduous tree native to Mississippi. It can grow up to 82 feet tall with a straight trunk and dark flaky bark that furrows with age, giving it an alligator hide-like appearance.
This tree prefers wetland habitats and its flowers provide nectar for insects, while the fruits are food sources for birds and mammals. The hollow trunks of blackgum trees also make great nesting spots for bees and many other animals. What’s more, these trees have incredibly long lifespans — they can live up to 650 years!
8. Water Oak
Water oak (Quercus nigra) is a large deciduous tree that grows up to 40 to 80 feet tall, often with a trunk diameter of 2 feet. The bark is dark gray and furrowed with shallow ridges. This species can be found all over the state of Mississippi in both swampy and dry areas, but it prefers wetter soils.
It is an important food source for native wildlife. White-tailed deer depend on their buds and twigs during winter. Other animals, such as wild turkeys, eastern gray squirrels, raccoons, ducks, and bobwhite quail, feed off its acorns throughout the year. Water oak has also become popular among homeowners due to its fast growth rate and ability to thrive in moist conditions making it an excellent choice for landscapes near creeks or ponds.
9. Southern Red Oak
Southern red oak (Quercus falcata) is a magnificent tree that flourishes throughout Mississippi. This popular native species features beautiful red fall foliage and is often referred to as Spanish oak. The acorns are a critical source of nutrition for wildlife, including deer, squirrels, turkeys, songbirds, and quail. As with many other trees native to Mississippi, it stands strong against the elements thanks to its deep root system, which can reach down over 6 feet below ground level!
10. Yellow Poplar
The yellow poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. It is known for its beautiful cup-shaped flowers, which sit upright like tulips. They are also quite fragrant and have a unique smell that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The nectar produced by these flowers provides sustenance for many species of birds, including hummingbirds, chickadees, cardinals, orioles, and more.
The yellow poplar tree is also an important host plant for caterpillars of giant silkmoths and eastern tiger swallowtails. This is because it provides them with food until they reach adulthood. It is host to 28 kinds other kinds of butterflies too!
11. Magnolia (Mississippi State Tree)
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is an iconic symbol of Mississippi. Its presence adorns the state’s flag and has been designated as the official Mississippi state tree since 1938. The magnolia is also associated with many other symbols in Mississippi — its blossom is the state flower, and the state’s nickname is “the Magnolia State.”
The tree can reach up to 80 feet high, with a canopy spreading 40 feet. Its leaves are glossy and thick, providing a beautiful contrast against its white flowers, which contain purple or yellow centers and emit a spicy fragrance.
Summary of the 11 Classic Trees Native to Mississippi
Here’s a recap of 11 of Mississippi’s native trees that we took a look at.
|1||Loblolly Pine||Pinus taeda|
|2||Slash Pine||Pinus elliottii|
|3||Longleaf Pine||Pinus palustris|
|4||White Oak||Quercus alba|
|6||Shortleaf Pine||Pinus echinata|
|8||Water Oak||Quercus nigra|
|9||Southern Red Oak||Quercus falcata|
|10||Yellow Poplar||Liriodendron tulipifera|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Cris Andrei
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- , Available here: https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/rb/rb_srs170.pdf
- , Available here: https://www.mfc.ms.gov/timber-industry/tree-planting-resources/types-of-pine-trees/
- , Available here: http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/publications/native-trees-for-mississippi-landscapes