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Mr. Smarty Plants - Purple ash trees for Lubbock TX

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Thursday - April 05, 2012

From: Lubbock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Purple ash trees for Lubbock TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Do purple ash trees grow well in Lubbock Texas? I want a faster growing tree. Heard all the oaks are slower. Any opinions would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Purple ash does not appear in our Native Plant Database. This article from eHow Autumn Purple Ash Tree Facts will give you several facts about this culivar of Fraxinus americana (White ash). A cultivar usually means the "parent tree" has been selected for traits that suit the purpose of the company producing it. The Purple Ash has male trees only, which means it is seedless, which is a good thing in this case, because ash seedlings can be a real pain. Otherwise, I think we can judge the cultivar by the traits of the White Ash.

These traits include the fact that the tree is very fast-growing, which we understand you would like to have.  A fast-growing plant is usually also a short-lived plant. The genus Fraxinus (ash) tends to be very susceptible to pests and diseases. From Ohio State University here is an article on Common Problems of Ash Trees. Probably the worst of these is the Emerald Ash Borer; the map this link is for shows that the Emerald Ash Borer is not yet in Texas, but we understand seed conservancies are already gathering ash seeds for seed banks in Texas to re-populate the tree if the ash borer decimates our ash trees.

Now we have discussed ash trees in general, here is our suggestion regarding the cultivar of Fraxinus americana (White ash) growing in Lubbock. According to this USDA Plant Profile map the tree occurs naturally only in a few counties in East Texas. If you follow that plant link to our webpage on the tree, you will learn that it needs sunshine, acidic soil, and does better in moist conditions. Having gone to school in Lubbock from 1952 to 1955, we are pretty sure you do not have moist conditions. From knowledge of the soils in Texas we can tell you that you probably don't have acidic, but alkaline soils.

We realize that this has been a pretty negative response, and we're sorry. Our job is to discourage gardeners from buying plants and using a great many resources like water, fertilizer, money and back muscles when there is a good chance the plant will not thrive or perhaps even survive. A plant that is native to a specific area has already made adjustments to the climate and developed defenses against insects and disease over centuries of experience.

Just to give you something to think about, here are 4 trees that are native to the Texas Panhandle area, either in or near Lubbock County. Follow each plant link to see the projected height of each tree, what kind of conditions they favor, etc.

Acacia greggii var. wrightii (Catclaw acacia)

Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky mountain juniper)

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry)

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry)

There is, of course, no reason why you cannot plant the Purple Ash; it won't be invasive or messy with seeds, it would probably live as long as you wanted it and with appropriate watering and the addition of compost to the hole for it should do all right. Just remember, we recommend planting trees only in the Winter, December to February, when the trees are dormant and less susceptible to transplant shock.

 

From the Image Gallery


Catclaw acacia
Acacia greggii var. wrightii

Rocky mountain juniper
Juniperus scopulorum

Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

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