Horse safe, fast growing trees for California

I’m looking to add a row of shade trees on the South side of my arena. I need something safe for horses and quick growing. I’m in the Central California Sierra foothills. I will have a way to water them.

Even drought-resistant plants require watering for at least their first year. Also, keep in mind that fast-growing trees are often brittle. Spending more for larger trees may be the better deal.

I would look first at trees native to your area and zone – contact your county or state extension agent and/or check with a local tree nursery (not a garden center like Home Depot).

Also keep in mind something that is at least somewhat fire resistant, so plant your locally selected trees with an eye to how far they will be from structures and other trees at maturity.

Coast redwood grow fast but can be a bit messy. If they are far enough from the arena you should be okay. Am not aware of any toxicity, but maybe someone else is.

ETA: Found at least one reference that said they are not toxic to horses.

Moringa tree.

Cottonwood maybe depending on the micro climate.

I planted quite a variety of trees at the same time so here goes.

Of course, the California Pepper is the fastest growing and very hardy. They do attract bees and need maintenance to get more of the umbrella look. The horses occasionally snack on them and are fine, but get pepper breath. Kinda messy. I love my birch trees most shade wise, though they lose their leaves in winter which is fine with me. My Cottonwoods, despite having had them for over fourteen years, just couldn’t handle the drought and died. Not sure if they are horse safe as I have them on my perimeter, but the Olive trees have faired well despite the drought, yet are definitely slower growing. Also the Tipuana Tipu is a great shade tree that is fast growing. And of course, the Oak tree. Some varieties are not horse safe - like the Cork Oak, but they do thrive at least around here, are beautiful to look at especially as they mature, and are pretty drought tolerant although I’ve noticed quite a few struggling this year around the neighborhood.

…be sure to check on toxicity for any trees.

ASPCA’s list of toxic and nontoxic plants is one of the most thorough I’ve found:

I have had good luck with eucalyptus trees–fast growing, drought tolerant, but do get brittle limbs without some water. They´re messy, shed leaves practically year round to one extent or another. I´m currently in the bottom of the Central Valley, south-ish. They seem to like it here.

I don’t know exactly where you are (what elevation etc), but I love love love fruitless mulberries and evergreen ash (Fraxinus uhdei ‘Monus’). Both are deciduous fast growing and and once established won’t need much/any water. Both are “safe” for horses and not prone to breakage (I’ve never seen a mulberry break a branch).

Um, a note about eucalyptus. Yes, they do well around here and are non native. They are also full of oil and like torches if you have a fire, as in the Oakland hills. I would not plant them on purpose.

I’m at about 1500’ elevation. I’m thinking Ash may be a good tree to go with. Thanks for everyone’s help!

Shade tree for California

Consider a hackberry. Celtis occidentalis or C. sinensis.

A fellow here planted a line of austrees to protect his house and roping arena and in a few years they were very large and a great asset.
He said they were safe for horses and grew several feet a year.
He trimmed his at the bottom so they grew very tall and he can rope in very windy days, they give very good protection:

You may want to ask about those for where you are.
They may be suitable for your purpose and location.

A friend has some plain cypress and they too are a great windbreak, but it takes them much longer to get very big:

Both kinds are very pretty, thick trees for windbreaks.

Cottonwood maybe depending on the micro climate.[/QUOTE]

Nope! Stay away from Poplars. California Sycamore, Platanus racemosa, or London Plane Tree, Platanus × acerifolia are good choices. Another good tree is Chinese Flame Tree, Koelreuteria bipinnate. I am not a fan of California Pepper Tree, Schinus molle, but they are fast growing.