Trees are everywhere, bringing life and oxygen to the world around them. They are a symbol of family, vitality, and growth. When we look at nature, we look to the trees. They are an inspiration for stories old and new, bringing wisdom and fantasy. Trees are a magnificent jewel in our landscape, and I believe as inhabitants of this land, we should learn more about these life-sustaining plants.

Colorado is home to 50 native species of trees, with a diverse and growing population of non-native trees. Some are rare and require seeking out while others are as common as the trees growing along the side of the road. In this blog we’re going to go over the most common trees found along the Front Range of Colorado, both coniferous (needle-bearing) and deciduous (leaf-bearing).

Common Colorado Coniferous Trees

Blue Spruce: (Picea pungens) Tall; growing 70 to 115 ft. with thick scale-like gray-brown bark. Needles are long and sharp; blue or light green with white lines. They grow best in elevations of 6,700 to 11,500 feet with well-drained, sandy soils; usually found in narrow bottom lands or along mountains streams. Blue Spruce trees are common in the Colorado foothills. 

Douglas-fir: (Pseudotsuga menziesii) Starting with a smooth, gray bark growing to a ridged, rough red-brown bark at maturity. Needles are evergreen and long;1-inch with bracts at the base. Produces short-stalked cones that are light brown and hangs from branches. Grows best in elevations of 6,000 to 9,500 feet in mixed conifer forest of rocky and moist soils of northern slopes. Reaches heights of 100 to 130 feet. While most of Adams county is a bit below the prefered elevation of the Douglas-fir, this tree is still a very popular staple when looking for a hardy and beatiful tree. 

Limber Pine: (Pinus flexilis) Dark brown bark; thick and furrowed into scaly ridges at maturity. Flexible branches at a younger age. Needles are slender and softer, usually growing in bundles of 5; blue-green with white lines on all surfaces. Usually grows in elevations of 5,000 – 12,000 ft., reaching heights of 40 to 50 feet. Prefers nutrient-poor soils on dry, rocky slopes. These trees are common above the range of the foothills which means we don’t see them very often in Adams county

Piñon Pine: (Pinus edulis) Smaller coniferous species only growing 20 to 50 feet high. The bark is red-brown, thick, scaly, and rough at full maturity. Needles are evergreen, stout, and light green. Grows in elevations of 5,200 to 9,000 feet in open woodlands, dry rocky foothills, mesas, and plateaus. Produces unique yellow-brown cones with 10 to 20 large, edible, oily seeds.

Ponderosa Pine: (Pinus ponderosa) Mature trees have red-orange, scaly rough bark that is nearly 3 inches thick. Sap gives off a vanilla aroma. Needles are stiff, yellow-green, and long; 3 to 7 inches forming tuffs near the end of branches. Can grow as high as 40 to 160 feet in dry, nutrient-poor soils. Usually found alongside Douglas-fir, Rocky Mountain juniper and spruce, in elevations of 6,300 to 9,500 feet.

Rocky Mountain Juniper: (Juniperus scopulorum) Bark is thin, gray-brown and fibrous with sheds of red-brown color underneath. Evergreen needles are small with gray-green or silvery color in them. Produces edible blue-gray berries that can be used in teas for medicinal purposes. Thrives in elevations of 5,000 to 9,000 feet on rocky soils in the foothills and on the plains. Can grow to heights of 20 to 50 feet.

Common Colorado Deciduous Trees

Boxelder: (Acer negundo) Bark is light-grey brown with shallow fissures. The leaves are light green on top with a paler underside. A leaf can grow 2 to 4 inches long in 3 to 5 grouped leaflets. Produced v-shaped winged seed that grows in clusters. A highly adaptive species found in varies elevations but prefers heavy, wet soils that often flood seasonally. Commonly found in urban areas and easy to grow. Smaller tree, growing up to 35 feet.

