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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.

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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - August 23, 2011

From: paramus, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Need suggestions for trees with non-invasive root system in Paramus, NJ.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

What trees can I plant in New Jersey with non invasive root systems? We lost our tree to a storm and are looking for a viable replacement.

ANSWER:


Well, if the tree that you lost wasn’t causing problems with its roots, you might consider planting a tree of the same kind.

Mr. Smarty Plants isn’t sure what you mean by non-invasive roots systems. People frequently ask about “taproot” trees thinking that the root grows straight down and will not interfere with side walks, driveways, or foundations. Some trees begin with a taproot, but as the root system matures, it spread out in all directions in search of water and nutrients, and to provide a base of support to stabilize the tree. A tree that reaches a height of 20 feet can have a canopy at least that wide, and will have roots that spread out three to four times the width of the canopy. I am including links to Colorado State University Extension and Iowa State University Extension that help explain this concept further.

As for the tree recommendations, I am going to introduce you to our Native Plant Database that will help you select trees for your situation. The Database  contains 7,161 plants that are searchable by scientific name or common name.

There are several ways to use the Database, but we are going to start with the Recommended Species List.  To do this, go to the Native Plant Data Base and scroll down to the Recommended Species List box. Clicking on the map will enlarge it so that you can click on New Jersey. This will bring up a list of 112 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in New Jersey. These aren’t all trees, so you need to go to the “Narrow Your Search” box on the right  of the screen and make the following selections: select New Jersey under State, Tree under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Check Part Shade under Light Requirement, and Moist under Soil Moisture (or the conditions that apply). Click on the Submit Narrow Your Search button and you will get a list of 27 native species from which to chose. Clicking the Scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that gives the characteristics of the plant, its growth requirements, and in most cases, photos. As you look through the list, try to match the plants to your your growing location. You can get different lists by changing the Light requirement and Soil moisture selections.

Here is another link to Colorado State University Extension that has good information on tree selection.

For help closer to home, you might contact the folks at  the Bergen County office of Cooperative Extension.


 

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