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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 - November 26, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Need a Replacement for Chinese Tallow tree in Austin, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I live in Austin and have a large Chinese Tallow in my front yard. I would like to cut the tree down, but it provides shade to my home. I was hoping to start growing a native fruit/nut tree near the Chinese Tallow such that when I cut down the Chinese Tallow there I am not starting from scratch. I would like to understand, what types of trees (preferably fruit and nut) would be amenable to this situation, how far away should I plant the tree (should I try to get it a certain type of light), is this process called something (I have tried researching on my own but cannot seem to get any hits), other things that I should be considering. Thank you.

ANSWER:

The Chinese tallow tree is native to China and Japan, and although it is widely used as an ornamental in Austin, and around Texas and the rest of the U.S., it has made the Texas Invasive Plants List. So Mr. Smarty Plants is happy to see another one bite the dust.

So what to replace it with?  Most fruit trees are never going to provide the same amount of shade that your Chinese Tallow Tree is currently providing, so going with a nut tree or some other type of tree might be your best bet.

I’m going to provide links to several sites that will provide information for the various  steps in this process; tree selection, site location and preparation, and planting.

We’ll start with out Native Plant Database  where you can search for 7,663 plants native to North America by scientific or common name. Click on the link and scroll down to Combination Searc. Select Texas under state, tree under Habit, and Perennial under Duration. Check Part shade under Light requirement, and Dry under Soil Moisture. Click on the Submit combination Search button, and you will get a list of 116 native plants meeting these criteria that grow in Texas. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which contains a description of the plant, growth requirements and and characteristics as well as images. You can repeat the search, this time selecting deciduous under leaf retention and specifying a range in height.  Changing your choices for light requirement and soil moisture will also generate slightly different lists. You can have a lot of fun with this tool.

Another source comes from the Texas Forest Service. This is an interactive site that has the Custom Tree Selector which can help you pick a tree that fits into the space you have available. It is very well illustrated, however, some of the trees that are listed are non-natives.

A third source for your consideration is "Native and Adapted Landscape Plants" produced by the City of Austin Urban Forestry Program . The guide’s Index indicates that it contains information  about plants that include trees, small trees /large shrubs, perennials, etc. all the way to turf, plus a section on invasive plants. It also has information about each plant’s nativity, water requirements, whether it is evergreen or deciduous, and if it is deer resistant. There is a lot of information here.

A fourth source  of information on tree selection is an article entitled Tree Selection from treesaregood.com The article provides a series of considerations to examine when deciding to plant a tree and determining which tree to plant.

And finally back to the Wildflower Center website for one of our How to Articles, “ How to Plant a Tree"

There is of course going to be some repetion in all of this, but you are getting different points of veiw.

 

 

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