Ornamental Trees With Small Prickly Fruit

Trees have cosmetic value for a lot of reasons, including their satisfying foliage or vibrant flowers. Some trees have additional impact because of the visual appeal of the fruit. Many ornamental trees are especially interesting because they encase their seeds at a prickly or spiny coat which protects them from predators and adds additional landscape appeal.

Korean Dogwood

The Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa), also referred to as the kousa dogwood, is an especially attractive tree that is quite different from the standard and more commonly seen flowering dogwood (C. florida). It reaches a complete height of 15 to 30 feet at maturity, using an equivalent spread and is native to parts of Japan, Korea and China. Kousa dogwood trees bloom after their flat, wide leaves appear, creating starkly white flowers, each with four pointed bracts which make a dramatic screen against the deep green leaves. Flowers are followed by prickly, berry-like fruits which turn pinkish-red in summertime and deepen to reddish-purple by fall, supplying late-season food for birds. The Korean dogwood is suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.

Sweet Gum Tree

The sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a large, easy-to-grow tree which reaches a height at maturity of 60 to 80 feet. Native to a lot of areas of the U.S. in addition to Mexico and Central America, the sweet gum is pyramidal shaped when young, maturing to a oval or round form. It has inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in spring, followed by clusters of small fruits which are hard, round and bristly and can protect the earth as they fall from the tree. The sweet gum prefers full sun and fertile land, and is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.

Chinese Chestnut

The Chinese chestnut tree (Castanea mollissima) comes from China, as its name implies. A 40- to 60-foot-tall tree, also it’s an equivalent spread and a graceful branching pattern, which makes it especially ornamental. Quite tolerant of summer heat, the Chinese chestnut tree exhibits, dark green leaves and fragrant creamy yellow-to-white flowers which appear in June. Edible chestnuts follow the blossoms, with 2 or 3 delicious nuts encased in green shells which are approximately 2 inches in diameter, rather spiny and hard to handle. Chinese chestnut trees are resistant to chestnut blight, a serious illness for other types of chestnuts that produce edible nuts, and develop best in USDA zones 4 through 8.

Horse Chestnut

Regardless of its title, the horse chestnut tree (Nephelium lappaceum) is not associated with chestnuts that produce edible fruit, which belong to the beech family. The horse chestnut is part of the soapberry family and is native to the Balkan nations. The tree may reach a height of 75 feet, with large compound leaves consisting of radially-arranged, oblong leaflets. The tree has white flowers grouped into large and showy pyramidal clusters in May, followed with smooth brown poisonous nuts encased in prickly green husks, with around four nuts per husk. Horse chestnuts are easy-to-grow trees which bear sunlight or partial shade in USDA zones 3 through 8.

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