A campground is a place where people go basically to camp or retreat, and usually, people go to campgrounds to enjoy outdoor activities.
The fact that a lot of outdoor activities happen in campgrounds means that the owners of campgrounds should put things in place that can help prevent the elements (wind, sun, and rain) from hitting directly on campers.
Apart from camp tents that most campers carry along when they go camping, the owners of campgrounds also make sure that they have canopy-like trees that serve as shades.
In case you are planning to build a campground, or you want to upgrade your campground, and you need to plant some shade trees, then you may want to continue reading this article.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best shade trees you can plant in your campground, and of course, some of the factors you should consider when selecting shade trees for your campground.
Best Shade Trees for Campground
Oak Trees (Quercus spp.)
Oaks are hardwood (dicotyledonous) trees, deciduous or evergreen, with spirally arranged leaves, often with lobate margins; some have serrated leaves or entire leaves with smooth margins. Apart from the fact that Oak trees provide excellent shade, oak trees are known to be resilient and stunning.
One good thing about planting oak trees as shade trees in your campground is that the tree’s height, long lifespan, and deep roots ensure that it sees and experiences many events throughout its lifetime.
Apart from that, an oak tree can add a unique touch to your campground or property and live for many years without needing replacement.
Maple Trees (Acer spp.)
Maples belong to the family Aceraceae, and there are more than 128 species, making it an incredibly diverse and fascinating family of trees.
Maple trees are known to offer broad canopies and beautiful fall foliage hence providing the shades needed in an outdoor facility. Most maples are trees that naturally grow to a height of 10–45 m (33–148 ft).
Others are shrubs less than 10 meters tall with a number of small trunks originating at ground level. One good thing about Maple trees is that they are relatively low-maintenance but may produce some debris.
Sycamore Trees (Platanus spp.)
The sycamore tree is an immensely durable tree with a rapid growth rate and expansive root system. It has an upright, pyramidal crown when young and as it matures develops a rounded, irregular form, with a scaffold of large diameter branches.
The fact that Sycamore trees have large leaves and thick foliage makes them highly suitable for shade in the campground. Interestingly, Sycamore tree leaves are classically maple-shaped with five lobes.
In autumn the leaves of sycamore turn orange and red. Twigs of sycamore are pinkish-brown and hairless. These broadleaf trees can grow to 35m and live for 400 years.
The most unique feature of the sycamore tree is its camouflage-looking bark. Another good thing about Sycamore trees is that they do pretty well near water sources and they can handle drought conditions.
Elm Trees (Ulmus spp.)
There are several species of the Elm tree, and all of them are known for their sprawling canopies, providing ample shade that is needed in a campground.
For example, in North America, the species most commonly planted is the American elm (U. americana), which has unique properties that make it ideal for such use – rapid growth, adaptation to a broad range of climates and soils, strong wood, resistance to wind damage, and vase-like growth habit requiring minimal pruning.
Cottonwood Trees (Populus spp.)
A towering native, a cottonwood tree soars and spreads, growing more than 100 feet tall and almost as wide. No doubt, a cottonwood tree is a cherished shade tree, often planted in parks.
In the wild, cottonwood grows along rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water. Cottonwoods grow quickly and have a wide canopy.
One good thing about cottonwood trees is that the trees can live to be over 100 years old and grow to be huge! Note that cottonwood trees can be either male or female, but only the females produce the cotton seeds in spring.
Beech Trees (Fagus spp.)
Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) are commonly found on chalk downlands but grow well on light soil elsewhere. In autumn, beech leaves turn yellow first and then bronze.
A mature beech has a dense canopy made up of many branches and can reach 40 meters tall. They are ideal for a more natural look in a campground.
It might interest you to note that Beech trees may live for 350 years (if managed as a pollard), although 250 may be more typical on many sites.
On upland sites and as pollards beech may be 400 years old. Beech trees are ancient from 225 years onwards, although many have ancient characteristics from around 175 years.
Hickory Trees (Carya spp.)
