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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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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - May 19, 2008

From: Alabaster, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Deterioration of non-native weeping willows in Alabama
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a small lake behind my house. 8 years ago we planted two nice weeping willow trees, one on each corner of our yard down toward the lake. One started looking bad last year and we cut all the dead growth out. This year, the other one is looking bad...a lot of dead growth at the top where we can't reach. It is so thin now. We had a drought last year, but they should have had plenty of water from the lake. What could be the problem? What could be the issue?

ANSWER:

Although there are 54 members of the Salix genus that are natives to North America, the weeping willow, or salix x sepulcralis, is not one of them. It is a hybrid of the Chinese Peking Willow and European white willow. This USDA Forest Service website has some more information on the weeping willow, including the fact that it is considered invasive in several states, but not in Georgia. The same site says that the tree is susceptible to several diseases and insect damage. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the protection, planting and propagation of plants native to North America, so we do not have information on this tree in our Native Plant Database. However, we are always glad to try to provide information on plant care for plants already in the landscape.

One thing we learned is that the weeping willow is a very fast-growing tree, growing up to 8 ft. a year. It also has very brittle stems-those two factors combined can cause a tree to start to break down. Fast-growing trees are usually a bad idea, as they will age quickly and begin to deteriorate. Go to this introductory page to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Services for Shelby County. There are several links and contact information for agriculture and forestry. If one of the diseases or insects that plague weeping willows is causing problems in your area, the Extension Service office should have some information on it.

Here is a page of images of salix x sepulcralis.

 

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