Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Dead-appearing Royal Paulownia trees in Manteno, IL
May 02, 2009 - Have two Royal Paulownia trees two years old.Last fall all leaves fell off. Have two eight foot toothpicks. This spring, nothing happening.Are they dead or will they come back? If they come back what ...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of invasive Florida betony from Myrtle Beach SC
April 28, 2012 - How can I get rid of Florida Betony from my lawn and flower beds/ garden area. Garden area was thoroughly dug up and hand picked of all tubules last year at least a foot deep. They are much worse now....
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of Polygonum punctatum (dotted smartweed)
July 28, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, After much online research, my property has been invaded by what I believe to be Persicaria polygonum punctata, more commonly known as dotted smartweed. I have tried hortic...
view the full question and answer

Why isn't Lantana camara in NPIN?
October 16, 2009 - Why don't you have Lantana camara in your data base? It is very common here, and is in the USDA database.
view the full question and answer

Skunk cabbage from Amsterdam NY
May 02, 2012 - Will skunk cabbage grow under a mobile home and cause odor?
view the full question and answer

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