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Dallas Morning News - September 23, 2021

Trees to Avoid and Why


In addition to recommended tree choices for Texas, it’s important to identify the bad choices. Some would argue that all trees are good when in the right place, but I would disagree with that opinion.


Flowers from female cottonwood clogging the screens around air conditioners


All cottonwood trees are fast growing, have highly destructive roots, are subject to insect pests and short lived. The females are extra bad choices because the white flowers cover the neighbors' property and do serious damage to air conditioning equipment.


Hackberry trees are rarely planted but naturally sprout and grow as big weeds from seeds spread by birds. It's often the most common tree seen in fence lines. It's best to physically remove them when they are young.


Thin-barked hybrid maples are sold primarily for their fall color but the brief pretty color is not enough to justify buying and planting these short-lived trees. I made the mistake of designing them into a commercial project years ago and none have survived. Silver maple is also a lousy tree. It is usually chlorotic (yellow from trace mineral deficiency), subject to insects and diseases, and has weak, brittle wood.


Arizona ash is the worst ash choice - short-lived, a heavy water user, destructive roots, subject to several insect and disease problems and will suffer freeze damage. Green ash isn't much better.


Arizona ash along with cottonwoods trees are pretty and effective along streams in Arizona but not good for yards in north Texas


Siberian elm, incorrectly called Chinese elm, has severe elm leaf beetle infestations and is susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Wind damage due to weak wood is also a problem. The true Chinese elm (Lacebark elm) is not much better. It is almost always too deep in the containers when purchased, planted too deeply, suffering physically, and is highly susceptible to cotton root rot.

The short lived fruitless mulberry is the most overused junk tree. It shades the ground too heavily, uses too much water and is target for several insects and diseases. Its root system is highly destructive to lawns, walks, driveways and pipes. The fruiting mulberries are better trees and the fruit is delicious but they are super messy.


Fruiting mulberries are better than the king of junk trees, Fruitless mulberry, but birds make a mess of the tasty fruit


Pin oak grows well in acidic, sandy soil but is a disaster in our alkaline, clay soils. Red oaks often crossbreed with pin oaks and resulting trees will be yellow and sick in our clay soils. Watch out for red oaks with straight trunks, pointed tops and drooping lower limbs.


Polar trees should be avoided but the upright Lombardy poplar may be the worst choice


Poplars are fast-growing, unhealthy trees that often sucker profusely in lawns. Chinese tallow freezes back every hard winter and has lots of insect and disease problems. Honey locust continues to be used by some people but borers love it and it just never seems to be healthy here. Some varieties also have extremely vicious thorns.


Italian cypress trees are prone to insect problems and diseases that are said to be incurable, but the Sick Tree Treatment is quite effective if you need to use this distinctively thin tree.





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