Pinellas County is unique in several ways- most of us have smaller lots to work with, some have salt breezes from the water to contend with, and we all have wind storms. You may be wondering what shade trees can we plant here that will thrive in our unique environment? A favorite shade tree in our county is the Live Oak, Quercus virginiana (large tree, zones 8-11). Live oak is a great choice but grows very large- up to 40 to 60 feet in height with a 60 to 100 foot spread. It is drought and salt tolerant as well as wind resistant, which is why it’s a popular choice if you have the room.
|Sparkleberry, Vaccineum arboreum
|Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
If you have a moist but well-drained site and space you could consider Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua (large tree, zones 5b-10a) or Sparkleberry, Vaccinium arboreum (small tree, zones 7-10). These two choices are deciduous, so they will lose their leaves in winter when you would probably prefer more sun anyway. Their leaves also turn beautiful colors before they fall bringing seasonal color to your landscape. Sparkleberry has high wind resistance and sweetgum is considered to have medium-high wind resistance. Sparkleberry also flowers profusely if grown in full sun.
|Silver variety of Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus
For smaller property with drier conditions you might consider the following small trees, all of which are salt and drought tolerant and have high wind resistance: Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus (small tree, zones 10a-11), Simpson’s Stopper, Myrcianthes fragrans (small tree, zones 9-11), and Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria (small tree, zones 7-10). These three choices are all evergreen and will provide year-round shade. All three of these choices can be grown as a large shrub or a small tree. Each of these have unique characteristics that take them beyond a simple shade tree: Buttonwood has a silver variety that has silvery leaves that shimmer in the sun and the wind, Simpson’s Stopper has reddish, flaking showy bark and Yaupon Holly produces beautiful red fruit in the fall and winter on the female plants (males must be present for fruit production).
|Yaupon Holly, Ilex Vomitoria
|Yaupon Holly fruit
*Northern Pinellas County is in zone 9b, central and southern Pinellas County is zone 10a.