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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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Tuesday - June 04, 2013

From: san rafael, CA
Region: California
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Looking for a specimen shade tree in San Rafael, CA
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I'm looking for a specimen shade tree that can get 30'x30', that doesn't drop a bunch of crud (seeds, etc) on the patio (leaves are ok), medium to low water requirement, roots are behaved, zone 9, red color in fall a plus.


One of the chief activities of plants is to reproduce, so we have to put up with flowers, fruits and, seeds scattered around the yard. However, there are some trees that are less messy than others.

At this point I should mention that the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is  to increase the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America, but to the area in which they are being grown.

Lets start our search for an appropriate tree by going to our Native Plant Database  and scrolling down to the Combination Search box. Select California under State, tree under Habit, and perennial under Duration. Check Sun under Light requirement and dry under Soil moisture, and 12 - 36 ft. under Height. Click the Submit Combination Search button, and you will get a list of 16 native species of trees. Click on the scientific name of each plant and its NPIN page will appear which contains information about growth characteristics and requirements. As you proceed, look for trees that match up with your growing conditions. You can generate other lists by changing your selection criteria.

Another source  of trees is at this link from calpoly.edu. With this list you need to already know the name of the  plant, however, there are other features at the link that can be quite helpful.

This link from tytyga.com (this is a commercial nursery) is well illustrated with a large variety of of shade trees, many of which are non-natives.

Once youve found your tree, our “How to Plant a Tree” article from our Step by Step Guides should  prove helpful.

Since you mentioned roots, I’m including a couple of links that help illuminate their underground world.




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