Despite many booming metropolises, trees cover the United States. With 3.8 million square miles of territory, the United States ranks fourth in tree population by country. In fact, botanists estimate that there are 228 billion trees in the United States today. Compared to a century ago, the tree population has certainly dwindled as man expanded across the country and grew large cities.
Not all states are created equal for tree populations. There are some states with wonderful climates for trees and others that cannot support them well. Furthermore, many mid-western states are mostly untouched because of topography or distance from major cities.
When ranking states based on tree population, we can look at it in a few different ways. For example, we can assess how many trees exist in a state as a raw number. Also, we can assess how many trees exist per square mile. Finally, we can determine how many tree species a state supports.
Below, we will detail the top three states in all three categories.
However, first, we will least the five states with the fewest total trees.
Five States with the Fewest Trees
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
States with the Most Trees (Raw Population)
The states in this list support massive populations of trees. Because we are looking at the true population, all the states on this list will also be large. Many of these states still hold large national forests in untouched land.
With the sheer size and uninhabited portions of Alaska, it is unsurprising that it holds the top slot. In fact, Alaska is almost three times the size of Texas (the second state on this list). 32 billion trees grow across the expansive frontier of Alaska. Many national forests protect the trees in this state.
Across Texas, over 16 billion trees grow. With a significantly different climate than Alaska, the species are also very different. However, national forests do not protect the trees in this state like in Alaska. Texans protect their trees and plant them across the state, even in highly populated areas.
Finally, the third state on our list is Montana. Though it is the fourth state in size, it is the third state for tree populations. Like Alaska, much of Montana is uninhabited. Large national parks protect the wildlands. The population of Montana works hard to protect the natural lands. Overall, expansion of human interference is met with opposition. Falling in between Alaska and Texas in geographic location, Montana shares many species with both states.
States with the Most Trees (Forest Coverage)
A significant amount of the country’s forest resides on the eastern half and most notably on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. That being said, the three states at the top of this list are all on the East Coast. Scientists organized the states based on the percentage of land that is considered forest.
With the most tree coverage of any state, Maine contains almost 18 million acres of forests. By far, Maine holds this title. Maine is almost 90% forest. Because of severely cold weather and rocky soil, much of Maine is untouched. Furthermore, the human inhabitants strive to keep the natural beauty of the state.
2. New Hampshire
Just like Maine, New Hampshire carries a unique appeal with natural beauty and a large amount of forested land. In fact, almost 85% of New Hampshire is forest land. Both national and state parks protect the forested areas. New Hampshire does not boast large metropolises but is spotted with small towns with picturesque views.
3. West Virginia
West Virginia is further down the coast than our first two states on the list. However, the mountainous state of West Virginia remains untouched. Almost 80% of West Virginia is forest. Like the other two states, West Virginia is quite mountainous and rocky. With this difficult topography, much of the state has not been developed, leaving beautiful woodlands to explore.
States with the Most Trees (Species Variety)
Tree diversity creates beautiful environments and supports an expansive ecosystem. In the United States, the greatest amount of diversity is in the southeastern states. With hot and humid climates, a wide variety of species thrive. The northern states are far too cold in the climate to support expansive diversity. This list contains three states in the eastern portion of the United States, all with long lists of support species.
Portions of Mississippi support 130 tree species of which over 70 are endemic. The humid climate and fertile soil make growing easy. Settlers converted much of Mississippi to farmland over the centuries, but many areas remain untouched because they are wetlands.
Sharing similar numbers with Mississippi, over 130 species grow across the state of Alabama. There is a large portion of area shared between Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia where the species diversity is the highest. Alabama does not claim any coastline. However, the hot and humid climate is still present.
Georgia borders the area of diversity with Alabama and Mississippi. However, it still contains significant diversity. With counties claiming close to 130 different species in the state, trees flourish. Georgia borders the Atlantic Ocean and, just like Alabama and Mississippi, deals with severely hot and humid weather.