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Monday - March 30, 2009

From: Crows Landing, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Trees with non-invasive roots for California
Answered by: Nan Hampton


My family is currently in the process of redoing our entire yard. A huge task I might add! We had fruitless mulberries planted and one Modesto Ash. As much as we loved them we are hating their roots. It seems like a never ending task of sifting through the dirt trying to take the largest of them out. We live in the country so space isn't the issue we have. We are looking to plant trees that have deeper roots and give plenty of shade. We also plan to put in sprinklers around the yard so watering won't be an issue either. Can you suggest something that is semi-fast growing and preferably seedless, no acorns. We live in the central valley of California and the soil has a bit of clay in it. Should we stick to planting pine trees?


If you want large trees for shade, your best bets are conifers and oaks since both have deep tap roots. And, in general, conifers are usually faster growing than oaks.  There are two conifers, both pines, that that grow in Stanislaus County according to the USDA Plants Database.

Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine)

Pinus sabiniana (California foothill pine) Click here for photos and more information.

If you could tolerate acorns, here are some oaks that are known to grow in Stanislaus County.

Quercus agrifolia (California live oak) 

Quercus chrysolepis (canyon live oak) with photos and more information.

Quercus douglasii (blue oak) with photos and more information.

Quercus lobata (valley oak) with photos and more information.

Quercus wislizeni (interior live oak) with photos and more information.

Here are a couple of other possibilities that are large and aren't oaks or pines:

Umbellularia californica (California laurel). This tree does have rather large fruit.  You can read more about it from the USDA National Resources Conservation Service.

Platanus racemosa (California sycamore)NativeGrow.com describes its roots as being aggressive; but the RiverProject.org praises its deep root system that stabilizes stream banks. Some people find its large deciduous leaves and seed balls a negative feature.

You can find more trees, small and large, that are native to California by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database. Select 'California' from the Select State or Province option and then 'Tree' under Habit (general appearance).  You can see distributions by clicking on the USDA link under the ADDITIONAL RESOURCES option on each individual species' page.  Then, click on California on the USDA distribution map to see which counties the species has been reported from.

Pinus ponderosa

Quercus agrifolia

Umbellularia californica

Platanus racemosa



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