Contact Us Host an Event 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
2 ratings

Monday - December 22, 2008

From: Savannah, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Absence of grass around a willow tree in Georgia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In the past three years my Willow tree has grown from a stick to a lovely tree. Unfortunately, the grass under and around the tree is gone. Nothing left but dirt. Is there a remedy?

ANSWER:

Three members of the Salix genus, or willows, are known to be native to Georgia- Salix caroliniana (coastal plain willow), Salix sericea (silky willow) and Salix nigra (black willow). However, it frequently happens that when we are asked about willows, it turns out they were weeping willows, which are non-native to North America. Salix babylonica (Floridata) is native to western China, although it has been used as an ornamental tree for many years in the United States. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are committed to the use and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Because native plants are already adapted to the conditions of rainfall, soil type and climate, they will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. 

However, in this case, it really doesn't matter if your willow is native or not; your question had to do with the conditions underneath the tree.  Roots of all members of the genus are aggressive and will spread about 3 times the distance from the trunk to the edge of the canopy. They are messy, constantly dropping leaves and twigs, and are prone to many diseases which can leave them with dead areas and an unattractive shape. Groundcovers and grasses simply can't compete with those surface roots taking up all the nutrients, the heavy shade in summer, and the litter that has fallen from the tree. The willow roots also can damage sewer lines and lift sidewalks and paving, and are really suitable only to large properties, where they can be best seen from a distance. It would appear that you will need to accept the bare ground beneath the willow as you would most likely be wasting your time trying to plant more grass.


Salix caroliniana

Salix nigra

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Advocacy of non-native plants.
December 10, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Instead of asking a question, I would like to comment on the seemingly discouraging tone on growing plants or trees out of their native habitat that I have observed from rea...
view the full question and answer

Viability of Ehretia anacua tree for Austin, TX
January 17, 2008 - I live in Austin, TX and I see you've recommended the Ehretia anacua tree for someone living here. Also, my arborist mentioned it as a replacement for non-native, invasive trees. However, the databas...
view the full question and answer

Removal of poison ivy by goat in Lone Jack MO
May 29, 2009 - Easy organic removal of poison ivy?? I bought a goat, but you can borrow a neighbors. Always get 2 as they get lonely. They love to eat poison ivy, pull up vine roots and all, and leave the grass.
view the full question and answer

Use of chemicals for eradicating invasive plants
April 24, 2008 - Re: Round Up We are extremely reluctant to use any chemical agents in our yard (or around our home) due to environmental & ecological reasons... However, we are becoming inundated with several ver...
view the full question and answer

Is Canna glauca invasive?
June 10, 2015 - How aggressive is Canna glauca? I'm interested in planting one near a gutter downspout, but I'm afraid it will crowd out groundcovers (heartleaf skullcap and fall obedient plant) in the two location...
view the full question and answer

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