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

Saturday - May 30, 2009

From: Denver, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Trees
Title: Austrian pine in landscape in Denver CO?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm relandscaping my yard and want to use all or mostly native plants, as I want to create a wildlife. My landscape designer has indicated she wants me to use Austrian Pine in as a specimen tree in the front yard, but I'd like to substitute a native. I'm thinking Mountain Mahogany. Would that be a good substitution? I have a small yard in the front,and need an evergreen that will not get huge. If I do use the Austrian Pine, will the insects and birds be able to use it? Finally, I live in the city near a freeway, it's very urban.

ANSWER:

Pinus nigra, Austrian pine, in native to (among other countries) Austria and Switzerland, and therefore is out of our range of expertise. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. What was your landscaper's reason for recommending that particular tree? When we looked at the USDA Plant Profile for the Austrian pine, it was not even shown as growing in Colorado or, indeed, anywhere close to it. It grows mostly in the Northeastern United States and in Eastern and Western Canada. It is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 7, and Denver is apparently between Zone 4b (average annual minimum temperatures of -25 to -20 deg. F) to 5b (-20 to -10), so it could survive on that account. It can apparently be subject to some insect and disease damage, and we would be concerned that something against which that particular tree had no defenses would attack it. We also learned that it grows to 60 ft. and a 20 to 40 ft. spread. That doesn't sound much like a tree for a small yard, does it? Pictures of Austrian Pine.

Obviously, we would prefer you use a tree native to Colorado, and since you mentioned Mountain Mahogany, we checked on that. There are three native to Colorado, but only one, Cercocarpus montanus (alderleaf mountain mahogany), is shown on the USDA Plant Profile as growing in the Denver area. It is  8 to 12 ft. tall, low water use, sun, larval host to Mahogany Hairstreak butterfly, also cover and nesting site for birds.

Since you were interested in the genus Pinus, the Austrian pine, we looked at some members of that genus native to the Denver area:

Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine) - grows quickly to 20 ft., may reach 30 ft. at maturity, medium water use,sun. Larval host for Western Pine Elfin Butterfly. USDA Plant Profile More Pictures

Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon) - 10 to 30 ft., low water use, part shade,  USDA Plant Profile

Pinus flexilis (limber pine) - 30 to 60 ft., low water use, sun, part shade, USDA Plant Profile  More Pictures

If you are really interested in maintaining a native habitat, hopefully you can find a tree among these selections that will work for you.


Cercocarpus montanus

Pinus contorta

Pinus edulis

Pinus flexilis

 

 


 

 

More Trees Questions

Looking for a plant to use as a windbreak for a small orchard in Pineville LA.
February 28, 2011 - We are looking for a good plant to use as a wind break for our small fruit orchard.
view the full question and answer

Changing colors on Mexican Plum trees from Bellaire TX
June 20, 2013 - The leaves on my Mexican Plum tree have recently started turning yellow/brown and the veins in leaves are red. Is this a watering issue or disease issue? Mites are on the leaves. This has been a ra...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Royal Empress tree with only green leaves from Chambersburg PA
July 12, 2013 - I have 3 Royal Empress trees in my yard that are between 2-4 yrs old and have never been any color other then big Green leaves. Do you know when they will turn Purple?
view the full question and answer

Escarpment Black Cherry losing leaves in Austin, TX.
July 13, 2012 - Dear Mr. Plants: We live in Austin off of Mount Bonnell Road. We have beautiful 20 foot tall + black escarpment cherry tree very near the house with leaves turning yellow like it's about to drop th...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen tree to provide block for treehouse in Central Texas
April 02, 2010 - I live close to Austin TX and need an evergreen tree to block neighbor's newly constructed, metal roof tree house. It looms over our garden and yard - can you suggest a nice evergreen tree for hot m...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center