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

Wednesday - April 02, 2008

From: Whitney, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Removing a hackberry stump from a non-native fig tree
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a fig tree that is at least 50 years old. A hackberry tree is growing up through the fig. I have cut it back several times (it is probably 3 inches in diameter at ground level), but have been hesitant to put any type of poison for fear of killing the fig. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

We are assuming that you are dealing with a Ficus caricus (common fig) with a Celtis laevigata (sugarberry), also known as hackberry, growing up through it. The bad news is that the hackberry is a plant native to North America, and therefore is probably better adapted to live here than the fig tree. The common fig is a temperate species from the Middle East and southern Europe. However, we can understand your desire to keep your 50-year-old fig tree. We agree that using poisons on that stump could very easily damage the roots of the fig. As long as you can keep it from leafing out, the hackberry will have to die, because it needs the leaves for manufacturing food for the tree's survival. However, you probably need to do some more damage to the stump now, to keep it from crowding the roots of the fig. Try digging down (gently!) around the roots of the hackberry, trying to identify the hackberry roots as opposed to the fig roots. With a pruning saw, saw off the hackberry roots as far from the stump as you can. Keep working the stump back and forth, trying to find roots that can be cut to free the stump from the ground. If you can get to the point that you can get the stump out of the ground in this manner, you should have disposed of the problem. Keep an eye on it, and if any sprigs come up, yank them out while they're little. In self defense, tree roots will often try to put out sprouts in a last gasp attempt to keep going. The fig has very extensive roots, going in all directions, so it probably has root capacity to spare if you accidentally damage one root, just try to avoid it if you can. Click this link for a page of images of the Ficus caricus. Below are some pictures of various parts of the hackberry, to hopefully help you identify which tree you are dealing with.


Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

 

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Small white bugs on indoor hibiscus in Ohio
November 25, 2008 - My Hibiscus has small white bugs on the leaves with small white residue. Looks like very small pieces of white rice. This white rice is also covering the UNOPENED buds and making them fall off. It ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering landscape plants for Montgomery TX
March 07, 2013 - Hello I live in Montgomery TX. I am looking for low growing evergreen flowering plants for the front of my three deep beds. The first plant closest to the foundation is loropetalum, then I have a blue...
view the full question and answer

Death of non-native eleaegnus from Austin
March 30, 2013 - We have a long hedge of elaeagnus, about 5 ft tall. Four of them died in the middle of the hedge. Where can we find such big plants? Is it advisable to unroot and transplant from another area?
view the full question and answer

Plant ID of invasive vine from Austin
August 21, 2013 - A friend lives in southwest Austin and has a vine that's coming up all over her yard. I am a Williamson County Master Gardener and have asked all the garden gurus in my group what it is from a photo ...
view the full question and answer

Water for non-native Sub-Zero ivy in El Paso
March 25, 2011 - Sub-Zero Ivy: Do they require lots of water - I live El Paso, TX - dry climate. Are they dangerous to dogs? Will they do well as ground cover around a brick patio? - Thanks!
view the full question and answer

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