Deciduous Trees & Shrubs of Pennsylvania
Deciduous Trees & Shrubs of Pennsylvania
Deciduous trees and shrubs are a beautiful and important part of our landscape here in Chadds Ford. The word deciduous comes from the Latin word decidere, which means to fall down – every autumn, deciduous trees and shrubs burst into fiery fall colors and drop their leaves, fruit, and nuts to the ground, creating beautiful views and rich soil that nourishes the plants and wildlife below. Proud oaks and majestic maples stand tall on the edges of verdant pastures and historic battlefields, while understory shrubs like the northern spicebush and oak leaf hydrangeas fill in the forest brush. Together, these plants create the iconic views and abundant nourishment for the flora and fauna in our region. In this article, I wanted to share more about my favorite deciduous trees and shrubs and show you my keepsake collections that have been inspired by these important botanics of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
My Favorite Deciduous Trees of Pennsylvania
Oaks are one of the most critical trees both here in Pennsylvania and in the greater North American landscape. Oaks support more species than any other tree genus native to North America, providing sustenance and protection to innumerable insects, birds, and animals. While the oak leaf's shape varies from tree to tree, it is usually longer than it is wide, with five or six rounded or pointed lobes extending out from the midline. These succulent leaves provide food for insects and, most notably, young caterpillars – in fact, oak trees feed over 897 different species of caterpillars in the United States. These caterpillars are essential to the local bird population, which keeps our ecosystem thriving. Acorns, another hallmark feature of oak trees, are also critical fodder for local wildlife – over 100 species of animals thrive on the acorns they collect from oaks! Some important native oak species include the northern red oak, the chestnut oak, the black oak, the swamp white oak, and the white oak, many of which have been used for culinary, medicinal, and recreational purposes by the local Native American tribe, the Lenni Lenape.
Beech trees are also prevalent in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Their beautiful, unique leaves have inspired several of my most popular designs – although their exact formation varies from tree to tree, beech leaves are typically oval in shape and measure around 1.5 to 3.5 inches long with wavy edges and a pointed tip. I also love the beech tree because of its many contributions to society; it has been an extremely important tree throughout history and is still widely used for many purposes today:
Beech wood is easy to chop, split, and burn, making it an excellent firewood.
Some beer makers use beech wood during the fermentation process for taste.
Beech wood can be used to smoke ham, sausage, and some cheeses.
Many drum makers prefer beech wood for its unique tone.
Beech nuts can be roasted and eaten.
The maple leaf is perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols in North America, thanks in large part to its prominence on the flag of our neighbors to the north in Canada. Maple leaves typically have five lobes with either smooth or jagged edges, and the stems of young trees are often red. For hundreds of years, people have enjoyed maples for their sweet syrup and their sturdy wood, which is perfect for creating furniture, flooring, and other household items.
Both the red maple and the sugar maple are found widely in Chadds Ford, and I am lucky enough to have a few of these stately staple trees on our property! A while back, I even placed a tap in one of our maple trees to sample its syrup, and my family and I had a magical time creating delicacies from this sweet bounty. We made maple butter, maple taffy, and maple cookies, but the pure, distilled syrup was definitely my favorite. My family and I enjoyed it with many of my home bakes for years!
The Landscapes Collection
My Favorite Deciduous shrubs of Pennsylvania
Hydrangeas are iconic throughout New England and in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their voluptuous blooms and striking colors are unmistakable, offering an elegant accent to any garden or estate. While there are many varieties of both non-native and native hydrangeas, the oak leaf hydrangea and the smooth hydrangea are two varieties of this gorgeous plant that hail from North America and enrich the environment with their presence.
Hydrangeas usually enjoy rich, moist soil and prefer to grow in a slightly shady habitat, making them the perfect understory shrub in either a wild or manicured area. They typically bloom throughout summer, and they can be cut back each year to encourage vigorous new growth. They also dry beautifully, making them perfect for indoor flower arrangements.
The spicebush is one of my favorite shrubs, named for the refreshing, spicy fragrance it emits when its leaves, twigs, or fruit are squeezed or crushed. The spicebush is bright and cheerful, and it serves such an important purpose in our local habitat – it is the host plant for several butterflies and moths, including the spicebush swallowtail, the eastern tiger swallowtail, and the spicebush moth.
This bush is hardy, growing happily as an understory shrub but also unapologetically in direct sun if necessary, and it can expand up to 12 feet in both height and width when content with its conditions. Its large oval leaves turn from deep green to a stunning gold in the fall, making it beautiful both in the wild or in any garden.
Red Twig Dogwood
The red twig dogwood is perhaps one of the most eye-catching deciduous shrubs here in the Chadds Ford area. In the summer, it offers a bushy green foliage that obscures its bright red bark, but in the fall and winter, its unique crimson-colored stems and twigs provide a striking contrast to the browns, grays, and deep evergreen tones typically associated with colder months in Pennsylvania.
The red twig dogwood can grow up to eight feet in height and width, and it produces beautiful white flowers and berries in the warmer months of the year. Ecologically, it’s a goldmine for many of our local birds, mammals, and insects – in fact, it supports over 100 species of butterflies and moths. I love coming across these shrubs in the wild, and I’ve incorporated many of them into my landscape here at home as well.
Sterling Silver Collection
Regardless of the season, trees are a defining and unmistakable feature of the Chadds Ford landscape. Whether flanking a farmer's field, creating a lush forest canopy, or flourishing along the banks of the Brandywine River, our region's trees are simply iconic. In the Landscapes Collection, I have tried to emulate the unique aesthetic of our local trees, and many of my designs showcase deciduous trees in winter; they stand proud with bare branches, stark and bold against the backdrop of snowy hills and grey skies.
When designing pieces that echo the natural beauty of deciduous trees, I knew that I wanted to forge many of my ideas in sterling silver. This bright, lightweight, hypoallergenic metal is durable and elegant, making it the perfect medium for my unique deciduous designs. The Sterling Silver Collection includes my interpretations of leaves, acorns, and branches -- this comprehensive selection of delicate keepsakes is perfect for anyone who appreciates the importance and allure of our nation's proud, picturesque trees.
turn over a new leaf
The deciduous trees of Southeastern Pennsylvania are not only magnificent but also essential for the health and livelihood of our local wildlife. Every time I'm out for a walk, no matter the season, I am struck by their simple elegance and stately import, and I have crafted so many of my favorite keepsakes to resemble their fundamental beauty. From leaves to landscapes, my collection features something for every nature lover, and a range of designs are available in the shop today.