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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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Tuesday - October 18, 2011

From: Van, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Privacy Screening, Trees
Title: Need suggestions for a privacy screen besides Murray Cypress.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in NE TX, about an hour east of Dallas on I-20. I hear interstate traffic behind my house, and have a busy street on its left side, and a school adjoining in back. I think I would like to have a living sight and sound buffer, and am considering Murray Cypress. I need something fast growing, wind, sun and drought tolerant and disease resistant. Will Murray Cypress work? Do you have a better suggestion?

ANSWER:

This presents and interesting situation. The Murray Cypress is a cultivar of the Leyland Cypress which is a hybrid of two species of Cupressus that are native to North America. Hybrids and cultivars are not considered natives here at the Wildflower Center, and thus are outside of our area focus. However there is an interesting story here, so I’m including an excerpt from a previously answered question.
“The Leyland Cypress is a hybrid, which means it does not appear in our Native Plant Database, of two trees that are native to the North American Pacific Coast, Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) and Cupressus nootkatensis (Alaska cedar). It hybridized naturally because the two trees were taken to an estate in England and were close enough together to cross pollinate. Ordinarily, in their native habitats in the Pacific northwest, they would have been 400 miles apart and would never have hybridized. Then, later, the resulting hybrid, Leyland Cypress, was exported back to the United States.” Click on this link for more information.

The Leyland Cypress is a sterile hybrid that must be propagated by cuttings. A forester, Bill Murray, was taking cuttings about 50 years ago, and after rooting the cuttings discovered a young tree that had desirable qualities beyond the original Leyland Cypress. This was developed into the Murray Cypress (which is also sterile). Click on this link (scroll down to Murray cypress) for more of the story. Click here for more details about the Murray Cypress.

As for suggestions, Mr. Smarty Plants is thinking that Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar) would be a candidate for this job (images,). It is native, fast-growing, adaptable, drought-tolerant, evergreen, takes pruning (although it usually doesn't need it), makes an excellent hedge and is attractive. Here is more information on Eastern red cedar.

 

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