SOUL’s Native Trees

SOUL primarily plants native trees as part of its Community Forestry program.

Native plants are those which grow naturally in the region where they evolved. They are uniquely suited to the soil, fluctuating temperatures, rainfall and droughts, as well as the flooding that is part of life in New Orleans. Native birds, insects and mammals evolved with the trees, are are supported through native trees’ food and shelter.

For the homeowner, native trees are beneficial because they require very little maintenance once they are established. Natives are less likely to develop disease and rot, and require less fertilizers and less watering, even in periods of dry weather. 

In extreme weather, native trees fare far better choice than non-native trees. In flooding and storms their branches are stronger, and their root systems can tolerate wet conditions. A single, mature Bald Cypress can drink 880 gallons. Imagine the impact of contiguous streets planted with large native trees! In the August 5, 2017 flood that affected much of New Orleans only one SOUL-planted native tree was damaged, and this was by floating debris; none were killed by flooding. In times of extreme cold native trees will also survive. The cold snap in January 2018 killed many of the palms around the city while the native trees continued to thrive.

For more information about SOUL native trees, feel free to contact Emily Stieber at or 504 273 4954.


SMALL TREES • select a small tree if your right-of-way is smaller than 4′, and/or if there are power lines overhead.

  • Dahoon Holly
  • Savannah Holly
  • Sweet Bay Magnolia
  • ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia

LARGE TREES • select large tree if you have a right-of-way larger than 4′ AND there are no power lines overhead.

  • Nuttall Oak
  • ‘Drummond’ Red Maple
  • Bald Cypress
  • Live Oak

Dahoon Holly, Cassine Holly • Ilex cassine
12’h x 10’w • evergreen
This small native tree grows in full sun to part shade. It does best in moist soil as it is wildly found in boggy swamplands. It requires little pruning and adapts well to smaller urban spaces. It has oval, oblong leaves that are dark green and shiny on top, pale underneath. Bright red berries bloom for several months and are very attractive to animals, so there is little clean-up for the homeowner. Highly wind resistant.


Savannah Holly • Ilex opaca x attenuata ‘Savannah’

25’h x 15’w • deciduous
These are beautifully shaped, columnar trees that grow moderately fast in full sunlight.. Because of their shape they are frequently grouped together to form screens or hedges. Their leaves are dark green and spiny, and female trees have beautiful red berries in the fall and winter, small white flowers in the spring. Both berries and flowers attract birds and butterflies.








Sweetbay Magnolia • Magnolia virginiana
30’h x 15′ w • semi-evergreen
This tree is absolutely beautiful. Its light green, long leaves have a silvery underside that shimmer in the wind. The fruit of the Sweetbay is a dark red cone with bright red seeds that birds love. The flowers are large and creamy white, with a light lemony fragrance. Sweetbays love wet, moist soil, and thrive in full sun to partial shade. They grow moderately fast, with single or multiple trunks, and exhibit good wind resistance in hurricanes.


‘Little Gem’ Magnolia • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’
25’h x 15′ w • evergreen
The ‘Little Gem’ is the dwarf cultivar of our state tree, the Southern Magnolia. Significantly smaller than the standard Southern Magnolia, which can reach heights of 60 feet, the Little Gem tops at 25 feet and works very well in right-of-ways and under powerlines. Evergreen with beautiful dark, shiny leaves and large, fragrant white blossoms, this tree tree will give a classic Southern feel to your landscape. It thrives in full sun to part shade, with moderate growth rate. It is the one tree on our list that does not like wet, soggy conditions. It is highly wind resistant.








Nuttall Oak • Quercus nuttallii
40′ h x 25′ w, deciduous
This long-lived native tree is prized for its consistent form. They look great lining a block. Nuttall Oaks grow very quickly, between two and four feet per year, and tolerate both highly compacted, poor soil and very wet conditions— perfect for urban New Orleans. Fares well in strong winds. This tree is gorgeous. When its leaves first form in the spring they are a fragile reddish purple, turning a pale emerald green with distinct red veins in spring. As summer heats up the leaves turn darker emerald; cool temperatures set the leaves ablaze before falling late in autumn. Small acorns provide sustenance for all kinds of animals.  

‘Drummond’ Red Maple • Acer rubrum var. drummondii
60′ h x 30′ w, deciduous
The Red Maple is a one of the most popular trees in North America, in part because of its graceful branches and brilliant fall foliage but also because it thrives just about anywhere. Fast-growing, it can be used as one of the first trees to reforest a site, tolerates both wet and dry conditions (though it prefers wet areas as it is naturally found in swamps) and a variety of soils, and withstands a fair amount of urban pollution. It provides nesting opportunities and food for warblers, chickadees, finches, grosbeaks and squirrels. ‘Drummond’ Red Maples propagate by bright red “helicopter” seeds (samaras) that twirl down from the tree. 

Bald Cypress • Taxodium distichum
50′ h x 25′ w, deciduous
The Bald Cypress is one of the fastest growing native trees, for the first 7-10 years of its life. It can tolerate soggy, heavy soil that other trees cannot. Famously seen in swamps surrounded by fibrous, conical “knees“; urban cypress generally do not exhibit such growths. Bald Cypress are deciduous conifers, featuring feathery, yellow-green needles that turn to copper in the fall. Bald Cypress can play a huge role in green infrastructure; they drink up to 880 gallons of water per day! These trees are are highly resistant to hurricane winds. These large trees need a significant right-of-way or neutral ground to thrive.

Live Oak • Quercus virginiana*
50′ h x 75′ w, evergreen
This native tree grows moderately for its first 10 years. Its leaves are evergreen (continuously both on the tree and dropping), small, firm and shiny. It grows well in any soil, and can tolerate very wet conditions. It has a bad reputation for its wide, shallow, spreading root system, but if the tree is planted with enough room to grow the roots are not a problem. Live Oaks are so valuable to New Orleans not simply for their iconic beauty, but also for the fact that they are enormously important when it comes to stormwater management; they drink up to 1,000 gallons of water a day. While branches and leaves may fall in times of high winds, this is a natural defense mechanism for the tree; healthy Live Oaks are highly wind resistant in hurricanes. A large right-of-way or neutral ground is necessary for Live Oaks to thrive; 50 foot spacing between trees, and precedence on the block is required.