The Mount Rushmore State is home to more than just the famous architectural and cultural icon from which it takes its name. South Dakota named the Black Hills Spruce as its state tree in 1947; fitting, as the spruce is native to northern temperate and boreal forests. Primarily known as the White Spruce in other regions, South Dakotans call it the Black Hills Spruce as it is primarily found in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills Spruce is large, often growing upwards of 80 feet tall. Coniferous and flaky, the spruce produces moderately sized blue-green needle-like leaves that gather in large bundles. The cones are unique. Conical, thin, and about 2 inches long, the cones are a pale brown with thin, flexible scales. Though the Black Hills Spruce can be an impressive addition to a backyard, South Dakotan planters have many choices from which to choose when considering a new tree.
Due to its diverse seasons, continental climate, and limited precipitation, the smart South Dakotan grower will need to consider the following:
- Soil Type
- Average Precipitation
- Growing Zones
- Weather Damage
Best Trees for South Dakota
Read about the specifics for your state in the following sections. If you’re looking for some quick ideas on what to plant, consider the following trees as expert-tested and The Tree Center approved:
- Autumn Purple Ash
Ideal for providing unique fall colors, shade, climate tolerance.
- October Glory Maple
Ideal for continuous color, adaptable growing conditions, and landscaping designs.
- Rabbiteye Blueberry
Ideal for bearing fruit, disease and drought resistance, and temperature adaptability.
- Tulip Poplar
Ideal for providing fast-growing shade, year-round beauty, and drought resistance.
Fast Growing Privacy Trees in South Dakota
As property in South Dakota continues to be developed, land owners are searching for trees that will provide privacy from prying neighborly eyes and loud, unwanted noise. There are many fast growing privacy trees in South Dakota, which will quickly grow after initial planting to offer your property and family long sought-after privacy.
The Thuja Green Giant, a staple of privacy trees throughout South Dakota, is a fast-growing pine that will quickly provide a barrier between you and your neighbors. Growing between 3-5 feet a year, the Thuja Green Giant will offer your yard classic French design with minimal hassle. Alternatively, the Leyland Cypress and American Holly will also add color and privacy to your yard’s perimeter.
The continental climate of South Dakota brings with it cold, dry winters and hot, moderately dry summers. Summer temperatures often average at 90°F, with possible heat waves and dry spells taking temperatures over 100°F for consecutive days. Summer nights are often a reprieve, dropping to, on average, 60°F once the sun sets. January high temperatures average below freezing, and winter brings several blizzards. The lowest temperature recorded in the state was in 1936 at -58°F, while the highest temperature was set in 2006 at 120°F.
Most trees require well-drained soil rich with minerals to grow. Houdek soils cover over 600,000 acres of South Dakotan land. This rich, deep, well-draining soil is productive and fertile, leading many farmers to use it to grow small grains, corn, sunflowers, and soybeans. Regardless of the property’s location in The Mount Rushmore State, a soon-to-be tree planter can perform a simple test to determine his/her soil type.
The Squeeze test is aptly named because it requires only a small handful of dirt from just beneath the ground’s surface, and your hands. The soil should be moist, but not drenched. The tester simply squeezes the soil and observes one of the three following events.
1. The soil will hold its shape. If you touch the soil, it will maintain its original shape. You have CLAY.
2. The soil will hold its shape. If you touch the soil, it will collapse. You have LOAM.
3. The soil will fall apart as you open your hands. You have SAND.
Once you know what soil type you have, you can find trees best suited to the dirt’s properties. Loam is the best soil to have, as its unique qualities make it ideal for holding and transferring water to trees.
Although South Dakota presents as a continental climate, semi-arid precipitation conditions exist throughout the northern regions of the state, where average precipitation totals rarely exceed 15 inches. The southeast is slightly wetter, averaging 25 inches of rainfall annually. In the Black Hills, where the Black Hills Spruce propagates, rainfall may total as much as 30 inches annually. Severe blizzards and snowfall can affect the region from time to time during the winter, and snowfall totals average at 31 inches annually. Ice and hail can also affect the area.
For a state with limited water activity, South Dakotan planters can rely on the effective use of irrigation to ensure successful plant growth. Newly planted trees require consistent and controlled water access. Irrigation systems, such as drip or sprinkler systems, can be an effective management tool for ensuring successful plant growth. Investigate the property for natural or man-made preexisting irrigation systems, and then consider either do-it-yourself tubing or irrigation services to ensure the best future for your new plants.
South Dakota is home to four unique growing zones. A growing zone simply refers to the USDA’s determination of areas where certain plants are most likely to thrive, preferring to focus on minimal temperature ranges in which a plant can survive. The zones are interspersed haphazardly across the state. Generally, the southeast is warmer, with low temperature ranges dropping to between -25°F and -15°F. In the northeast and northwest corners of the state, temperatures are colder, often dropping below -30°F for extended periods. The northwest colder region extends south, to the southwest corner of the state, circling around Rapid City through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Thunderstorms and tornadoes are the most common threat to flora and fauna in South Dakota. Summer can bring torrential thunderstorms, and with them, high winds, hail, and lightning. The eastern portion of South Dakota falls within Tornado Alley, and South Dakota experiences, on average, 30 tornadoes a year. Winter can also bring at times severe blizzards and ice storms. As such, it is important to plant trees away from powerlines and smaller buildings.