Top 10 Architectural Trees

If you are looking for the top ten architectural trees, you might use the browser on your personal search engine and look up the phrase “Architectural Trees.” You will receive an amazing assortment of pictures and information. The pictures will range from the stylized image of a tree from crown to roots, such as the one displayed to the right to amazing and fantastical buildings inside of, outside of, and in the branches of a tree.

An article by David S. Restrapo, a certified arborist from Montreal, Canada, defines tree architecture as “the endogenus morphological processes undergone by trees.” His definition goes on to say that it describes the development of a tree beginning with the seed  and continuing through old age and death.

With that complex definition, one could consider all trees to be architectural trees, in that they each have a specific architecture that growers should keep in mind when planting and planning where to place the trees and how each one might impact buildings, other trees, lawn space, growing beds and more. Each type of tree has a specific architecture which includes not only its above ground shape, but also the root growth and soil needs that go on below ground. This is especially true if you plan to place your structure in the tree, but is also true when planning more conventional homes, sidewalks, driveways and even streets.

For our purposes, an architectural tree is one that has a pleasing shape and that will fit nicely within a landscape or near a home or business building. Thinking about an architectural tree means keeping in mind the extent not only of the limbs of a mature tree, but also the roots that support it in every sense of the word.

At Designer Trees we specialize in the placement of mature trees, but we also have a wide assortment of trees that can easily be considered “architectural.” Each has a specific profile, and will fit different needs in your landscaping scheme.

  • Tall trees

    • Bottle Tree (Bracychitron Rupestris) A tall tree, famed for its distinctive wine-bottle shaped trunk, with wide branches above and equally wide and deep roots below. An incredibly beautiful tree, but plan plenty of growing room for this Australian native.
    • Aloe Tree (Aloidendron Barbarae) Another giant tree, originating from the tropical forest of Africa. It loves a warm, moist environment. Although it can grow to immense heights, the immature plants are sensitive not only to frost, but also to sunburn. Plan for lots of water for this distinctive tree, which looks as if someone attached an aloe vera plant to the ends of its branches.
    • Mango Tree (Mangifera Indica) Shade, beauty, habitat for a variety of creatures and some of the most delicious fruit ever grown. Some people believe that this magnificent tree’s fruit was a snack for dinosaurs. When this tree blooms, it is easy to believe the legend that it was a gift from Shiva.
    • Yucca Filifera (Yucca Filifera) There is a rugged shagginess to this north Mexican/southern Texas native, reminiscent of lonely stretches of American desert where it might be flanked with several variety of cactus or tough, low-water grasses. It is the largest of the yucca trees, and is sometimes planted as a less water greedy substitute for palm trees.


  • Understory or medium trees

    • Queensland Glauca Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea Glauca) A beautiful, distinctive variety of the many different kinds of “grass trees.” It has bluish gray-green, long leaves, and a composite structure of leaves that are stuck together with its sap to create a trunk. Its under-earth architecture is extremely important, since this tree requires a specific mycorrhiza for good health.
    • Olive Tree (Olea Europea) Originating in the historic area around the Mediterranean Sea, olive trees are now grown in nearly any area around the world that can provide a similar climate. Its twisted trunk and dusty green leaves provide visual interest at a level slightly below the forest giants. It can be grown for its fruit, its shade, its aromatic blossoms, or all of these things.
    • Dragon Tree (Dracaena Draco) Another tree with its roots in legend. Slow growing, its home can be in a container for quite a long while. In hospitable climates with well-drained soil, it can be grown out-of-doors. Named for its red sap often styled “dragon’s blood,” immature plants have slender, snaking branches that end in tufts. The mature trees, when grown outside, become an umbrella shaped complex of branches above and roots below.


  • Bushes

    • Native Australian Finger Limes (Citrus Australasica) This tasty treat found in the thickets of Australia, was almost immediately adopted by European settlers as part of their diet. The prickly bushes grow to around seven feet tall. In season, they have clouds of aromatic white blossoms, followed up by the slender, tangy fruits.
    • Dwarf Tahitian Lime (Citrus x Latifolia) The Tahitian lime is a hybrid that can be grafted onto a preferred root stock. This creates a means of controlling its size, and allowing rather small trees in containers to produce fruit. As such, it can be grown in nearly any warm, moist, well-drained area, including inside large greenhouses or orangeries.


  • Low to moderate Growth

    • Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus Grusonii) It is not a tree, but we do love this prickly little fellow. The golden barrel cactus is perfect for pairing with Yucca trees, or simply adding visual interest to an area that would be difficult to water. It prefers a space that is fairly dry, warm, and well-drained. In its native habitat it grows on basalt slopes, so is tolerant of poor soil.

Each tree has a specific growing profile that should be considered with planning a garden or even when simply planting a single tree in your backyard or garden. By researching each tree carefully, and examining its probably needs from seed to old age, you can help that tree grow into something beautiful and valuable for many generations.


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