What Trees to Plant Near a Lake

Updated April 17, 2017

Lakeshore provides critical habitat to a large variety of wildlife species. Removing trees and planting lawn to the lake edge damages the natural environment and can degrade the lake by allowing pollutants and fertilisers to run into the water unchecked. Plant trees near the lake that are native species and which thrive having their feet wet. Their limbs will shade you while their roots provide restful nooks for lake fish.


Willow trees (Salix spp.) and smaller shrubs of the willow family make ideal lakeside plantings. The native Black Willow tree has graceful, bamboolike leaves and its trunks can grow to a huge diameter with intriguing knobs and twists to accent your landscape. Weeping willow's elegant draping branches form a shady room, perfect for midsummer lakeside picnics. Willow roots thrive in wet soil and help prevent the lakeshore banks from eroding.

Edible Fruit

Native fruit trees near the shoreline can provide food and nesting spots for songbirds, beautiful flowers in springtime, and a harvest for homemade jam for yourself. Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) is a small tree that blooms early in the season and bears prolific purplish fruits. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) can grow to towering heights, with ragged dark bark that adds dramatic winter landscape texture. Shadbush and black cherry are hardy throughout most of North America. In warmer climes, persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) also thrives along lakeshores.


Oak trees (Quercus spp.) like well-drained soil, and thrive slightly back from a lake, along a raised bank where they can take advantage of the nearby water source with their deep roots, but not sit with their feet wet. Pin oak, water oak and willow oak make good choices near water bodies, advises the Greenwood Nursery, an online plant purveyor and land stewardship information resource. Red oak, white oak and post oak also like the sandy, well-drained soils near lakes, advises the Center for Coastal Resource Management.

Ash and Cottonwood

Two classic trees of American shorelines and riverbanks are the green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and the Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), according to the Nature Compass website of the Winooski Valley Park District in Vermont. Both trees grow to impressive height and girth on water's edge. The Eastern cottonwood produces a sea of white seed puffs in mid-spring which drift like dandelion seed heads, looking like late season snow. Some landowners enjoy this display while others eschew the cottonwood tree as messy.

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About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.