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

Pruning lower branches of Cordia Boissieri from San Antonio
December 08, 2013 - My Texas Wild Olive Tree is about 6 feet high now. I bought it at the 2012 plant sale. This past summer it put on new branches near the base of the tree which I would like to cut off (to encourage u...
view the full question and answer

Tree that successfully treats psoriasis
January 31, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty plants,I have a rather unusual question. Do you know of a tree/plant that you can grow in a container, looks like a conifer/evergreen, is green, has wispy looking branches, but when t...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree or shrub in Massachusetts
May 16, 2013 - Good morning, We are in Zone 5 and have a tree/shrub I cannot identify in the backyard of our new home. Tall (6')and growing, green stems,and when the stems are broken the branches smell of lemon o...
view the full question and answer

Eastern redcedar uprooted by snow in Arlington, TX
February 14, 2010 - During the recent snowstorm one of our juniperus virginiana fell over with the rootball looking intact and with a lot of soil all around it.Should we try to save it? It is approximately 20 feet tall ...
view the full question and answer

Effects of drought and insects on junipers
August 06, 2007 - We live on acreage about 18 miles southwest of Austin. Ever since we moved here about 6 years ago, we've noticed that our mature Ashe junipers seem to be in some sort of decline with foliage graduall...
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