Tree names offer a slightly different take on the many nature names parents love.
From redwoods and weeping willows to cherry blossoms and regular ol’ oaks, trees command respect. They’re enduring, symbolic, undeniably attractive.
Poet Joyce Kilmer wrote I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree … and it is easy to understand what he meant.
Tree baby names fit right in with water-inspired choices like River and Ocean, floral choices from Violet to Rose, and animal kingdom options, like Wren and Bear.
So let’s take a look at some of the many tree names that might be exactly right for your child’s name – from the stylish and well-known, to the surprising, but still wearable.
POPULAR TREE NAMES
This one brings to mind skiing, not trees. But of course, it was an abundance of aspen trees that gave the Colorado town its name. Tailored, outdoorsy Aspen fits right in with our interest in nature names nowadays, a frills-free choice that’s been gaining for girls since the 1990s. The spelling Aspyn also appears, usually on girls’ name lists.
A Top 100 staple from the 1890s into the 1930s, Hazel made her comeback right on time. Julia Roberts welcomed daughter Hazel in 2004, and John Kraskinski and Emily Blunt chose the name in early 2014. Factor in YA smash hit novel The Fault in Our Stars, and Hazel is flourishing.
Holly’s heyday was in the 1970s and 80s. Farther back, Holly saw occasional use for boys. Today it feels like a mainstream choice for a daughter, one born around the winter holidays, maybe, or just for parents channeling the glamour of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Is Juniper a tree or a bush? Yes. Some are tall trees, while others are rather shrubby. Juniper is Jennifer’s daughter, boosted by our affection for the sound – June and Juno are also quite stylish.
The downside is that plenty of people will mishear this name as Top Ten favorite Noah. Instead, Koa trees grow in Hawaii. The meaning – given as strong, brave, and warrior – is another bonus.
A nature name spin on the classic Laura and former favorite Lauren, Laurel combines a familiar, traditional sound with an unexpected -el ending. It’s probably that sound that explains much o the name’s appeal, rather than the laurel tree. Still, laurel wreaths were given out as awards in the ancient world, lending this name a certain boldness.
It reads more like Lily or Rose, but magnolias do grow on trees. It’s slightly Southern and a long, romantic choice for a baby girl born today.
Edible Olive feels a little like Apple, but of course olives grow on olive trees, in the Mediterranean and surrounding areas. Like Hazel, this name has been boosted by some high profile birth announcements – Isla Fischer and Sacha Barron Cohen have an Olive. So does Drew Barrymore. With Olivia a long-time favorite, tailored Olive makes a logical successor.
Anne Rice gave this name to the central figure in her 1990 novel The Witching Hour. Rice’s Rowan was a woman, but this name has become nicely gender neutral – slightly more popular for boys, but common enough for girls, too.
The first Willow was a brave farmer named Willow Ufgood in 1988 dark fantasy film Willow. But it never caught on for boys; instead, a few years later, it would appear on lists as a girls’ name. A television witch and a Pinkett-Smith eventually put this tree name on the map. Willow entered the US Top 100 in 2016, and continues to climb.
UNCOMMON TREE NAMES
Like Koa, this one doesn’t immediately scream tree! But with choices like Amelia and Sophia so stylish, wouldn’t Acacia fit right in with other ends-in-ia names for girls?
With -r ending names for boys on the rise, no surprise that Alder is seeing some use. Alder feels more modern than vintage picks like Alfred and Albert. There’s also Adler, but that takes us from trees to eagles. Alder trees are associated with many things, but here’s one fun fact – alder wood is often used for the bodies of electric guitars.
It’s easy to think of Apple as another outlandish celebrity choice. Or just an edible name, akin to Olive or Sage. But apple trees are quite common in the US, making Apple a cousin to Willow.
You might think of Pokemon protagonist Ash Ketchum. But that’s not a bad association. It’s more clearly masculine than Ashley and a nature name, too.
If Rowan and Aspen work, why not Banyan? It’s the national tree of India, particularly significant in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
A handful of boys have been named Birch dating back years. Maybe that’s because it’s a surname – nearly always related to the birch tree. Or perhaps it’s the tree itself, a deciduous tree, cousin to Alder and Hazel.
The spice we call “cinnamon” in the US is most often actually cassia. It’s a genus of flowering plants. Some are smaller, but most often, a cassia tree is mid-sized.
A tree name that feels familiar and unexpected at once, Cedar is gaining for boys and girls alike.
The name of a great plants, including trees, the cypress tree is richly symbolic, often said to mean life after death.
Fellow name blogger Swistle helped a couple with a daughter named Elm Elizabeth. They had a great story for their very unusual choice.
This Cornish word name is only worn by handful of girls in the US. But it shares sounds with Eloise and Elodie, and the tailored -en ending appeals, too.
