12 Types of Tree Species In Alaska: Native & Introduced Species

Alaska is a state known for its beautiful scenery. It’s home to some of the most beautiful landscapes, from the tundra to the glaciers to the mountains and most importantly beautiful trees and forest in United States. In Alaska some trees grow in one spot especially in the Southeast, whereas others grow throughout the state.

Many of these tree species have adapted to living in the extreme harsh conditions of Alaska. They grow over 80 feet tall and have thick trunks and branches that make them incredibly strong to withstand temperatures as low as -50 degree Fahrenheit and winds up to 200 miles per hour.

Trees also play an important role in the Alaskan ecosystem. They are important source of food for mouse, caribou, bear, raccoons, ptarmigans etc. They are also an important host for many insects and birds which feed on seeds, flowers or fruits such as woodpeckers, Chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. The wood of some trees is used to make furniture, boats and houses. This article we’ll look into different tree species found or easy to grow in Alaska.

List of trees in Alaska

  • Alaska Yellow Cedar
  • Balsam Poplar
  • Black Spruce
  • Mountain Hemlock
  • Paper Birch
  • Quaking Aspen
  • Red Alder
  • Scouler Willow
  • Shore Pine
  • Sitka Spruce
  • Tamarack
  • Western Hemlock


Alaska Yellow Cedar

Yellow cedar trees are an essential part of the Alaskan landscape. It is a member of the cypress family and one of the long-lived trees in the world, and it is only found in North America. The tree grows to a height of up to 120 feet with a width of up to 12 feet.

The yellow cedar is a beautiful tree. The leaves of the tree are a bright yellow color. The tree’s cones are blue-green color. The tree’s bark is reddish-brown color. The tree is found in many different habitats in Alaska. It is found in forests, tundra and even on mountain tops.

The yellow cedar is a slow-growing tree. It can take up to 200 years for the tree to reach its full size. The tree is long-lived, with some individuals living for more than 1000 years.

Balsam Poplar

Alaska balsam poplar is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of 40 feet, with a trunk up to 6 feet in diameter. It has long, narrow leaves with serrated edges and smooth undersides. The tree’s foliage turns bright yellow during the fall and winter months, before it turns green again after springtime. The bark is gray to brownish-gray and furrowed into tight ridges. Alaska balsam poplar has white, fragrant flowers that bloom in spring.

In Alaska, Balsam poplar is commonly found in the Tongas National forest in the Southeast Alaska. It grows very slowly, typically taking 20 years or more to reach maturity. Once grown, it will live for up to 1000 years.

Black Spruce

 Black spruce is an evergreen coniferous tree native to North America. This tree is found throughout Alaska, but it is commonly found in the Southern part of the Peninsular, around Anchorage and Fairbanks. The tree can grow up to 70 meters tall (almost 200 feet).

The black spruce’s bark is thick and dark brown, while its needles are long and thin. The cones are greenish-brown and stand upright on the branches of the tree. The tree can grow very slowly- they usually don’t reach maturity until they are about 100 years old. They can live for hundreds of years, even if they are not tended by humans.

Mountain Hemlock

Mountain hemlock is a member of the pine family and can be found in Alaska and Canada.  It grows to heights of 40 feet (9 meters) tall with branches covered with needles, which are gray-green in color and grow in clusters of three. The small, pale-yellow flowers bloom from spring through summer and can be found on the lower half of the branch. The bark is thin and smooth, with horizontal ridges running down the trunk.

In Alaska, the mountain hemlock often grows in large clumps at the top of hills or on rocky ridges in many forested areas of the state, where it can get protection from wind and snow. The roots are shallow and spread out wide, so they can’t survive being buried under snow loads or other heavy conditions. The trees also grow slowly- it takes about 20 years for a mountain hemlock top reach 10 feet tall. It is also one of few trees that do not have any major predators in Alaska- the only exceptions being birds such as eagles and hawks that eat the fruit.

Paper Birch

Also referred to as Alaska Paper Birch tree has been recognized as a critical part of Alaska’s ecosystem since 1940s, when it was declared a ‘’threatened’’ species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service due to habitat loss due to logging practices, fires and development activities such as roads and buildings.

Paper birch is deciduous in nature and can grow to heights of up to 80 feet and live for an average of 300 years. The bark on a paper birch can be as thick as 2 inches and it peels in vertical strips. The leaves have five pointed lobes, which are dark green on top and white underneath. The flowers are greenish-white and borne on thin stalks; they appear in late spring before the leaves emerge.

Paper birch can be found throughout Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, but they are most commonly found in areas where there are very little to no other trees around them because they grow very slowly and thus don’t compete well with other plants for resources such as sunlight or water.

