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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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Sunday - September 19, 2010

From: La Jolla, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Native tree for San Diego, California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have conflicting info about the Mayten tree. Pro: recommended patio tree, medium water needs, does not drop seed or leaves. Con: broadly invasive suckers, messy drop. I am in San Diego, California near the ocean. We deal with salt air and drought but no frost. I am thinking of planting one on our front yard bank with full sun all day and medium watering for surrounding plants. Have already lost two Oklahoma Redbud trees in the same spot. What can you advise?

ANSWER:

There are two species of Maytenus, the mayten tree, that occur in the continental United States and only one of those, Maytenus phyllanthoides, is native.

The species that generally occurs in California, Maytenus boaria, is not native to North America and I am supposing that this is the one that you are thinking about planting. Since the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is "to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes", we would recommend that you not plant Maytenus boaria.  Additionally, Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council) classifies the Mayten tree as invasive.  We can recommend several small native California trees for the San Diego, California area, however.

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)

Garrya elliptica (Wavyleaf silktassel) and here are photos and more information.

Lyonothamnus floribundus (Catalina ironwood) and here are photos and more information.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) and here is more information.

Prunus ilicifolia (Hollyleaf cherry) and here are photos and more information.

Morella californica [syn.  Myrica cerifera] (California wax myrtle) and here are photos and more information.

Umbellularia californica (California laurel) and here is more information.

Here are photos form our Image Gallery for some of the trees above:


Chilopsis linearis


Chilopsis linearis


Heteromeles arbutifolia


Umbellularia californica

 

 

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