Invasive, non-native and native Texas tree species explained

The tree landscape in Texas is made up of a variety of species. From ponderosa pines in West Texas to oaks in Central Texas to dogwoods in East Texas, trees play a vital role in the ecosystem and provide countless benefits. But, what about species that cause negative impacts – invasive species?

When it comes to planting trees, knowing what category a tree species is will help in aiding the health of the overall ecosystem. (Texas A&M Forest Service photo)

Simply put, there are three basic categories of tree species: native, non-native and invasive. Knowing where tree species fall into these categories may seem like trivial information, but species selection is vital to the health of the overall ecosystem.

“All species are good somewhere, and all species are bad somewhere,” said Gretchen Riley, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Systems department head, Bryan-College Station. “Planting the right tree in the right place, and avoiding invasive species, helps prevent devastating issues and bolsters the benefits a tree will provide over its lifetime.”

When selecting trees to plant, it’s important to understand where trees fall into these three categories and how that may vary from region to region.

Native species

Native species have evolved and occur naturally in a region, ecosystem or habitat.

Loblolly pines, for example, are native to the East Texas Pineywoods and the Lost Pines regions. The species was here long before civilization and reproduces on its own, creating a stable, self-perpetuating population.

Native species provide a multitude of values to their ecosystem, filling a specific ecological niche. They provide food and shelter for local wildlife, typically require less water once established and often have a better chance of survival because they are well-adapted to their region.

“Native species are resistant and resilient to disturbances that happen in their specific region because they evolved there and have adapted to that habitat,” said Demian Gomez, Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Forest Health coordinator, Austin.

This includes adaptation to temperature variations and extremes, like dry, hot summers or harsh, cold winters, as well as local pests and pathogens because they have co-evolved together, making them more …


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