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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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Saturday - March 10, 2012

From: Kansas City, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Tree for a Missouri yard
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Our front yard tree died. We have landscaping that needs shade. We are in Zone 5, looking for a fast/medium growing shade tree that does not produce anything that falls into the grass and will allow the grass to grow beneath it. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants is sorry about the loss of your front yard tree. It must have been great because you are asking for a lot!  In the best of all possible worlds, we’d have a tree like you request right at hand, however trees tend to be deciduous, slow growing, messy and/or overly shady.  If you find a tree with all the specifications that you ask for, please let MSP know, it’ll be a best seller!

Before you put anything new in, you might want to consider why your tree died. If it's old age or other natural causes, no problem, but otherwise it would be best to fix whatever the issue might be first.  The Jackson County Extension or a arborist might be of assistance.

What Mr Smarty Plants uses for recommendations is  the “Recommended Species” list on the Wildflower web site.  There is a specific list of natives for Missouri, and when I limited the search to trees 30 feet or higher there were 22 candidates for you to consider.

 There was one evergreen!  Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar) can be pretty dense and covering when young and give your grass some trouble, but fits your request pretty well otherwise.

Everything else was deciduous trees, so at a minimum there would be the yearly leaf drop.  If you can ignore that, then there are many possibilities.

Maybe a Maple?   Acer rubrum (Red maple) was noted as a popular landscaping tree for its colorful fall foliage, smoky red male flowers in spring, and red samaras on female trees.  Its near relative, Acer saccharinum (Silver maple) was noted as a popular shade tree but with abundant fruit which then becomes litter.

  Then there are Ashes.  Fraxinus pennsylvanica (Green ash) is quoted as a fast growing shade tree while Fraxinus americana (White ash), with a slower growth rate, is considered the better choice.

Finally, Oaks are the classic lawn trees.  Quercus palustris (Pin oak) is a popular, graceful lawn tree with regular compact form and fine-textured foliage.  Pin Oak is one of the faster growing oaks.   Quercus bicolor (Swamp white oak) appears to be more tolerant than similar oaks to landscape use.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern red cedar
Juniperus virginiana

Eastern red cedar
Juniperus virginiana

Red maple
Acer rubrum

Green ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica

White ash
Fraxinus americana

Pin oak
Quercus palustris

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