Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 22, 2014

From: Maple Grove , MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Replacing river birch from Maple Grove MN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How soon after taking out a river birch clump tree and grinding the stump would we be able to plant a new birch clump?

ANSWER:

We are a little puzzled as to why the tree was initially removed and the roots ground out. According to our webpage on Betula nigra (River birch), this tree can grow from 30 to 90' in height and is a beautiful tree. Our webpage also says:

"Well-suited to areas that are periodically wet. Develops iron chlorosis on high pH soils. Chlorosis is more often due, however, to dryness. Trees in dry situations may defoliate, languish and die."

From the USDA Forest Service:

"The primary range of river birch is the southeastern quarter of the United States from eastern Texas and southeastern Iowa to Virginia and northern Florida. Scattered populations are found along rivers and streams as far north as southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin, and the middle New England States (8). Its northern limit in the Great Lakes region corresponds to the boundary of the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin glacier."

Our point to all of this is, why did the first River Birch have to be removed and its stump ground out? This USDA Plant Profile Map does not show the tree growing natively to Hennipin County, although it is reported in nearby Washington County. If there is a basic soil or soil moisture problem that caused the first tree to decline and be removed, those same conditons will still be present in that location and will not welcome the planting of the same tree. We would strongly recommend that you establish why the first tree came out before you plant another of the same type. If it was a soil, drainage, disease or moisture problem, those should be addressed before you spend the time and money putting the second one in.

We do not have any information on our website about stump grinding, so we went to this site from National Arborists: Stump Grinding. This makes no mention of how long you should wait after stump grinding before replanting.This member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team has had one experience with stump grinding; this was in Central Texas where the soil does not freeze, as it probably does in Minnesota. This tree was an East Texas native, Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum), which was a beautiful tree that had bright Fall foliage. However, it had very invasive roots that loved to live on the surface. As a result, it finally became necessary to eliminate the tree and replace the sidewalk and driveway that had been cracked by those roots. Once the tree and the grinder were gone we had so many other things to do that we left the bare empty bed exposed to the Texas heat for the summer. When Fall came with cooler weather, we dug into that dirt and discovered that the bed had become an improptu compost pile. The sawdust has spread out through the dirt and created a rich, easily worked soil. Because the tree was gone, there was plenty of sunlight for roses and other plants that needed lots of sun, which did beautifully. What we are saying is not to try to replant too quickly in that newly disturbed earth; let things settle down, get some water to it via sprinklers or rain and then stick your hand in and see what the texture is.

We do want to encourage you, though, to consult with a professonal arborist familiar with the plants, soils and climate of your area. If there was some disease present that killed the first birch, that arborist should be able to check the soil and make sure that disease is not still present to ambush the new plant.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


River birch
Betula nigra

River birch
Betula nigra

River birch
Betula nigra

More Planting Questions

Plant to cover retaining wall in Carlisle PA
August 01, 2010 - I have a block retaining wall in my back yard. I need to find a quick growing plant that will grow through late summer into fall and cover the wall with limited sunlight.
view the full question and answer

Quick and EZ way to cover bare spots in lawn with grass
March 09, 2015 - We recently had to dig up our lawn to have a pipe replaced. We now have a long strip of our yard that is either dug up or covered by some of the dirt that is dug up. We want to fill in the grass. W...
view the full question and answer

Distance apart to plant Arizona ash trees in El Paso, TX
July 01, 2010 - How far apart can I plant two Arizona ash trees?
view the full question and answer

Need suggestion for a tree with a tap root in Oklahoma City, OK.
October 27, 2012 - I would like to know the best tree to plant in my area that does well. Would like a tap root tree and also a tree that will not mess with my septic lines. Thank you
view the full question and answer

Need a shade tree for front yard in Fredricksburg, TX.
July 16, 2012 - I live in Fredericksburg, Tx. I have a large front yard, but only one huge pecan tree in the front yard that is probably 18 years old. It shades half the yard. I want to plant another shade tree for t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.