Horse Friendly Trees

The decision behind choosing the right trees for horse paddocks and enclosures is more than just selecting something that is big and wide for shade. A huge consideration is the potential of certain trees to poison horses when foliage, branches, flowers or nuts are mistaken as food.

Print Download Email Share Tweet

When there may be a lack of food, horses can have the tendency of munch on trees. This makes the decision around tree selection very important. Fruit or nut-bearing trees can contribute to colic in horses while there are other trees that are toxic enough to sicken or kill.

Trees not suitable for horses include:

  • Acer rubrum (Canadian Maple), Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple) Acer negundo (Box Elder) and their hybrids – These maples should be avoided as they produce cyanide in their leaves which suffocates animals by blocking oxygen transport via the red blood cells.  Ingestion causes lethargy, discoloured urine and darkened gums, and death.
  • Aesculus (Horse Chestnut) - The toxin is present in the nuts, leaves or new growth. Symptoms of poisoning include depression, muscle tremors or spasms, lack of coordination, colic, pain and paralysis.
  • Juglans nigra (Black walnut) - The bark, nuts, roots, pollen and fallen leaves contain juglone, a compound which is toxic to horses.
  • Melia azedarach (White Cedar) - This tree should not be planted where dogs, livestock and horses can graze the seeds or leaves. However, many birds are able to eat the seeds, which may have helped the tree become widespread and considered a pest in some areas.
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander) – This tree or large shrub contains cardiotoxic compounds that are poisonous to humans, dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, llamas and birds. The primary toxic agent, oleandrin, causes heart arrhythmias that lead to cardiac arrest and death. In horses, as little as 30 grams of green leaves can be lethal.
  • Prunus (all Cherry, Peach and Plum trees)  -  These fruits are safe when eaten by humans, however, there are cyanogenic glycosides in the leaves, shoots, bark and pits of the fruit that can lead to poisoning in horses. 
  • Quercus (Oak) – These trees pose a threat with acorns, buds, leaves and blossoms all being toxic to livestock, including horses. Oak poisoning causes colic and bloody diarrhoea in horses as well as damage to kidneys. It is advised to stay well away from this species entirely.
  • Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust) - The bark, seeds, leaves and twigs of this tree is toxic to humans, cattle, poultry, sheep, and horses.
  • Taxus (English yew, Canada yew and Japanese yew - and their hybrids) - The needles and seeds of these trees are highly poisonous to horses, cattle, sheep and goats 
  • Privet – Privet leaves and berries are poisonous to horses and are known to cause gastrointestinal and nervous system distress, causing convulsions, paralysis, and even death. Eating small quantities of Privet can kill a horse.

It is most likely that horses will not want to eat any sort of trees unless there is very little else for them to graze on. Most horses will avoid poisonous trees and plants because they are unpalatable and have a bitter taste and/or smell. But during periods of drought or when pastures are overgrazed, animals just might begin to investigate the undesirable ones. And then you probably get a few horses that simply nibble on anything. It is unclear how much of any tree is detrimental to horses, so our recommendation is to do your research, talk to other horse owners and seek advice before planting from horse-related associations, to determine the degree of risk based on your situation.

Now the good news. There are alternatives for boundary and shading pasture trees that are big and beautiful and most importantly, non-toxic.

Below is a mix of deciduous and evergreen native trees to inspire your decision-making.

Silver Birch is a popular deciduous tree that is available in multiple sizes. 'Moss White' begins with a grey trunk that eventually over time turns to white - quite a feature during winter when limbs are bare. Moss White is popular but we also have the more slender, upright form called Betula pendula fastigiata. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L 200L
This is a versatile deciduous tree that can be used in many commercial and residential applications where shade is required in summer. Autumn colour is sensational. Any Ash tree is considered safe for horses, so you also wish to consider evergreen Ash (Fraxinus griffithii), Claret Ash (Fraxinus Raywoodii) or Fraxinus Pennsylvanica 'Urbanite'. 30cm/14L 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L
This is a beautiful tree with large leaves and a great shape for shade in summer. Fresh green foliage is home to yellowish flowers with an orange fleck in spring. These flowers resemble tulip flowers hence its name. We also grow a fastigiate form for narrower spaces, driveways and boundary fences. 50cm/52L
This is a selection of maculata from Sale Victoria, grown for its maculata attributes and smaller height - a real alternative for landscapes preferring a more compact trust-worthy native.
A rainforest tree native to the North-Eastern parts of Australia, this is a fast growing tree which is rarely affected by pests and diseases. Dome-like in shape, it develops a very dense foliage cover of dark green, leathery leaves providing good shade for the summer months. This variety rarely sheds limbs and has salmon coloured bark which flakes off over summer revealing orange-brown tones on the trunk. Summer also brings clusters of small white flowers whose stamens give them a decorative fluffy appearance. 40cm/27L
This attractive Australian native Angophora (syn. Eucalyptus) is loved for its smooth bark that is slightly purple in colour. It has large and twisted limbs and a very large expanded trunk base. It bears white flower clusters in spring. This tree has opposite leaves compared to alternate leaves as seen in eucalypt tree varieties. It has beautiful red new growth. 40cm/27L 100L
This tree has a smooth trunk with cream to grey coloured bark which sheds in flakes. It has narrow shaped green leaves and as it matures, forms a large open canopy. From Autumn to Spring, an abundance of red flowers appear in clusters of three attracting a variety of birdlife. 40cm/27L
This Australian native tree grows naturally down the central tablelands of New South Wales to Victoria, and across as far as Ararat. A tough tree, it is capable of tolerating difficult, dry stony soils. Juvenile foliage is oval in shape and grey-green in colour whilst the mature, adult leaves are more ovate. The short trunk can be smooth or box-like (fissured). Flowering occurs from September to January during which small white flowers appear. 40cm/27L
A beautiful, tall growing Corymbia (syn. Eucalyptus) with a distinctive, often powdery white to grey coloured bark which curls and flakes off in spring. Its leaves are green, long and slender with an amazing, strong lemon fragrance when crushed. Its strong scent is a distinguishing attribute, with the essential oils produced from this variety often being used in fragrances as well as insect repellents. In summer and autumn, feathery white flowers appear, making it a good source of food for honey bees. 40cm/27L 100L
This tree is a medium to tall grower, best known for its unusual bark which varies from smooth to rough all the way down the trunk. Often the bark varies presenting an array of colours including grey, yellow, red and brown and occasionally, can be very dark and rough. Very fragrant, white flowers appear during the warmer months. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L

Find a Tree

With more than 400 trees in our library we can help you find the perfect tree for your next project.


Ask a question

We're here to help if you need any advice on selecting the perfect tree for your next project.

Send Message


Receive all the latest news, product information, collections, projects, tips and special offers straight to your inbox each month or so.



Stay in the loop by connecting with us through social media.

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube LinkedIn Pinterest

Treefinder can help you identify the perfect tree for your next project!

With over 400 tree varieties for review, the Treefinder app enables you to conveniently browse and compile a list of trees suitable for a number of common landscaping uses - from attracting birds to creating a formal screen or hedge. By selecting desired size, foliage, and a few categories, Treefinder opens up a world of possibilities.

Once you've found the perfect tree you can click through to our website for more information, availability and a quote.

Try it online

We are specialists in the environmentally sustainable production of premium quality advanced landscaping trees and screens.

For more than 47 years Speciality Trees has been a leader in the production and supply of advanced environmentally sustainable, containerised landscape trees for local government, the landscaping industry and retailers.

Learn more