En Español

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?


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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - September 20, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Trees
Title: Trees suited for rocky, caliche soil of Central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson


I need to replace aging ashes. I have planted 2 Monterey oaks, but I would like to know what else I could plant whose roots will grow well in NW Austin caliche, rocky soil? Thank you.


There is a wide variety of native trees suitable for your soil.  Let me begin with large trees, mostly oaks.  The most commonly found oaks in your area are Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak) and Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak).  The former is evergreen and the latter deciduous.  Both grow into large, handsome trees, but they are susceptible to attack by oak wilt.  Oak species that are resistant to oak wilt include Quercus stellata (Post oak), Quercus macrocarpa (Bur oak), and Quercus muehlenbergii (Chinkapin oak). Quercus laceyi (Lacey oak) grows into a medium sized tree in your area.  Ulmus crassifolia (Cedar elm) is also popular in the Austin area and develops yellow-orange leaves in autumn.

Smaller trees worth considering include Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud), Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum), and Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow).  Except for Desert willow, which needs full sun, the others are generally understory trees that thrive in partial shade but can take full sun.

Check out the characteristics of the recommended trees by clicking on the underlined names.  Note that some grow more slowly than others, if this is a consideration. Attached below are sample images of the trees I mentioned.



From the Image Gallery

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

Post oak
Quercus stellata

Bur oak
Quercus macrocarpa

Chinkapin oak
Quercus muehlenbergii

Lacey oak
Quercus laceyi

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Mexican plum
Prunus mexicana

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

More Plant Lists Questions

Native Plants for a Steep Slope in TN
July 15, 2014 - Hello, I live in Knoxville, TN and have a very steep slope in our backyard. There is a lot of water erosion causing our grass to be covered with red dirt. I would love to try to plant something on thi...
view the full question and answer

Cutting Garden Plants for TN
July 16, 2014 - I would like to know what would be in a year round cutting garden in Nashville, TN for a novel I am writing.
view the full question and answer

Native trees of Hornsby Bend in Austin, TX
April 10, 2013 - We are looking for a list of the trees occurring along and in the vicinity of the Colorado River at Hornsby Bend circa 1820.
view the full question and answer

Tree for South Dakota
April 24, 2012 - Sir, I am looking for suggestions on a backyard tree, nice shade tree 60-80' height to complement a split foyer house and a flowering crab that is currently there. Low maintenance, with no seeds or c...
view the full question and answer

Wildlife Attracting Plants for a Shady Patio
July 03, 2014 - We have a concrete patio that receives 2-3 hours of sunlight a day, so the only plants we will be able to grow will be in container. We are looking for plants that do well in shade, and containers and...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center