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Friday - April 17, 2015

From: Syosset, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Fast Growing Shrub for Oceanside New York Site
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Can you recommend a tall, fast-growing shrub for a sandy location (near an ocean beach in New York) in full sun? Iím looking for a privacy shield.


Let’s start first with a list of native plants for full sun. Take a look at the Native Plant Database on the website and put in the following search criteria: State = New York, habit = shrub, duration = perennial, light requirement = full sun, soil moisture = dry, height = 12-36 feet.  This search generated four possibilities (only one mentions a tolerance for growing on sand).

Quercus ilicifolia (Bear oak)  A small tree or shrub, 12-20 ft. tall with a short, contorted trunk; slender, horizontal branches; and bristle-lobed leaves turning reddish-purple in fall. Catkin appears just before or with the appearance of new leaves. Bark: dark gray, thin mature bark becoming scaly. TWIGS and BUDS: pubescent yellowish-brown to brown twigs when young, dark brown and smooth when older; terminal buds ovoid and 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) long. Leaves: smooth petiole up to 2 3⁄8 inches (60 mm) in length; leaves are ovate to elliptical, 2 - 4 3⁄4 inches 51 - 121 mm) long, 1 1⁄8 - 3 1⁄2 inches (29 - 89 mm) wide, base cuneate (wedge shaped), 3 - 7 lobes separated by shallow sinuses and ending in 1 - 3 bristle-tipped teeth, apex usually has 3-tipped lobe, thick and leathery, upper surface shiny dark green, lower surface pale green to gray with dense woolly pubescence, secondary veins raised on both surfaces.

A temporary scrub type after heavy cutting and repeated fires, Bear Oak is replaced by taller pines and oaks. The Latin species name, meaning holly leaf, refers to the foliage. It is called Bear Oak, reportedly because only bears like the very bitter acorns. Bear oak is a transition species that depends upon stand disturbance. Fire promotes this species. Normally grows to a height of 18 feet (5.5 m) and occasionally to 41 feet (12.5 m). Disturbed areas; barrens; rocky ridges. Often found in pure stands associated with dry sandy, barren, and rocky hillsides, or mountainous terrain.

Rhus copallinum (Winged sumac) Winged sumac is a large, deciduous shrub or small tree, 20-35 ft. tall, with short, crooked trunks and open branching. Glossy, dark-green, pinnately compound leaves turn reddish-purple in the fall. Yellowish-green flowers are succeeded by drooping, pubescent, pyramidal fruit clusters which turn dull red and persist through winter. It is easily distinguishable from other sumacs by the winged leaf axis and watery sap. Often forms thickets. Dry hillsides; open woods; prairies; thickets Found in scrub on limestone outcrops and rocky slopes, prairies, plains, and in sandy woodlands. Shining sumac is a very ornamental sumac. Because of its large, spreading habit, is not suited to small areas. Native sumacs are important wildlife plants, providing winter food for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals. They are fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce berries, which are not as showy as those of R. typhina and R. glabra.

Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac) The staghorn sumac is a 15-30 ft., colony-forming, deciduous shrub with crooked, leaning trunks, picturesque branches and velvety twigs. Large, bright-green, pinnately-compound leaves become extremely colorful in early fall. On female plants, yellow-green flowers are followed by fuzzy, bright red berries in erect, pyramidal clusters which persist throughout winter. Staghorn Sumac reaches tree size more often than related species and commonly forms thickets. In winter, the bare, widely forking, stout, hairy twigs resemble deer antlers in velvet, hence the alternate common name. Staghorn sumac is most effective when drifts or colonies, typical of natural settings, are allowed to establish. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter. Sumacs grow in dry waste areas, such as impossible slopes where even juniper struggle. They are fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Thin bark makes sumac especially sensitive to lawn mowers and string trimmers. Wounding, however, triggers development of replacement sprouts. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries. The berries are winter food for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals. Grown as an ornamental, especially a variety with dissected leaves, for the autumn foliage and showy fruit.

Berries are a preferred food source for ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, eastern phoebe, common crow, northern mockingbird, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, hermit thrush, eastern bluebird and European starling. It is also used by over 30 other species, and since the fruit hangs on throughout the winter, is another excellent emergency source of food. Honeybees are attracted to the flowers in spring. Dry, rocky or gravelly soils.

 Shepherdia argentea (Silver buffaloberry) Silver buffalo-berry is a mound-shaped shrub, 6-20 ft. tall, which sometimes becomes nearly tree-like. The deciduous plant may be single-trunked or have a few short-trunked stems. Twigs are spiny and silvery gray. Foliage is also silvery-gray. Inconspicuous flowers precede a football-shaped berry that is red, orange or yellow. Shrub or small tree with silvery, scaly leaves, young twigs, berries; branches opposite; twigs often spine-tipped.

The berries are edible, but sour, best after frost in November. Silver buffaloberry tolerates the poorest of soils and does well in dry or alkaline situations. It is a low maintenance plant and extremely cold- and drought-tolerant. For fruit set, both male and female plants are required. Plant has thorns or prickles.




From the Image Gallery

Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

Staghorn sumac
Rhus typhina

Staghorn sumac
Rhus typhina

Silver buffaloberry
Shepherdia argentea

Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

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