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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

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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Thursday - September 18, 2014

From: Lubbock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Septic Systems, Trees
Title: Desert Willow Roots from Lubbock, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a very, very happy Desert Willow that has grown larger than we expected and is probably too close to the house. Do I need to worry about a cracked foundation or pipe problems? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants is pleased that your Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is healthy and growing well.  While it’s impossible to guarantee that you won’t have issues with your foundation or pipes, the indications are positive.  The reason is this, you do not have a “willow” as in the large trees with extensive large root systems.  Instead, the Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is a member of the Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family).  Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) and Tecoma stans (Yellow bells) are two more familiar members of that family.  Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question/answer pair on Desert Willow roots. This answer indicates that the roots are more widespread and shallow.

  I also found a discussion on Angies List, the indication there was concern with shallow invasive roots, especially near septic systems. My interpretation of these two discussions is that you might be concerned if you have a septic system, but likely your foundation and pipes are reasonably safe from this tree.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

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