En Español

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

Thursday - July 12, 2007

From: edgefield, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Fast growing, possibly invasive trees for South Carolina
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

What fast growing trees would you suggest for South Carolina? We are heavy clay and the pecan trees we planted don't see to be too happy here. We are looking at the yellow poplar and the empress tree. We have read conflicting information that the empress tree is poisonous. Is this correct?

ANSWER:

We rarely talk to anyone who, a few years after planting a "fast-growing tree," were glad that they did. Fast-growing trees usually have one redeeming value, they quickly produce shade. The negative consequences are often many and quite unpleasant. Among the problems that many fast-growing trees exhibit are weak trunks, weak limbs, abundant leaf-, fruit- and twig-litter, invasive roots, insect and disease susceptibility, and so on. Not every fast-growing tree will afflict every homeowner with all of these problems, but most will exhibit at least some of them.

There is fast-growing and then there is REALLY fast-growing.

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) or yellow poplar is actually not a bad choice for you and it is a relatively fast-growing tree. You should be warned though that yellow poplar will become a very large tree. Limbs blown from a mature tuliptree in a storm can do a lot of damage to a home or automobile.

Paulownia tomentosa (empress tree) on the other hand, is often a spectacularly fast-growing tree. It bears lovely, sweetly fragrant flowers in the spring and its wood is quite valuable as lumber. Unfortunately, its bad habits are really bad and are almost too many to list. While it makes a handsome tree when young, empress tree -- also know as princess tree -- ages quickly and not at all gracefully. Its wood is very brittle and folks who have them in their landscapes are endlessly cleaning up fallen limbs. Moreover, its falling leaves, flowers, twigs and seed pods all create abundant litter. While it's flowers are beautiful, hard winters often freeze and kill the developing, young flower buds, leaving the tree no choice but to grow faster and drop more limbs. If stuff falling from the sky isn't bad enough, empress tree is prone to producing large exposed surface roots. Of particular interest to you, Paulownia tomentosa is not very happy in clay and much prefers well-drained soil. Finally, and we thnk most important, it is an aggressive and invasive weed in many areas that we believe will one day become yet another ecological nightmare. We have also read that parts of this Asian species are poisonous, but we have no further information on that. Empress tree is the very definition of a problem tree and as royalty goes, it is a royal pain.

Some other trees that might work well for you are Acer rubrum (red maple), and Fraxinus americana (white ash). There are horticultural selections of each of these species (the ones you will typically find in nurseries) that offer superior habit and fall foliage color.

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Planting petunias around base of oak tree from Houma LA
March 30, 2013 - I live in south Louisiana and I want to plant petunias. Can I plant petunias around the base of an oak tree?
view the full question and answer

Can a mustang grape and an oak coexist in Austin
November 04, 2009 - I have a healthy mustang grape vine growing on an oak in my yard. While the vine provides plenty of good food and a pleasant environment for many birds throughout the year, I feel it is overtaking the...
view the full question and answer

Privacy plantings to replace invasive bamboo
June 22, 2007 - We are looking for good screening plants for our new house (the houses are very close). We like the way bamboo looks it is tall and narrow for the most part, but we do not want bamboo since it is inv...
view the full question and answer

Shade ground cover under honeysuckle from Wichita KS
February 21, 2012 - Hi! I know this is a bit odd, but I am trying to find a nontoxic, good ground covering plant that can live in the shade while competing with the roots of a whole bunch of honeysuckle. I have a few ide...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating bamboo in Austin
December 07, 2009 - Everyone should be warned about bamboo and how invasive it is. My neighbor planted it in his back yard and it's now taking over my back yard and all the surrounding yards. He installed a barrier but ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center