A name borrowed from a fir tree might be especially suitable for a son born over the winter holidays. Fraser firs are one type of evergreen tree especially popular for Christmas. It’s also spelled Frasier, Frazer, and Frazier.
Hawberry and Whitethorn are non-starters, but how ’bout Hawthorn? The tree makes it a nature name, but it also reads as a literary one, thanks to the accomplishments of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Hickory trees are found in North America and Asia. But the name sounds particularly American, perhaps because the name comes from a Native American word, possibly Algonquian, used to describe the tree’s nuts.
Spell it Lyndon, and this becomes a presidential pick, as in LBJ. But Linden is a tree, and it works for both genders. For girls, it is a successor to Linda, the equivalent of Laura-Lauren. For boys, it is yet another ends-with-n possibility – but one that’s far less common than many. Linden trees are typically called lime trees in the UK, though they’re not related to the citrus fruit in any way.
We tend to think of mahogany as a type of wood, and of course it is. Or maybe a color, that dark, rich shade of brown. But both come, of course, from the mahogany tree. It’s the national tree of both Belize and the Dominican Republic. f
Maple sounds like Mabel, but feels like a nod to Canadian heritage. Or maybe Maple is just another word that sounds like it ought to be a given name. From the red maple to the sugar maple, maple trees are common in North America, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.
A generation of Harry Potter fans know that Moaning Myrtle haunts Hogwarts. But is this name really so different from Hazel? It might be an appealing alternative.
If Ash makes the list, why not mighty Oak? Oak tree-inspired names are gaining in the current US Top 1000, including Oakley (and Oaklee and Oakleigh), as well as Oaklynn and Oaklyn.
We can all picture a pine tree, but a baby named Pine? That might be more a stretch. Still, that could change with more children wearing tree names, and Pine has history as a surname – just think of actor Chris Pine.
A tree name, yes, but also an admirable Native American hero name, one that remains wearable for a son. Sequoia leans westward, and stands tall.
A tree name, one that’s seasonal and rather spiffy.
ALMOST TREE NAMES
A California place name, Alameda comes from a Spanish phrase meaning “tree-lined path.”
The Latin word for tree, Arbor also refers to a leafy, shaded spot in a garden. It substitutes nicely for Harper.
There is such a thing as a bay laurel, and it is a tree – especially in California, where it was a food source for Native Americans. Bay says “body of water” to most, or maybe “spice for cooking.” But regardless of your association, Bay is an undeniable nature name.
It sounds like a name, in the key of Christopher and Jennifer. Conifer refers to any cone-producing plant. Rare, but not unreasonable.
Ebony seems more like a color name than a tree name, possibly because it’s often heard in reference to the wood, rather than the trees that produce it.
Part-nature name, part-virtue, Evergreen might be too much as a first, but it feels perfect as a middle.
Before you say no way, consider this: Scandinavian heritage pick Leif is often pronounced just like leaf in the US. Leaf was also the birth name of Joaquin Phoenix, and a handful of other boys in recent years.
What better choice to appear on a list of tree names?
In Latin, silva means forest. There’s a cluster of names, including Sylvester, Silas, Sylvia, and Sylvie, sharing the same root.
It can mean to fall over, but Timber is also associated with trees. It’s more wearable than Bark, Trunk, or even Branch.
The yew tree features in more stories and legends than many different types of trees. The Yew Dales are home to the Norse god of winter. Poets like Tennyson and TS Eliot mention yew trees in their works. And they were considered sacred to many European peoples, pre-Christianity. Maybe that’s why names like Yves and Ivo, as well as Iva and Yvonne have such long histories.
What are your favorite tree names? What’s missing from this list?
First published on April 14, 2014, this post was updated on June 8, 2020, April 21, 2021, September 18, 2021, and June 2, 2022.
I came across someone on Reddit ridiculing a name which I for some reason come to really like: Oax. It’s pronounced Oaks. I kinda like the name as a name for the tree. Do you think Oax is too ridiculous, or is it wearable due to the pronouncing of the name?
I can’t decide. I agree that Oaks works – hello, Brooks and Wells and Oakley, too!
But I’m struggling with the spelling Oax. On the one hand, it’s phonetic. I get it + it would easy to pronounce. On the other hand, it feels very much like an abbreviation, maybe for a beach town or a lacrosse team. (Maybe my Maryland roots are showing here!) My brain sees it + wants to say O-A-X, like LAX.
And yet, I do get the appeal.
So … maybe?
We named our litter of puppies tree names—Alder, Birch, Hickory, Hawthorn,Maple,Juniper Spruce, Fig, Clover, Lavender and Arthur. ( Yes, Clover and Lavender being more botanical than tree and Arthur named by one of the kids) Now we’re pregnant with #7 and I’m trying to convince
my husband that using Hawthorn wouldn’t be weird since he was renamed in his forever home.
