Among the trees that adapt well to different degrees of shade are the American hornbeam, the pawpaw and the Allegheny serviceberry. All trees require a minimum amount of sun to perform photosynthesis. Trees that grow in heavy shade need less than three hours of direct sunlight and filtered sunlight the rest of the day.
The American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) is a versatile tree that grows well in full shade and full light. This tree serves as a living fence or a formal hedge. Its flowers are a component of Bach flower remedies in alternative medicine. Also known as ironwood, this tree produces wood valued for its strength.
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) grows well under shade, but maximum fruit production occurs under full sun. The leaves reach 12 inches in length, providing a tropical look and excellent shade to smaller plants. This tree is home to zebra swallowtail butterflies. Unfortunately, because pollination is performed by blowflies, the tree's blossoms and torn leaves produce a fragrance similar to rotten meat.
The Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) is an easy-to-grow tree that remains colorful yearlong. It produces white flowers and dark fruit that attract birds. The leaves emerge purple and turn green when fully grown in summer. The leaves change to orange, red or yellow in the fall. This tree thrives in partial shade and well-drained sand.