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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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Saturday - October 11, 2008

From: Pearland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Preservation of a non-native Norfolk pine after hurricane damage
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I had a 25ft. Norfolk pine blow down during hurricane. I have the top 6ft.in water living after 3 weeks. Can I plant this hoping it will survive? Do I need to cut into the trunk or just trim back the branches about three ft. up and plant

ANSWER:

No, sorry, nice try, but basically what you have done is the same thing as buying a live Christmas tree, and putting it in a stand with a water reservoir. For a while, the water will travel up into the tree to keep the branches fresh, but eventually, it will die, because it has no roots. And it's not going to grow roots from a portion of the trunk. Woody plants are often propagated by taking cuttings, dipping them into hormone powder, and rooting in soil or even water. But it's a slow process, and the cuttings need to be taken in a certain way from a certain portion  of a branch, and certainly not all of them "take" and produce new plants. It just doesn't work when the cutting is a broken-off trunk from the top of the tree and, commercially, Norfolk pines are usually propagated from seed. If, however, the roots were not pulled completely out of the ground, you can cut the trunk off at the ground and possibly force some new suckers. They will be a long time developing and growing into a decent-sized tree, but that's about your only hope for that particular tree.

From this article by Floridata on Araucaria heterophylla, we found this information:

"In Florida most specimens are less than 50 ft  tall as they are the among the first to be blown away in a hurricane."

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we focus on the use and propagation of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown, because they will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance, and because they are adapted to the weather. This is not to say that a native tree will not be blown down by a hurricane, they will, course, but something chosen for the Houston area that is more sturdy has a better chance of survival. The Norfolk Pine is not a pine at all, and is native to tropical areas of the Southern Hemisphere. It is only viable in USDA hardiness Zones 10-11 in North America; a temperature drop to 40 deg. will do some significant damage. Most of the Norfolk pines sold in retail nurseries are intended as houseplants or for decorative uses at Christmas. 

If you would like to replace your tree with one with a better survivability chance, go to our Recommended Species section, select East Texas on the map, Narrow Your Search by selecting Tree for "Habit" and indicating the amount of sun you have under "Light Requirement" and the moisture of your soil.  We selected Sun (6 or more hours of sun a day), and Moist soil. When we did this, we got ten possibilities, of which we have chosen four to suggest. These trees are all sturdy and deciduous; read all about each in the linked webpage. You can make your own selections in the same way and, having done so, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state, and you will get the names and contact information on native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape consultants in your immediate area.

Acer rubrum (red maple)

Quercus alba (white oak)

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)

Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) - a favorite of ours, and, in appearance, somewhat similar to the Norfolk Pine


Acer rubrum

Acer rubrum

Quercus alba

Quercus alba

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

 

 

 

 

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