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 wax myrtles from Austin
March 29, 2011 - I've got some wax myrtles that have grown up in the last 10 years on my property line, completely volunteer. My neighbor has begun to grumble about too much shade on his yard. I'd like to trim them ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning cherry laurel in January in Austin
January 07, 2011 - Do trust I checked Q&A first. Can Cherry Laurel shrubs be pruned earlier than late winter in Austin? I foolishly planted 12 native Cherry Laurel standards on our suburban property line 5 years ago. I ...
view the full question and answer

Potential danger of oak wilt in live oaks in Dallas, TX
February 17, 2005 - Do you have or know of any recent publications that discuss a potential oak wilt problem in live oaks in the Dallas area? We strongly believe that live oaks have a great landscape value and are tryi...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for a replacement tree for Hackberry tree in Austin, TX in Austin TX.
May 25, 2013 - We have a large hackberry tree in our front yard. We are cutting it down this fall. I would like to replace it with a tree native to this area..preferably something fast growing. What are your reco...
view the full question and answer

Pruning dogwood in TX
February 02, 2011 - I have a roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) sapling that I would like to keep at shrub height (~6 ft) rather than let it form a tree. Can I encourage this by cutting the main trunk, and if so, by ...
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