Explore Plants

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
    
 

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
5 ratings

Monday - September 01, 2008

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Fast-growing, tall taproot tree for El Paso
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in El Paso Texas and would like to know what would be a good shade tree to plant. I would like this tree to grow fast and tall. I would also like the roots to go straight down.

ANSWER:

You should understand that the faster a tree grows, the shorter its life will ordinarily be. They sacrifice durability and strength for the speed in growing.The second thing you need to know is that there is no such thing as roots that go straight down. Well, in taproot trees they grow straight down, but they also grow out 6 to 12 inches from the surface of the ground, and often 2 to 3 times the width of the drip line. In other words, if you're looking for a quick shade tree that won't disturb pavements or other plants with their roots, we're afraid they don't exist. Think about it. If a tall tree had nothing but a long taproot (like a carrot) and no lateral roots, the first thing that would happen is the tree would starve to death. The nutrients and water in soil are mostly in that upper 6 to 12 inches. Second, the tree would be basically top-heavy, and would go right over in the first good wind. Those roots radiating out from the taproot are for balance as well as nutrition.

Carya alba (mockernut hickory) and Carya illinoinensis (pecan) are both native to Texas and have taproots. Both are long-lived but also very slow-growing and difficult to transplant because of their taproots, as well as being susceptible to many insects and diseases. Pinus cembroides (Mexican pinyon) has a moderate growth rate, and taproot, but only grows 15 to 30 feet tall. Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine) has a moderate growth rate, and grows 72 to 100 ft. 

You didn't say why you wanted trees with those particular characteristics, but if it has to do with being near paving or sidewalks, and getting quick shade, we would recommend you not plant a tree there.You really can't change the growth habits of a tree, and their roots will interfere with foundations, sidewalks and paving sooner or later.

Pictures of Carya alba (mockernut hickory)

 

 

More Trees Questions

Difficulty with Clay Soil from Palm Bay, FL
August 22, 2012 - I had a very nice little native shady area behind my house for over 40 years, but now it has been cleared except for a 100 foot tall live oak in the center of this raised mound (50' x 80'). I've be...
view the full question and answer

What is the best time of year to transplant a young pecan tree?
May 29, 2009 - What is the best time of year to transplant a young pecan tree?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen native trees for Austin
January 31, 2009 - Please recommend all evergreen native trees for Austin TX.
view the full question and answer

Is Robinia pseudoaccia a good replacement tree for Shumard oaks in Austin TX?
February 27, 2013 - Recently two of our Shumard trees in the front of our house died. Both trees were small/medium in size having only been growing for 13-17 years. I've been reading about Black Locust trees which accor...
view the full question and answer

Need a native pine tree for Austin, TX.
December 21, 2013 - Is there a native pine tree that you would recommend for the Austin, Texas area? We're considering the Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) or the Papershell pinyon (Pinus remota)? Would either of the...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.