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?

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
    
 
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
2 ratings

Monday - December 22, 2008

From: Savannah, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Absence of grass around a willow tree in Georgia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In the past three years my Willow tree has grown from a stick to a lovely tree. Unfortunately, the grass under and around the tree is gone. Nothing left but dirt. Is there a remedy?

ANSWER:

Three members of the Salix genus, or willows, are known to be native to Georgia- Salix caroliniana (coastal plain willow), Salix sericea (silky willow) and Salix nigra (black willow). However, it frequently happens that when we are asked about willows, it turns out they were weeping willows, which are non-native to North America. Salix babylonica (Floridata) is native to western China, although it has been used as an ornamental tree for many years in the United States. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are committed to the use and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Because native plants are already adapted to the conditions of rainfall, soil type and climate, they will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. 

However, in this case, it really doesn't matter if your willow is native or not; your question had to do with the conditions underneath the tree.  Roots of all members of the genus are aggressive and will spread about 3 times the distance from the trunk to the edge of the canopy. They are messy, constantly dropping leaves and twigs, and are prone to many diseases which can leave them with dead areas and an unattractive shape. Groundcovers and grasses simply can't compete with those surface roots taking up all the nutrients, the heavy shade in summer, and the litter that has fallen from the tree. The willow roots also can damage sewer lines and lift sidewalks and paving, and are really suitable only to large properties, where they can be best seen from a distance. It would appear that you will need to accept the bare ground beneath the willow as you would most likely be wasting your time trying to plant more grass.


Salix caroliniana

Salix nigra

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Problems with non-native Chinaberry tree from Tucson AZ
September 05, 2013 - I have a 30+ year old Chinaberry tree and this year the branches are much sparser with leaves and there are a lot of small dead branches. Should I fertilize and what should I use? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Native invasives question from Arlington MA
May 20, 2011 - When I searched your website for creepers in Massachusetts, I found the following recommendations: Campsis radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia. But in response to a reader's question, you called...
view the full question and answer

Taproot tree to replace willows by pool
June 23, 2008 - Installing Pool with bomanite decking all around it. We're in process of cutting down 18 year old Weeping Willow due to root invasiveness and small messy leaves. Can you recommend a good shade tree w...
view the full question and answer

Death of non-native eleaegnus from Austin
March 30, 2013 - We have a long hedge of elaeagnus, about 5 ft tall. Four of them died in the middle of the hedge. Where can we find such big plants? Is it advisable to unroot and transplant from another area?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on vitex
May 12, 2005 - I recently purchased a vitex tree and I don't know anything about it other that it blooms. Can you tell me everything there is about this tree?
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center