Toponymic Map of the U.S. Vegetation

While ago, I made a toponymic biomes map of the United States. Now it’s time to make a toponymic map of the U.S. vegetation.

There are more than 640 various species of trees in the U.S., 186 of which are endemic. So I decided to focus on the most common tree species in the United States.

According to the National Atlas website, in the West, Douglas-fir is the most common tree by volume, with nearly twice the volume of the following most common species, Loblolly pine, in the South. These ten species account for 45% of all live volume.

Top 10 tree species by live volume
Common nameGenusSpeciesVolume in billon m3 / ft3Percent of all volume
Douglas-FirPseudotsugamenziesii3.3 / 114.812.80
Loblolly PinePinustaeda1.7 / 59.06.60
Ponderosa PinePinusponderosa1.0 / 36.54.10
Red MapleAcerrubrum1.0 / 35.33.90
Western HemlockTsugaheterophylla0.9 / 32.03.60
Lodgepole PinePinuscontorta0.8 / 28.73.20
White OakQuercusalba0.8 / 28.73.20
Sugar MapleAcersaccharum0.7 / 23.92.70
Yellow-PoplarLiriodendrontulipifera0.7 / 23.22.60
Northern Red OakQuercusrubra0.6 / 21.32.40

Red maple, in the North, is the most common tree found in U.S. forests, followed closely by Loblolly pine, the most commonly planted tree, in the South. These 10 species account for 39% of all trees.

Top 10 tree species by number of trees
Common nameGenusSpeciesNumber of billion treesPercent of all trees
Red MapleAcerrubrum21.87.60
Loblolly PinePinustaeda19.16.60
Quaking AspenPopulustremuloides9.13.20
Sugar MapleAcersaccharum93.10
Balsam FirAbiesbalsamea8.93.10
Flowering DogwoodCornusflorida8.63.00
Lodgepole PinePinuscontorta7.12.50
White OakQuercusalba5.41.90

I downloaded a huge text file of named places from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names and attached it as XY data into an ArcGIS geodatabase.

Let’s see how many populated places in the United States contain the names of the most common tree species.


Oak is the national tree of the United States, so it is not surprising that the U.S. Board of Geographic Names contains information about 16,003 populated places that have the words “Oak” or “Oaks” in their names.

White Oak (Quercus alba)  is the most common oak species in the United States. White oak grows in a wide range of habitats. It is native to the eastern and central regions of the United States.

Oak - Toponymic Map

36 pine species are grown in the U.S., with many found in the country’s east and west. There are 12,583 populated places of the nation that contain the word “pine.”

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) are the most common in the United States.

Loblolly pine is native pine species to the Southeastern U.S., from East Texas to Florida and north to southern New Jersey. It is the most widely planted pine tree in the eastern coastal U.S. states. Lodgepole Pine is a typical tree in the Pacific Northwestern part of the U.S.

Pine - Toponymic Map

About 3,119 localities in the United States contain the word “Maple”.

The most common in the United States are Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Red Maple mainly grows in the eastern U.S. while Sugar Maple in the Northeast.

Maple - Toponymic Map

One thousand three hundred fifty-six populated places contain the word “Poplar.”

Yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is the most common poplar tree species in the U.S. It is native to the eastern United States to the south to central Florida and Louisiana.

Poplar - Toponymic Map

There are 465 populated places in the United States contain the word “Aspen”.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is the most widely distributed tree in the U.S, especially in northern and western states.

Aspen - Toponymic Map

Even though western hemlock the top tree species by live volume in the U.S., just 371 settlements have the word “Hemlock.”

Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) is native to the west coast of the United States, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and its southeastern limit in northern Sonoma County in California.

Hemlock - Toponymic Map

About 351 localities in the U.S. contain the word “Dogwood.” The Flowering dogwood (Cornus Florida) is one of the most common understory hardwoods growing in hardwood and coniferous forests in eastern states of America.

Dogwood - Toponymic Map

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) are the most common fir species in the American forests. Douglas fir is native to the western U.S. states. At the same time, Balsm Fir is native to the northeastern United States (Minnesota east to Maine, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to West Virginia). But despite that, just 226 the names of the U.S. populated places contain the words “fir” or “firs.”

Fir - Toponymic Map

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is one of the most aggressive and competitive pioneer tree species and fast takes over abandoned fields and unmanaged cut-over forests. It comfortably grows on many places like red maple, including wetlands and dry hill country up to 800 meters (2,624 feet). There is 23 settlement in the U.S. that contains the word “Sweetgum” (Liquidambar styraciflua).

Sweetgum - Toponymic Map

Palm trees are not the dominant woody plants in the United States. Only 14 species of palms, belonging to 9 genera, are native to the U.S. Most palm species are distributed in the southeastern and southern U.S. states. The most significant number of species occurs in Florida.

Despite this, palm trees are widely used in landscaping in many U.S. states because of their high ornamental value. So it is interesting to know which populated places contain the word “palm” in their name.

Palm - Toponymic Map

The map below shows populated places whose names contain the species names of all the major tree species in the United States.

Place names associated with tree species
The Toponymic Map of the Most Common Trees in the U.S.
Animated version of the map

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