Quaking Aspen

Quaking Aspen is one of the most iconic trees in Alaska and t’s found in many parts of the state. The tree generally grows from 40 to 120 feet tall with a trunk diameter of about 12 inches. As the quaking aspen, its branches will begin to droop downwards, creating a ‘’quaking’’ effect when they are shaken. This can cause the tree’s leaves to shake violently- hence the name ‘’quaking’’- and can make them fall off.  

The quaking aspen also referred to as trembling aspen or trembling poplar is often grows among other coniferous trees such as balsam fir and white spruce. The leaves are bright green in color and have serrated edges. In the fall, the trees change colors, tuning yellow-brown. This tree bears flowers in the early spring and berries later in the year. The quaking aspen lives for up to 120 years.

Red Alder

The red alder is a tree that grows in Alaska especially the Southeastern forests and the Yukon territory. It’s native to the Pacific Northwest and been used for hundreds of years as a building material. The tree, though slow growing, grows up to 100 feet tall and live beyond 200 years. It grows best in areas with poor drainage such as on plains and hillsides.

The tree’s name comes from its orange/red under-bark. It also features shiny smooth green leaves and are quite different from all other alders. The leaves turn yellow in the autumn before falling. The flowers are pink or red and appear in groups of two or three at the end of branches. Open-grown trees form broadly conical crowns and highly tapered boles, often with large forks and branches.

Scouler Willow

Scouler Willows grows wild in many parts of the state, such as along the banks of the Kuskokwim river, but most common in Alaska’s boreal forests from Tanana valley near Fairbanks and as far north as the foothills of Brooks Range. The Scouler Willow is a small tree that has been known to grow anywhere from 12 to 25 feet tall and can live beyond 80 years. These trees are also very adaptable when it comes to growing conditions, they can survive regardless of the type of weather.

Scouler willow stems are straight and support few branches generally resulting in narrow crowns. Stem bark is gray or dark brown in color with broad, flat ridges. Twigs are stout and whitish-green. The leaves are dark-green short-pointed at the apex and tapered toward the base. The sapwood is thick nearly white whereas the heartwood is light brown tinged with red.

Shore Pine

Shore pine is a common evergreen coniferous tree in Alaska, and can be found from the southern shores of the state to the Northernmost reaches of the Brooks Range. The Shore Pine is a pine tree with a very short, thick trunk and broad crown. In dense forests, the tree has a slim, conical crown. Its leaves are dark green, thin and needle-like and its cones are brown.

Shore pine trees are slow-growing, but can grow up to 40 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 4 feet. The elastic branches stand upright or overhang and are difficult to break. The branches are covered with short shoots that are easy to remove. The bark on the trunk is gray-brown with prominent ridges running parallel to each other in vertical fashion. It can live up to 200 years.

Sitka Spruce

Sitka spruce is a type of coniferous tree native to Alaska and it is the state tree of Alaska; and has played an important role in the state’s history. The tree can also be found as far as south as Los Angeles and San Diego. Sitka spruce is also referred to as Sitka yellow cedar because of its distinctive bark color. Sitka spruce can grow up to 100 feet tall, but most trees are found between 30 and 60 feet high. The trees are deciduous and shed their leaves during winter months; they do not produce flowers or seeds.

Sitka spruce has a long growing season and it’s a common tree in the rainforests of Alaska. The bark on Sitka spruces is smooth and gray-green in color while the inner bark is red-orange or brownish red in color. The leaves are usually thin and needle-like but may be either flat or heart-shaped depending on the variety of Sitka spruce. The tree grows slowly in its first few years, but once it gets going it will reach heights of 50 feet or more within the first 20 years. The tree can live beyond 200 years.


Tamarack trees can be found in both the interior and coastal regions of Alaska. The trees grow to heights of between 20 and 50 feet and their trunks are about three feet in diameter. The reddish or pink bark can be smooth or furrowed and is typically gray-brown in color at maturity. These trees are able to survive harsh conditions, but they are most common in rugged mountain terrain.

The tamarack tree grows tall and narrow, with long, trunks. The tree is deciduous with large needles that turn from green to yellow or brown before they fall in autumn leaving the pale pinkish-brown shoots bare until the next spring. The needles are produced spirally on long shoots and in dense clusters on long woody shoots. Tamaracks are also referred to as American larch trees due to their resemblance to larch trees found in Europe.

Western Hemlock

Western hemlock is found throughout Alaska, but it is most abundant in mountain forests and can be found from the Kenai peninsula to Brooks Range through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Western hemlock grows up to 120 feet but most cultivars are under 50 feet. The bark is gray or brown and rough-looking, with long branches that form a canopy over trees.

Western hemlock has deciduous leaves that are divided into three leaflets with tips that are sometimes lobed or petiolate. The flowers are white or pink and appear in springtime before the leaves, which are produced in dense clusters all summer long. The fruit is a small brown or green acorn that remains attached to the tree all winter long. The crown of these tree is broad and conical in young trees with a strongly drooping lead shoot, becoming cylindrical in older trees.

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