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?


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
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


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?


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

Apache Pine for Dripping Springs, TX.
July 02, 2014 - Is the Apache Pine tree a good choice for planting in alkaline soil with excellent drainage?
view the full question and answer

Splitting bark on non-native mimosa from Buda TX
June 24, 2012 - What would cause my Mimosa tree to have splitting bark. I've only lived in this house for 8 months and am learning about this tree. The other tree seems fine. It looks as though it split and then ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native St. Augustine lawn from Austin
October 06, 2013 - We have St. Augustine in our front lawn. There are some patches where the grass has entirely died but mixed in with the dead areas are little clumps of living grass. It seems to be spreading througho...
view the full question and answer

Dying non-native St. Augustine grass from Austin
May 02, 2013 - Although we all know St. Augustine grass is not a good thing, I am stuck with it and am trying to save areas that appear to have take-all fungus. I have done much reading online and have tried peat m...
view the full question and answer

Non-native mimosa as deer food in Colerain, NC
June 20, 2009 - I was wondering if deer eat any part of the mimosa tree? I have three good sized trees in my yard with seedlings popping up everywhere. Would it be profitable to transplant for deer habitat?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center