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
1 rating

Wednesday - August 08, 2007

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Control of Juniperus ashei
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

We have just purchased 2 acres in Burnet County at an elevation of 1604 feet above sea level. The land is almost flat, bedrock, with lots of Juniper, Cactus Apple and between these plants grasses and wild flowers. We plan to build on 1 acre but how or what do we do with the Juniper? Should it all be chained or bulldozed and burned or should there be a perimeter left on the property? We would like to leave it somewhat natural and add courtyards and some small perimeter around the house with yard grass. Any suggestions. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks that Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper) needs a better public relations representative. The poor thing gets very little good PR! It is, after all, a native. It can be troublesome when it takes over completely land that's been cleared and abused, but it has many good features when properly managed. For one thing, birds love the berries, birds nest in its branches, and its bark is used in the nests of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler It provides shelter during cold winter weather and shade during hot weather. It can make a great windbreak or privacy screen for your property. It can even be coaxed into being a "regular" tree with some judicious pruning.

Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that, although you might want to remove some of your juniper, that you not remove all it. You could leave trees around the perimeter to act as a privacy fence and windbreak. You could also leave some dotted around the property as well. You could either leave them intact or trim off the lower branches for a more open feel. You can watch for young juniper plants and remove them so that your entire 2 acres isn't overrun with juniper. You could also add some interesting native shrubs that live side-by-side with the juniper, such as: Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita), Rhus virens (evergreen sumac), Ilex decidua (possumhaw), Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) and Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud).

Chaining or bulldozing your junipers are not good ideas under any circumstances. The problem with these techniques is that they do so much damage to the ground and surrounding vegetation. With soil disturbance comes weed invasions. In ecological terms, many of our common, problem weeds are classified as early succession plants. This means that they are genetically programed to fill the ecological niche created when soils are disturbed. The less you disturb your land, the fewer weed problems you'll have. You would damage habitat less if you use tractor-mounted tree shears to remove the unwanted juniper; even less if you use a chainsaw and clear the brush by hand. There are people in your area who specialize in clearing juniper.

While burning your juniper brush after clearing is a possible solution, you might also consider having it mulched and using that mulch where needed in your landscape. You might also leave it in a pile or two in out of the way parts of your land. Brush piles make wonderful wildlife habitats. One advantage of not burning is that the eventually-decomposed juniper will enrich your soil with all of the nutrients (and more) that they accumulated during their lives. Burning will result in the loss of all of their accumulated nitrogen and other nutrients as well.

You can read some very interesting facts about our Ashe juniper in the Elizabeth McGreevy Seiler's work-in-progress, Untwisting the Cedar: the myths & culture of the Ashe juniper tree.


Juniperus ashei

Mahonia trifoliolata

Rhus virens

Ilex decidua

Ilex vomitoria

Cercis canadensis var. texensis


 

More Trees Questions

Can Carolina jessamine be grown in Syracuse NY?
May 09, 2010 - Hi--Can Carolina Jessamine be grown in Syracuse, New York?
view the full question and answer

At what age does Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) begin to flower in Pflugerville, TX?
January 13, 2011 - At what age does a female possumhaw (Ilex decidua) usually bloom and set fruit? Or is there a way to identify the female other than by the presence of berries? I grew a number from seed and want to ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with fruit of Mexican Plum from McKinney TX
May 19, 2013 - MY Mexican plum tree (about 5 years old) has small fruit on it. Some of them are severely deformed, and look rotten almost. They are bumpy and ragged looking. Or they are pasty white,rotten and dried ...
view the full question and answer

Redbud leaves turning yellow in mid-summer
July 13, 2012 - The leaves on our redbud trees are turning yellow. The yellow leaves are pale with no other spots and no dark veins. I don't know for sure which variety of redbud they are or how old they are (more t...
view the full question and answer

My newly planted Redbuds are not doing well.
June 24, 2009 - I ordered and received 2 Red Bud trees from one of the popular ordering houses. They explained that they were dormant and not dead, and gave us instructions on how to plant them, which we followed. Th...
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