En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - May 01, 2007

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Large tree and smaller specimen tree for Austin, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We are in the process of removing two Silver Maples in our front yard planted by the previous owner of our house. We live close to the Wildflower Center and have very shallow soil on top of rock. We would like to plant a relatively fast growing tall tree and a smaller, blooming or "specimen" tree in front of it. The trees would be in full sun, in summer, until the shadow of the house hits them, about 700pm. The house faces north and is serviced by a sprinkler system. Trees we have been considering are Burr Oak, Chinkapin Oak, Big- toothed Maple, American Elm (princenton or valley forge) or Texas Ash. For the smaller trees maybe a Mexican Buckeye or Eve's Necklace. Any info or suggestions you may have on these or others? It is such a huge decision to make and we are getting such conflicting information. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) is a fast-growing, long-lived, beautiful tree with large leaves and large acorns. Some people don't like dealing with those large leaves and acorns when they fall, but others find them charming. Some even think that the large leaves are easier to rake when they fall. The bur oak, according to Sally and Andy Wasowski (Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region), is "the most widely adaptive oak in the world." It likes growing in rich bottomlands where it can become very large, but it also grows on thin soils as well. It tends to grow a large canopy which forms a large shade area. For that reason it shouldn't be planted too near buildings.

Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak) is also a relatively fast-growing oak that shows little problem with pests or diseases. It is also very attractive. It tends to grow tall and narrow and generally doesn't form a broad canopy like the bur oak. According to the Wasowskis, it is sensitive to lawn chemicals and atmospheric contaminants such as car exhaust and therefore doesn't usually do well on a very busy street.

Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple) usually reaches less than 1/2 the height of the two oaks which can grow as high as 80 to 90 feet. According to Jill Nokes (How to Grow Natives Plants of Texas and the Southwest) it prefers growing in moist canyons and doesn't fare as well in open dry rocky hillsides. It has an attractive shape and its fall foliage is spectacular.

Ulmus americana (American elm) is also fast growing and can reach heights as great as the oaks. It shape can be variable from tall and slender to broad and arching. Both Nokes and the Waswoskis warn about the surface roots of the American elm wandering and causing problems with sidewalks, especially in heavy clay soils. Both also caution about being sure that the tree you buy from a nursery is from a stock that is tolerant of heat and alkaline soils and not one adapted to cooler eastern climes.

Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) maximum height is similar to the bigtooth maple and has a pleasing shape and also has attractive fall foliage. It is fast-growing and drought tolerant.

For smaller flowering trees, Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye), Styphnolobium affine (Eve's necklacepod), Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum), Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud), and Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) are all fast-growing with showy flowers and should do well in your area. If you want an evergreen, there is Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) with its beautiful scented purple blooms; however, it is not particularly fast-growing.


Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus muehlenbergii

Acer grandidentatum

Ulmus americana

Ungnadia speciosa

Styphnolobium affine

Prunus mexicana

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Sophora secundiflora

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Danger of lichens damaging trees
September 26, 2007 - My mom lives east of Buda, Texas where she has planted many different kinds of trees, which are all over 10 years old. Now, they all have a moss or lichen growing on the bark of the trees. She is worr...
view the full question and answer

Need information about oak wilt and Shumard oak in Houston, Tx.
July 06, 2010 - I want to plant a Shumard red oak in my North Houston front yard, with two Nuttall oaks. I keep hearing about something call oak wilt. Is there something I can do to prevent this disease during the ...
view the full question and answer

Small green balls falling from oaks in Hunt TX
May 03, 2014 - Our live oak trees have pin-sized black and green balls falling from them (there are so may that is sounds like rain!) The balls are not associated with or fall with the catkins. Thanks for your ass...
view the full question and answer

Are Chickasaw plums evergreen?
August 13, 2014 - Are Chickasaw Plums evergreens? I've been very interested in planting a few but some websites say they are evergreens while others say the opposite. Furthermore, would I have to plant a male and fema...
view the full question and answer

Alleotrophic effects of caffeine found in Ilex species
January 24, 2007 - I'm doing research for my biology class on the alleotrophic effects of caffeine. I'm planning to use Ilex vomitoria as the caffeine-producing plant. As the control I want to use another non-c...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center