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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.

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Tuesday - November 06, 2007

From: Sunnyvale, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders, Transplants
Title: Transplanting care of Mayten tree (Maytenus sp.)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I planted a Mayten tree 2 years ago. It's about 8 feet tall. The trunk is about 1-1/2 or 2" in diameter. The earth around it sunk and now there is a "bowl" that fills with water in the rain. I'm afraid it will rot the base of the trunk. Can I dig up the tree, then very quickly have someone push dirt in the hole and then put the tree right back down in the earth without hurting the tree?

ANSWER:

There are two species of Maytenus, the mayten tree, that occur in the continental United States and only one of those, Maytenus phyllanthoides, is native.

The species that generally occurs in California, Maytenus boaria, is not native to North America and I am supposing that this is the one that you have. Although our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is on plants native to North America, we are happy to point you to advice on non-native plants if we can. Here is some information about care of the mayten tree from the the San Francisco group, Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF). The care instructions from FUF does indicate that the tree needs good drainage. Another urban forest group, Canopy, based in Palo Alto, California, lists "collar, foot and crown rots" as problems for the mayten tree which certainly could occur from not having good drainage. So, definitely, you need to remedy your "bowl" situation. If you can remedy the situation by cutting down the edges of the bowl without disturbing the roots of the tree, that would seem the least disturbing situation for the tree. If, of course, that exposes tree roots, then you may have to resort to digging up the tree and filling in the hole a bit. Here is some general advice about transplanting trees from the University of California Cooperative Extension.

 

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