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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - October 06, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Being over run by sugar hackberry saplings in Austin, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I have recently bought a house that has a woefully neglected yard. The sugar hackberry had saplings everywhere, and I paid to have them removed, but to no avail. My real concern is the saplings growing among the three rose bushes. How can I kill the saplings without harming the roses?

ANSWER:

USDA distribution maps show two species of hackberry occurring in Travis County; Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) and Celtis occidentalis (Common hackberry). Chances are that you have the sugar hackberry. Comparing the leave morphology from this link for the sugar hackberry with one for the common hackberry can help you determine which one you have. However, knowing the name of the plant is not an essential part of solving the problem.

The saplings that you are dealing with could either be seedlings or root suckers. The trees produce a prodigious number of drupe-like berries that are favored by many birds. The birds can digest the fleshy part of of the fruit but not the hard seed. These they excrete and help propagate the plant all over the place. As long as the tree is alive, you will probaly have seedlings.

The suckers grow directly from the root, sometimes in response to stresses such as drought, over-watering,  disease attack or woeful neglect. They are a means for the roots to increase the amount of photosynthesis that takes place and thus the amount of food that they receive. If you want to keep the hackberry tree, using herbicides on the suckers can eventually kill the tree as well as endanger your roses.

The most effective yet labor intensive means of controling your saplings is to continue to cut them as they appear. If they are seedlings, the repeated cutting will eventually cause the roots to die. If they are suckers, check on the health and care of the parent tree in order to reduce any stress that might be occuring.

These links from eHow and gardeningknowhow  have information about suckers and suggestions for controlling them.

Another source of help is the Travis County office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Neighbor's Arizona ash roots in Houston
September 30, 2009 - There is a huge Arizona Ash tree in my neighbor's yard. Its trunk is about 27 feet away from the foundation of my house and its foliage reaches my roof. I am planning to dig a trench on my side of t...
view the full question and answer

Viability of Taxus canadensis (Canadian yew) for Buffalo, NY
February 28, 2008 - I live in Buffalo, N.Y. and am gradually naturalizing my back yard. The previous owner built a 6' fence along the western edge of the yard and planted a straight line of arborvitae, which are now abo...
view the full question and answer

Magnolia Not Doing Well in Round Rock, Texas
June 25, 2011 - I have a Magnolia grandiflora in my back yard, planted on May 20th of this year. Located on a western exposure with no shade and about 18' tall x 10' wide. I've been watering it every 3-4 days or ...
view the full question and answer

Plants associated with Acer rubrum (Red maple)
August 21, 2014 - What plants are commonly associated with Acer rubrum in its natural habitat?
view the full question and answer

Plants for soil with basalt outcroppings in Idaho
March 30, 2008 - We have basalt (lava) outcropping in part of our back yard and know we'll have to search for pockets of soil in which to plant. Any suggestions about what trees or shrubs would have a chance in thes...
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