From California sequoia, to Australian eucalyptus, to the outstanding diversity of Amazonian forests, trees are fundamental to many processes in ecology and evolution. Trees define the communities that they inhabit, are host to a multiplicity of other organisms and can determine the ecological dynamics of other plants and animals. Trees are also at the heart of major patterns of biodiversity such as the latitudinal gradient of species diversity and thus are important systems for studying the origin of new plant species. Although the role of trees in community assembly and ecological succession is partially understood, the origin of tree diversity remains largely opaque. For instance, the relative importance of differing habitats and phenologies as barriers to hybridization between closely related species is still largely uncharacterized in trees. Consequently, we know very little about the origin of trees species and their integrity. Similarly, studies on the interplay between speciation and tree community assembly are in their infancy and so are studies on how processes like forest maturation modifies the context in which reproductive isolation evolves. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Lindtke et al. () and Lagache et al. () overcome some traditional difficulties in studying mating systems and sexual isolation in the iconic oaks and poplars, providing novel insights about the integrity of tree species and on how ecology leads to variation in selection on reproductive isolation over time and space.