10 Best North American Trees for Bees

Pollinators are in peril. Beekeepers continue to lose significant percentages of their honey bee colonies each year to the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder. And if that's not bad enough, native pollinators also seem to be in decline, though they are vital to the production of fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, our agricultural and landscaping practices aren't helping the pollinators' plight. More and more farm acreage is being used to grow corn and soybeans, creating massive monocultures that aren't healthy environments for bees. Many American homes are surrounded by lawns, with landscapes that lack native flowering plants.

When you think of bees gathering pollen and nectar, you probably imagine a colorful flower bed, filled with annuals and perennials. But bees visit trees, too.

The next time you choose a tree to plant in your yard, at a school, or in a park, consider planting a native flowering tree that bees will love to visit. 

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American Basswood

American basswood, also known as linden.


Scientific Name: Tilia americana

Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

Region: Eastern United States and Canada

Basswood, or linden, is a favorite of beekeepers because its nectar is irresistible to honey bees. Some beekeepers even market basswood honey. Observe basswood in bloom, and you'll see bumblebees, sweat bees, and even nectar-loving flies and wasps visiting its flowers.

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Southern Magnolia

Southern magnolia.


Scientific Name: Magnolia grandiflora

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Southeastern United States

The charismatic magnolia is a symbol of the South. Its showy, fragrant flowers can span a foot or more across. Magnolias are associated with beetle pollinators, but that doesn't mean the bees will pass them by. If you don't live in the Deep South, try planting sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) instead. The native range of M. virginiana extends as far north as New York.

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Scientific Name: Oxydendrum arboreum

Bloom Time: Early summer

Region: Mid-Atlantic and Southeast

If you've traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway, you've probably seen beekeepers selling sourwood honey from roadside stands. Honey bees love the slightly fragrant, bell-shaped flowers of the sourwood (or sorrel) tree. The sourwood tree, which belongs to the heath family, attracts all sorts of bees, as well as butterflies and moths.

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Black cherry.

Dendroica cerulea/Flickr

Scientific Name: Prunus spp.

Bloom Time: Spring to early summer

Region: Throughout the United States and Canada

Just about any species of Prunus will attract bees in large numbers. As an added bonus, they're also the host plants for hundreds of moths and butterflies. The genus Prunus includes cherries, plums, and other similar fruit-bearing trees. If you want to attract pollinators, consider planting either black cherry (Prunus serotina) or chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). Do be aware, however, that both species tend to spread, and can be toxic to sheep and cattle.

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Eastern redbud.


Scientific Name: Cercis spp.

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Most of the eastern United States, southern Ontario, the Southwest, and California

The redbud boasts unusual magenta blooms that arise from buds along twigs, branches, and even the trunk. Its flowers attract bees in early to mid-spring. The eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, grows throughout most eastern U.S. states, while the California redbud, Cercis orbiculata, thrives in the Southwest.

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Ryan Somma/Flickr

Scientific Name: Malus spp.

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Throughout the United States and Canada

Crabapples bloom in white, pink, or red, and attract all kinds of interesting pollinators, like orchard mason bees. You can choose from several species and hundreds of Malus cultivars. Select a variety that's native to your area using the USDA Plants Database.

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Black locust


Scientific Name: Robinia spp.

Bloom Time: Late spring

Region: Throughout the United States and Canada

Locust may not be everyone's favorite choice of tree, but it does have value to foraging bees. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is widespread in North America, thanks to its invasive tendency. It's also a hardy choice for tough environments, like urban areas. Honey bees love it, as do many native pollen bees. If you don't want to plant black locust, consider another Robinia species native to your area. New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) is a good choice for the Southwest, and bristly locust (Robinia hispida) grows well in most of the lower 48 states.

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Serviceberry or shadbush


Scientific Name: Amelanchier spp.

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Throughout the United States and Canada

Serviceberry, also known as shadbush, is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring. Bees love the serviceberry's white flowers, while birds love its berries. Eastern species include the common or downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) and the Canadian serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis.) In the West, look for Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifoli).

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Tulip Tree

Tulip tree


Scientific Name: Liriodendron tulipifera

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Eastern and southern United States and Ontario

Take one look at the stunning yellow flowers of the tulip tree, and you will understand how it got its common name. Tulip trees grow straight and tall throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, offering springtime nectar to all kinds of pollinators.

It's sometimes called tulip poplar, but this is a misnomer, as the species is actually a magnolia and not a poplar at all. Beekeepers will tell you their honey bees love tulip trees. The Xerces Society recommends choosing a variety with bright yellow flowers to best attract pollinators.

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Water tupelo

Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Scientific Name: Nyssa spp.

Bloom Time: Spring

Region: Eastern and Southern United States

Whether it's the black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) or the water tupelo (Nyssa aquatic), bees love the tupelo tree. Have you ever heard of tupelo honey? Honey bees make it from the nectar of these spring-blooming trees.

Beekeepers near the swamps of the Deep South will even put their hives on floating docks so their bees can nectar on the water tupelo blossoms. The black tupelo also goes by the names black gum or sour gum.

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Hadley, Debbie. "10 Best North American Trees for Bees." ThoughtCo, Sep. 9, 2021, thoughtco.com/best-north-american-trees-for-bees-1968106. Hadley, Debbie. (2021, September 9). 10 Best North American Trees for Bees. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-north-american-trees-for-bees-1968106 Hadley, Debbie. "10 Best North American Trees for Bees." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-north-american-trees-for-bees-1968106 (accessed June 4, 2023).