Feature trees are trees that lend aesthetic or perhaps even monetary value to your property. They are considered by looking at their shape, size, and general nature. Are they deciduous or evergreen? Do they bloom? Do they produce a fruit? If so, is it edible by birds, insects, and animals, or is the fruit edible for humans? Other considerations are bark color, limb patterns, type of leaves or leaf-like growths. It is even important to think about whether the tree is naturally part of the upper story of a natural forest or is it part of the understory? Answers to all these questions will affect your tree selection, placement of the tree in your landscape, and whether you will enjoy the tree or trees you select for a lifetime.
It is said that when you plant a garden, you plant for yourself. But when you plant a tree, you plant for the future. With that in mind, finding an ideal location for something as long-lived as a tree means considering possible future development of the location of the tree. It is hard to envision what might happen to a piece of land even as far as one year into the future, let alone several decades. Yet that is what the thoughtful person who plants a tree must do. By projecting how a tree will grow and what will happen to things around it, you help insure the health of the tree as well as the convenience of homeowners or business holders. Here is a list of ten feature trees, and why each one is a candidate for that consideration.
- Bottle Tree (brachychiton rupestris) A large tree with a dramatic trunk shape, and a top-knot of green leafed branches that can create a welcome patch of shade in a pasture or park. The wine bottle shaped trunk is moisture storage, so in a very real sense the bottle tree could be a survivalists favorite.
- Dragon Tree (dracaena draco) From its parent trunk, the dragon tree sends out branches that end in tufts of green, not too different from a yucca or a grass tree, or even a tree aloe. The dense branches form an umbrella shaped canopy that is quite distinctive. Dragon trees can be grown out of doors in warm climate areas, but also make an attractive houseplant.
- Glauca Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea glauca) While neither a grass nor a tree, the glauca grass tree is distinctly native of Australia. Its shaggy topknot of sharp-edged grasslike leaves slowly droop down around the stem providing protection for the plant, and sometimes even becoming part of the stem. During bloom season, they put up a dramatic spike that is soon covered in blossoms.
- Golden Barrel (echinocactus grusonii) If you need an interesting ground level plant for a low water garden, golden barrel cactus is just the thing. Its rigid green spines bow out like the sides of a pouf. But you would not want to sit on this footstool. From each of the ridges emerge yellowish spikes that give the plant its golden glow. They produce beautiful blossoms at the very center of the top of the pouf, and even develop an edible fruit.
- Native Australian Finger Lime (citrus australasica) Another native of Australia, the finger lime was a favorite of the early settlers. It produces, as you might guess, dainty little citrus fruits about the size and shape of a man’s smallest finger. When cut in half, the rind is filled with little pearls of goodness that can perk up a salad or be used in making drinks. Since it is an understory plant, this thorny little bush makes an excellent background shrub. Just don’t plant it too near walking paths as it is a bit thorny.
- Pandanus (Pandanus Tectorius) The word pandanus is derived from the Malaysian word for tree. It looks very much like a palm tree, but will withstand conditions that would have a palm giving up and lying down. The branching roots help keep it anchored against wind or erosion. Once established, it doesn’t mind drought conditions, and it can stand up to quite a bit of salt spray. If you want a tropical paradise without the demands of a true palm tree, this would be an excellent selection.
- Pandanus Spiralis is similar to tectorius. Both have the screw like way that the leaves grow, the production of the knobby fruit, and a need for warm weather. But where tectorius can be found throughout the nearby islands, spiralis seems to like to grow a little further inland in Australia. It likes sheltered gorges and similar terrain, but still wants to be near the ocean.
- Tree Aloe (Aloidendron barberae) The very largest of the tree aloes, aloe barberae is a native of Africa that can happily adapt to Australia. As the name suggests, the tufty growths at the end of its branches strongly resemble Aloe vera, the ubiquitous plants that are much loved in kitchens for their ability to sooth burns.
- Yucca Filifera is one of the largest of the yucca trees. A native of northern Mexico and southern Texas, but sometimes can grow in areas farther north. The tall, shaggy stems reach upward to potential heights of around eight to twelve meters. The bloom stalks are dramatic, leaning over the edge of each crown, dripping with white blossoms.
- Yucca Rostrata or the beaked yucca is so named for both the shape of the blossoms and the shape of its seeds. It is possibly the most beautiful of the yucca trees. Although not as tall as Y. Filifera, it is more symmetrical with a crown of bluish green leaves. It blooms prolifically, the characteristic tall stalks bursting with gorgeous white blooms.
Any one of these feature trees would make a striking focal point for the rest of your garden. Each has eye-catching attributes that make them stand out from similarly sized growth. Their unique ways of growing provide opportunities for conversation and for further planning of your formal garden or orchard area. They can easily line driveways or become the point from which you develop a theme for a growing space.