Summer storms have taken their toll on our trees. Across the metro area — and across the state — cottonwoods, maples, oaks and spruces have lost large branches or tumbled in the high winds.

Combine those losses with the advance of diseases and pests, such as emerald ash borer, and a lot of people are looking for replacement trees.

If you’re one of them, consider this when you go tree shopping: You don’t have to replant the same type of tree. In fact, it might be a good idea to try something new.

Some trees tend to be more popular than others. But if we all planted the same kind of tree, an insect infestation could eventually wipe most of them out. (Remember what happened to all those elms when Dutch elm disease was introduced.)

Lindens, crabapples and Freeman maples (including the popular Autumn Blaze maple) are popular trees. So popular, that they’ve been widely planted. While these are great trees, if we choose from a wider variety of trees, we’ll get a more interesting, more diverse, more sustainable landscape.

Here are some trees to consider:



Elms were planted heavily in Minnesota because they are a statuesque tree with a wonderfully wide canopy. Because of Dutch elm disease, which is still a problem, elms weren’t planted for years. However, certain types of elms are resistant to the widespread disease. The American elm cultivars Princeton and Valley Forge are both attractive, fast-growing and tolerant of many different soil types.

Aside from the American elms, Accolade and Triumph elms also are good choices.



With its pale white bark, paper birch is a popular tree, but it’s not recommended because it’s susceptible to bronze birch borers. However, many kinds of birches do well — sweet birch and yellow birch are two. They’re resistant to birch borers and are beautiful to boot. They also offer a scented secret: Scratch their bark for a whiff of wintergreen.



The ginkgo tree has fan-shaped leaves and a unique branching structure, which give this shade tree a very different look.

One of its most notable characteristics is its lack of insect and disease problems. It’s also tolerant of many soils. One caveat: This tree gets tall, eventually reaching a height of 60 to 80 feet. If you do decide to go with a ginkgo, be sure to buy a male tree. Females drop fruit that smells bad when stepped on.


Kentucky Coffee Tree

This underutilized tree boasts a broad, spreading canopy and is considered midsized, topping out at 60 feet. Males tend to be more popular because they don’t have the pods that the female trees do.


Showy Mountain Ash

If you like berries, this is the tree for you. It grows only about 35 feet tall, but has beautiful, fine textured foliage and red or orange berries. It also tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. Despite its name, showy mountain ash isn’t related to other ash trees. It’s also not susceptible to the emerald ash borer.


Jeff Gillman, associate professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota, has written several gardening books.