DCist: Where To Find The Most Unusual Trees In D.C.


Gorgeous common hardwoods like American Beech and elm fill the canopy of Washington, D.C., but it has many surprising trees, too. Some tell stories from history. Others traveled from unexpected places. And some simply dazzle across seasons.

“Washington, D.C.’s trees are botanically diverse,” Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of City of Trees, A Year in Rock Creek Park, and The Joy of Forest Bathing, tells DCist via email. City of Trees is a comprehensive field guide to our city’s urban canopy and claims there are more than 300 species overall in our city from many different climates and countries. “Northern and southern species overlap in the Washington region and so do trees native to the piedmont and coastal plain.”

Chris Carley, supervisory horticulturalist at the U.S. National Arboretum, credits our temperate climate for our diversity of trees. “It’s cool enough in the winter that we can grow northern trees, and warm enough in summer that we can southern trees,” says Carley. We also share a similar climate to temperate zones in Asia, making ornamental trees like zelkova and cherry trees possible.

It’s a difficult and subjective exercise to narrow our canopy into a list of the 10 most interesting trees, but part of the fun is recognizing that each specific tree and species has some quality that marks it as special if you stop to pay attention. Here are 10 of them, beloved by local experts who work to highlight, share, and preserve them.

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