I’ve taught a trio of siblings named Barty (as in Bartlett pear tree), Noli (as in Magnolia), and Alder. I love the theme!
My favorite tree name for now is Pine.
If Forrest is there, then so should be Sylvia/Sylvie, my own favorite forest name.
There was a male character named Redwood in a book I read as a kid. I’ve loved it ever since!
That’s fascinating, Imogen – I do kind of love it!
My grandparents had a tree named Maggie Sue (because she was a magnolia soulangeana). She was an important part of childhood for two generations of our family. Recently, I’ve been wanting to name a daughter after her, but it feels a bit…odd to consider naming your child after a tree, like a specific tree.
What a sweet story! I’d like to be named after a tree – especially one with so much meaning for you + your family.
Another contender for the list might be Linnea. Comes from Linnaeus which refers to the linden tree. Not sure if that is too much of a stretch or not…
Good thought! This list is a little more definitely-a-tree names, but Linnea is gorgeous + deserves more attention! (Always surprised it’s so rare.)
Aspen with the nickname Penny is a bit of a guilty pleasure name for me. Others I really like include Olive and Cedar. I stumbled across Oak too, as a middle, and loved it, as in Edmund Oak.
I recently met a young Spruce!
He was a Christmas baby and they’d chosen something Christmas related but not as obvious, it really suited him!
Crystal Burgett-Bratt says
Depending on his age it may of made a nice play on the similar sounding Bruce which immediately comes to mind when I think of the name Bruce.
Personally, I prefer Hazel, Holly and Laurel as boys names…
Oh, and it would be nice to see Conifer used as a name…
LOVE the suggestion of Conifer!
I love Arbor! We’ve been trying to conceive and I’ve been praying for a little girl to call Arbor Anna. My husbands grandmother and my own grandmother on my fathers side names were Anna.
Ebony isn’t in the US Top Thousand anymore but I think it only fell off in the 2000s. No love for Ebony? I think it’s pretty though I couldn’t use it.
I know a little Sequoia.
I do like Hawthorn though everyone in Oz bitches it’s a suburb of Melbourne. (Except for one Hawks fan who thinks I have spectacular taste).
For boys, I must confess I’ve grown attached to native Australian trees Jarrah and Huon. I’ve known several Jarrahs out here. Huon is less popular but its said like Hugh + the end of Owen and is a kind of pine. I have the blessing of several Aussies to use Huon instead of Hawthorn, lol.
For girls, I like a *lot* of these, but Hazel is my favourite. Not on the list, but I like Jacaranda and Andromeda. Lilac – tree or shrub? Well I guess whatever it is, Andromeda is too really.
We named our daughter Oak last year and we absolutely love it <3
We call her our little acorn.
She took 7 years to conceive but if she does ever get a sibling I think Iris and Olive go well if it's a girl and Oliver or Aster For a boy.
Also Oaks middle name is Gaia (Mother Earth). We pronounce it Jaia.
In one of my favorite movies, the Wicker Man, each of the characters (who all live in an island community with great reverence for nature) has a tree name–subtle enough that you don’t notice it the first time till you pause at crucial parts and see, for instance, a class roster in the camera shot that names them all.
Rowan (the central character)
…those are the ones I remember, but there are others! Most of the characters referred to by name are female, probably because boy names in this category aren’t as readily available.
What about Arden (as in the forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”)?
I also love Sylvan (“of the forest”) or Sequoia.
I love lots of these. Acacia, Aspen, Rowan, Hazel, Elowen and Laurel have all been on lists of mine.
I feel like there is potential in Beech as a boys’ name.
I like Bay, Oak, Leaf, Rowan, Koa and Cedar for boys. For girls I like Acacia, Elowen, Juniper, Laurel and Willow.
I’ve also heard Sequoia on a young man, it suited him well.
Kara | The Art of Naming says
I like Rowan, Juniper, Olive, Elowen for girls and Hawthorn as a cool middle name for a boy! Nice list!
Brooke Cussans says
I love tree names – some of my all time favourites are on this list 🙂
I have a very soft spot for Myrtle.
But you left off Magnolia!
Oh my goodness! What an oversight – Magnolia absolutely belongs on this list!
I have a soft spot for Myrtle, probably because I had a great-aunt with this name. I think it would be so cute on a little girl.
This is a wonderful list! I’m a huge fan of nature names and most of these are already on my list except for Arbor. I don’t know how I missed that one, but I think it’s great and could work well on a boy or girl.
For Forrest, I think I prefer the Forest spelling, but either one is nice, and I’m surprised I don’t hear it more often.
Ooh, I love a lot of these. I could easily name my children off this list.
Great list as always.
Have a great weekend!
Great list! Seeing it reminded me of a lovely woman I met at a conference a year ago named Sequoia. She was in her 20s and wore it well!