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Mr. Smarty Plants - Selection of trees for new home

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Monday - June 30, 2008

From: Roanoke, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Selection of trees for new home
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We are moving to Roanoke, Texas(Denton County) into a new home. Our home will have 3 trees which we can choose. They are Texas Ash, Live Oak, Sweetgum, Silver Leak maple, Cedar Elm and Bradford Pear. We want to avoid too much clean up, so we kind of eliminated Sweetgum(spikey balls) and Silver Leak Maple(whirley bird seeds). And we want to avoid trees that can cause allergies. What trees would you choose? And are there alternative trees that we can check to see if they can get?

ANSWER:

At last! Someone who asks questions before they plant, instead of after, when the plant is suffering from being in the wrong hardiness zone or too much water or too little sun, etc., etc. It is so much more productive to do the research and then make the selection. The decision will have to be yours, but here's what we have to say.

First, we'd like to eliminate any non-natives in your range of choices. You will be far better off selecting trees native to North Central Texas; they will be less likely to suffer transplant shock, need less fertilizer and water, and in general be lower maintenance than non-natives. The Bradford Pear has been widely over-used, in our opinion. It is native to Korea and China; read more about it in this The Master Gardener website The Pros and Cons of the Bradford Pear.

We agree with you on avoiding Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) and Acer saccharinum (silver maple) from your choices. The first, although sometimes beautiful with Fall color, does tend to litter the garden with those prickly little balls that do NOT decompose, and has prominent above-ground roots that will buckle a driveway or sidewalk as time passes. The maple shares the prominent root systems, although the trees are not closely related, as well as the litter problem. In addition, it has brittle branches that are easily broken in windstorms, not an uncommon phenomenom in North Texas.

The Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) is a good, solid tree, native to the area where you will be living. Likewise, the Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm). Did you know that Ulmus crassifolia is not related to cedars, but is called that because it is often found growing with Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper), called "cedars" in Texas, although they aren't particularly related to cedars, either. A little piece of trivia for your next party.

Now, to get into the subject of oaks, live oaks, in particular. They are wonderful trees, almost a trademark of Central Texas. Although not really evergreen, they only replace about half of their leaves every year, and that in the Spring, so that they give the appearance of greenery year-round. Both the Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) and Quercus virginiana (live oak) are found in Central Texas, and both, unfortunately, are susceptible to Oak Wilt. If you are not familiar with this usually fatal tree disease, see The Texas Oak Wilt Partnership website. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an active partner in this group, seeking to prevent the devastation of very valuable trees in the native landscape. On this same website, follow this link to Number of Tree Mortalities in North Texas Counties. Denton county was shown as having some mortality, but in the lowest range of affected counties.

So, if you can't have live oaks, how about deciduous oaks? A number of them are also susceptible to Oak Wilt: Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak), Quercus texana (Texas red oak, Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak), and Quercus stellata (post oak). The last one is the most common oak in Texas, but is almost unobtainable commercially, because it does not transplant well. Some that are resistant to Oak Wilt, and seldom die from it are: Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak), Quercus polymorpha (netleaf white oak), Quercus laceyi (Lacey oak), and Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak). If you are determined to have an oak, you will have to be very insistent that it be purchased from a reputable nursery that can certify it is one of the Oak Wilt-resistant oaks.

And, in terms of suggestions of any other trees, there is one Texas native that we are especially fond of, Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). Although its roots also have "knees", they don't seem to disturb grass or cause a problem mowing. You might want to place them a fair distance from sidewalks and driveways, however.


Fraxinus texensis

Ulmus crassifolia

Quercus fusiformis

Taxodium distichum

 

 

 

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