Chokecherry: (Prunus virginiana) Bark is gray to reddish-brown. Dark green and glossy leaves with paler undersides. Can grow up to two inches wide; 1-4 inches long. Produces dark red to dark purple cherries that are edible and enjoyed in jams. Grows naturally in a variety of soils in elevations of 5,000 to 10,000 feet.

Gambel Oak: (Quercus gambelii) Thick bark deeply divided by flat, connected ridges; light grayish-brown in color. Leaves are uniquely shaped; 5 to 7 lobes with deep sinuses, making for easy identification. The leaf is dark green with a hairy light-green underside. Produces 1 inch long acorns with a scaled cup. Found where subfreezing temperatures do not persist for much of the year; staying lower in elevation from 4,000 to 8,500 feet. Grows well in open areas of low precipitation, or on open mesas.

Narrowleaf Cottonwood: (Populus angustifolia) Mature bark is thick, gray-brown, and furrowed with interlacing ridges. Leaves are narrow, pointed, and shiny green with a paler underside. Naturally grows in elevations 5,000 to 8,000 feet and can reach heights up to 60 feet. Grows well in moist soils, usually alongside streams.

Peachleaf Willow: (Salix amygdaloides) Bark is thin and reddish-brown. Leaves are 2 to 4 inches, lanced shaped, light green turning to bright yellow in fall. Produces 2 to 3-inch catkins that contain seeds with cottony hairs. Prefers moist sites near water, usually found along streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, and wetlands in lower elevations of 3,500 to 7,500 feet. This tree provides various medicinal purposes.

Plains Cottonwood: (Populus deltoides) Bark becomes deeply furrowed at maturity, rough, thick, and dark gray in color. Leaves can be identified by their glossy and yellow-green color; 3 to 6 inches long, 4 to 6 inches wide; with toothed margins. Prefers moist soil and is found in floodplains, bordering streams, near springs and in wet woodlands. Grows in elevations of 3,500 to 6,500 feet, reaching heights of 36 to 190 feet.

Quaking Aspen: (Populus tremuloides) Bark is easily identified by its green-white color with raised dark patches. Rounded with a pointed tip, leaves are bright green above and dull green below. Thrives in elevations of 6,500 to 11,500 feet. Grows well on many soil types, but especially well on well-drained, sandy and gravelly slopes. Found in groups with a family root system.

Rocky Mountain Maple: (Acer glabrum) Bark is gray-brown and smooth with dark green, 3 to 5 lobed leaves. The leaf is 2 to 5 inches long and wide with a generally reddish stem. A hardy tree, growing well in moist and dry soils, usually found in wetlands, stream banks, canyons, and upland mountain slopes. Grows well in elevations of 3,000 to 10,000 feet, reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet. This tree is found all across the western United States and is common in Adams county parks. We see this tree especially in Broomfield!

Thinleaf Alder: (Alnus tenuifolia) Bark is speckled and bumpy with a light to dark gray-brown color. Leaves are edged on the side with a dark green color on top and a lighter green underside; can grow 2 to 5 inches long; 1 to 2 inches wide. Produces cone-like catkins that are brown when ripe. Often found alongside streams; this tree prefers moist soils and prefers mountainous areas in higher elevations of 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Height is varied because of growth form but can grow 15 to 40 feet.

Time To Grow!

Now that you have a list of these native trees it’s time to plant your own! Whether you need a windbreak on your property or shade in the summer, any of these trees will be excellent additions. Many of these trees have medicinal purposes, such as Rocky Mountain Juniper, Chokecherry, and Peachleaf Willow. If you’re looking to harvest your own fruit and bark to make a tonic these trees have multiple health benefits. 

Thornton Creek Tree Service

While adding trees to your property serves many benefits, sometimes you run into the certain problems they bring, such as; disease, dead branches, location, and safety hazards. If you’re experiencing any issues with your trees then give Thornton Creek Tree Service a call! We will give you a free estimated rate and offer three main services; tree trimming and pruning, stump removal, and tree removal . Give us a call today!