The Hickory trees are yet another tree that is good for shade trees in a campground. Hickory trees typically grow about 30 meters (100 feet) tall and have a long taproot.
The compound leaves of Hickory trees are composed of 3 to 17 leaflets each; those of some species turn bright yellow in autumn.
Hickory trees are found in the Eastern United States and can live up to 300 years and grow to 100 feet tall. One good thing about Hickory trees is that they are durable and can withstand various soil conditions.
Willow Trees (Salix spp.)
Willows typically have narrow leaves, while their cousins, the poplar, have rounded leaves. There are approximately 400 distinct species of willow trees worldwide.
Among the approximately 75 species found in North America, some of the more common varieties include weeping willow, pussy willow, and black willow.
Many thanks to its long life and the ease with which new trees can be rooted from cuttings, the willow tree is also seen as a survivor and a symbol of rebirth.
One good thing about Willow trees is that they have graceful, weeping branches and offer a serene atmosphere. Note that Willow trees are known to thrive near water but they can be messy due to their drooping branches hence they require high maintenance.
Pine Trees (Pinus spp.)
Despite the fact that Pine trees are not traditional shade trees, their evergreen pines can provide shade, especially in arid regions. Pine trees (genus Pinus) are evergreen, conifers (they produce cones that encase reproduction seeds).
Pine tree needles can range in length from 1 inch to 11 inches, and can be found throughout the world, but they are native to northern temperate regions. One good characteristic of Pine trees is that they can contribute to a forested ambiance in your campground.
Birch Trees (Betula spp.)
The Birch tree is an elegant force of nature. The silvery white bark looks sophisticated and graceful but under this beauty lies a strong, willfulness to grow where nothing else can. It is almost always one of the first species to regrow in places of tragedy, a forest fire perhaps, or even after the great ice age.
Note that Birches are monoecious, meaning that each individual tree has both male and female flowers. If you are looking for a shade tree that is ideal for a more natural look in a campground, then you should go for Birch trees.
8 Factors to Consider When Choosing Shade Trees for a Campground
Local Climate and Soil
Climate and soil composition determine what can grow in a location. Some trees are more drought-resistant, while others prefer moist soil.
So, before selecting any shade tree to plant in your campground, you must make sure you know the species that are well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions of your campground.
Some trees drop leaves, seeds, or sap regularly during the course of the year hence giving room for increased maintenance tasks.
If you know you are going to be operating your campground with limited staff and budget, you may want to avoid any shade tree that requires high maintenance.
No matter how good a shade tree is, if it causes allergies to campers, they may avoid your campground. For that reason, you should be aware of trees that release pollen or produce allergenic seeds that could affect campers with allergies.
The fact that you cannot get shade trees in their matured stage to plant in your campground means that you should give the trees time to grow.
So, depending on your timeframe and budget, you may want to settle for faster-growing trees or those that take longer to mature.
The Aesthetics Nature of the Tree
One of the factors you should consider when looking for shade trees for your campground is the aesthetic nature of the trees.
The whole idea is to choose trees that enhance the visual appeal of the campground. Plus, you should also consider fall foliage, bark texture, and overall appearance.
The Size and Shape of the Tree
Note that different tree comes in different sizes and shapes, some are very tall, while some are short, some are very large and wide, while some are slim.
In order to get the best from the shade trees you selected, you must make sure the shade trees will provide adequate shade for campers and that their canopies won’t encroach on campsites or structures.
Accessibility to Water
Some campgrounds are built far away from rivers, while some campgrounds are built close to rivers or water sources. So, the accessibility to water sources or rivers should be a factor you should consider when looking for shade trees to plant in your campground.
This is so because different shade trees require a certain level of water to survive. For example, some trees like willows and cottonwoods thrive near water, and that is why you should consider the proximity to water sources when planting.
What is the use of planting a shade tree in your campground only to find out that the tree got killed by tree diseases that are common in the area? That is why it is important to look for shade trees that are resistant to common diseases and pests in your region.