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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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Wednesday - February 27, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Is Robinia pseudoaccia a good replacement tree for Shumard oaks in Austin TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Recently two of our Shumard trees in the front of our house died. Both trees were small/medium in size having only been growing for 13-17 years. I've been reading about Black Locust trees which according to several charts seem that they would do well in the Central Texas area. They are fast growing (maybe too fast growing as several places also list them as invasive), and provide flowers for hummingbirds and bees. However, I don't see them listed in recommended trees for this area of Texas on the LBJWC site. Is there a reason this tree wouldn't do well in our climate?

ANSWER:

You have discovered a difference between the lists of plants generated by a Recommended Species Search and a Combination Search using our database.

For example, if you were searching for plants in Central Texas using the Recommended  Species Lists, you would get a list of commercially available plants suitable for gardens and planned landscapes in Texas (the key words are "commercially available"). Using the Combination Search for trees in Texas would give you a list of native tree species that occur within the state.

Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia (Black locust) does occur in Travis County , but has some features that make it less than desirable. This excerpt from its NPIN page points these out.

“The eagerness of Robinia pseudoacacia to establish just about anywhere has a dark side; Black locust is often considered an invasive species and a garden thug because it spreads very rapidly by root sprouts and by the copious seeds it produces. Its wood, renowned for its toughness, belies its habit of shedding branches in high winds. Finally, its thorns are vicious to anyone attempting to work in or around the tree. This species and its various cultivars and hybrids should be rejected for most landscape uses because of the trees many bad habits.”
Further down the page you’ll find this; 
“Warning: This species naturalizes easily and is considered an invasive weed in many of its non-native areas of establishment. Its brittle branches (subject to breaking in winds), vicious thorns, rampant root sprouts and copious seeding make this species a garden thug.”

This theme is expanded upon in this link to  gardeninggone wild.com. 

And finally Black Locust has made the Plant Conservation Alliance’s “Least Wanted List”.

You may want to check out the Texas Tree Planting Guide  from the Texas Forest Service to help you pick out your new tree. This is an interactive guide that is just full of information about trees, and it is fun to use. By using the Custom Tree Selector, you will learn their recommendations for Travis County. Another feature in the Guide is the Tree Planting Tools page. Two topics of interest are “Relative Tree Sizes”, and “Planning for your Available Space”. 

Here is another tree planting link from the City of Houston.

And from our Step by Step Guides, “How to Plant a Tree ".

 

From the Image Gallery


Shumard oak
Quercus shumardii

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