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Mr. Smarty Plants - Possibility of symbiotic relationship between cedar elm and ashe juniper

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Tuesday - November 14, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Possibility of symbiotic relationship between cedar elm and ashe juniper
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there a symbiotic relationship between cedar elm and ashe juniper? We have a small ashe juniper sapling and a small cedar elm sapling growing near each other (actually, we planted the juniper 2 years ago because we often see the two trees growing together in the wild). The juniper is very prickly and unsuitable for our yard and we wish to take it out, but don't want to harm the growing cedar elm. Is it ok to cut down the juniper? thanks!

ANSWER:

I can find no information suggesting that there is a symbiotic relationship between the two species, cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) and ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei). They probably grow together because they both like the same growing conditions—soil type and moisture. The distributions of cedar elm and ashe juniper overlap in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, but cedar elm also occurs further east in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida without ashe juniper. The fact that cedar elm grows without ashe juniper nearby in those states would seem to be evidence that there isn't a symbiotic relationship between the two. Your cedar elm should grow just fine without the juniper nearby.

Concerning the "pricklyness" of the juniper, if it is a very small, young tree, its prickly needles are its defense against being eaten. As it matures it will lose the sharp needles and become less prickly, so you might consider keeping it. However, if it turns out to be a pollen-producing male tree, you might want to think about cutting it down if you or your neighbors are allergic to the juniper pollen.

 

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