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Friday - October 28, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Trees
Title: Replacement of Arizona ash in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have two Arizona Ashes in our yard that probably have maybe a decade left in them. We want to get a couple new trees started, so they will be well established once the Ashes are near their end. In front we are getting a Shantung Maple, but we are undecided for the back. Initially I was thinking a Chinese Pistache, but that shows up on some of the invasive lists, as does Golden Rain Tree which was another consideration. Ginko Biloba I understand does not like limestone and alkaline soil. I have seen too much oak wilt in areas around Austin to feel comfortable with those options (and I'm not a huge oak fan). We would prefer a tree that would reach a mature height around 35-40 feet tall and fall color would be nice (hence the Shantung Maple in front). Any recommendations, other than Big Tooth Maple or Autumn Blaze Maple?


This is a fairly common question, as witness the fact that we answered an almost identical one, also from Austin, just a few weeks ago. To keep our lazy fingers from repeating themselves, please read this previous answer. We say it has become a common question because some years ago the Arizona Ash became quite popular with builders, landscapers and homeowners because it grew quickly, was a nicely shaped tree and easily obtainable. From that answer:

"The Arizona Ash is often victim to borers and verticillium wilt, resulting in being somewhat short-lived."

Now, may we address the other trees you mention? When we start searching on a plant's common name or trade name, we often find ourselves directed to nursery advertisers who will, of course, have nothing but good to say about the plant. Searching on the scientific name, as Acer truncatum, Shantung Maple, we get a little bit more objective view. This tree is native to Northern China, Manchuria and Korea and therefore falls out of the realm of expertise for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We recommend only plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow naturally. One article we read said: "Care: Not adapted to far West Texas. Wrap trunk the first three years to prevent sunscald."  During this continuing trend toward hot and dry weather in Central Texas, we are not sure we would care to risk the expenses or resources to grow a tree native to a far different environment. 

Read this article on Central Texas Invasive Plants to know why we are glad you are not considering Chinese Pistache. You might also be interested in this Dave's Garden Forum on Chinese Pistache.

Koelreuteria paniculata, Golden Rain Tree is another on our list of non-native "don't do its."  Dave's Garden site on this tree from eastern Asia, China and Korea,with 12 negative comments.

Get some facts about Gingko Biloba, Maidenhair Tree from this North Carolina State University factsheet. Again, non-native and, as you say, not well adapted to Central Texas.

Moving on to more positive information, we are going to go to our Native Plant Database, and, using Combination Search, select on Texas, tree for "Habit," dry for "Soil Moisture," and 36 to 72 ft. for height. You can also make selections for amount of sun needed, but we didn't know what your sun situation would be. From these characteristics, we made a list of 6 trees shown in USDA Plant Profile maps as growing natively in or near Travis County.

Crataegus mollis (Downy hawthorn)

Diospyros virginiana (Common persimmon)

Ehretia anacua (Anacua)

Quercus macrocarpa (Bur oak) - we know you said you didn't care for oaks, but this is a great tree, with huge acorns, big easily-raked leaves and is resistant to Oak Wilt

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry)

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - this is smaller than your specifications, but has a lovely early pink bloom and big heart-shaped leaves.

Follow the plant links above to our webpage on each individual plant to learn more about their growing conditions and water requirements. Or, you can go back to the "Combination Search" in our Native Plant Database and make some selections of your own.




From the Image Gallery

Downy hawthorn
Crataegus mollis

Common persimmon
Diospyros virginiana

Ehretia anacua

Bur oak
Quercus macrocarpa

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

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