Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 02, 2008

From: Whitney, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Removing a hackberry stump from a non-native fig tree
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a fig tree that is at least 50 years old. A hackberry tree is growing up through the fig. I have cut it back several times (it is probably 3 inches in diameter at ground level), but have been hesitant to put any type of poison for fear of killing the fig. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

We are assuming that you are dealing with a Ficus caricus (common fig) with a Celtis laevigata (sugarberry), also known as hackberry, growing up through it. The bad news is that the hackberry is a plant native to North America, and therefore is probably better adapted to live here than the fig tree. The common fig is a temperate species from the Middle East and southern Europe. However, we can understand your desire to keep your 50-year-old fig tree. We agree that using poisons on that stump could very easily damage the roots of the fig. As long as you can keep it from leafing out, the hackberry will have to die, because it needs the leaves for manufacturing food for the tree's survival. However, you probably need to do some more damage to the stump now, to keep it from crowding the roots of the fig. Try digging down (gently!) around the roots of the hackberry, trying to identify the hackberry roots as opposed to the fig roots. With a pruning saw, saw off the hackberry roots as far from the stump as you can. Keep working the stump back and forth, trying to find roots that can be cut to free the stump from the ground. If you can get to the point that you can get the stump out of the ground in this manner, you should have disposed of the problem. Keep an eye on it, and if any sprigs come up, yank them out while they're little. In self defense, tree roots will often try to put out sprouts in a last gasp attempt to keep going. The fig has very extensive roots, going in all directions, so it probably has root capacity to spare if you accidentally damage one root, just try to avoid it if you can. Click this link for a page of images of the Ficus caricus. Below are some pictures of various parts of the hackberry, to hopefully help you identify which tree you are dealing with.


Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

Celtis laevigata

 

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Root ball disintegrating on Arroyo sweetwood from Dripping Springs TX
May 11, 2013 - I just purchased a arroyo sweetwood in a 5 gallon container and when I went to put it in the ground the root ball completely fell apart. I put it in the ground and watered it really good. What are its...
view the full question and answer

Selective herbicide for non-native bermudagrass from Venice FL
December 02, 2010 - Is there a selective herbicide that can be used for grasses like Floratam and Bermuda along with various weeds that will not damage Wedelia?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a nursing home resident from LaQuinta CA
July 26, 2013 - I take care of an elderly woman with dementia. She is in a nursing home and she's always LOVES flowers and plants. Do you have any suggestions for potted outdoor blooming plants for the summer in...
view the full question and answer

A cactus-like plant with stinky flowers
July 22, 2013 - Because of the green parts looking like certain cacti, a friend insists that this plant she saw in Mexico is one. Its blossom doesn't have the rose-like structure that cacti have, but resembles the ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native, invasive Japanese Privet from Peoria AZ
July 31, 2013 - I have Japanese Privit bushes. one out of 6 has started to grow very small leaves and does not look healthy. Moon Valley told me shortage of zinc, but that has not helped in 3 months. What can I ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.