Good native tree choice for yard?

rembetika(austin, TX)November 16, 2013

OK Tree Folks... I have a question for you. We're in South Austin, just where the Blackland Prairie ends and the Transitional Zone begins. Pretty crappy soil of course. We have a spot in the front yard, by the driveway, in between our house & the neighbor's, where we want to plant a tree. We're in a suburban neighborhood where the houses are pretty crammed in together, like way too many neighborhoods were built around here (and everywhere I guess) since the 1970's or so.
Anyway..... It's the spot where an Arizona Ash was, that died & we cut down about 3 yrs ago.. the trunk just recently rotted (after 3 yrs)- we removed it and now there's a nice big hole there.
So we are debating what the best tree would be for that spot. It would get lots of afternoon (western) sun for most of the day. Also the neighbor really would like another tree there as soon as possible, to replace the shade they lost. So it would help shade their house in the earlier part of the day, and our house (& driveway) in the latter part of the day. We'd like something native, drought tolerant, oak wilt tolerant, low-maintenance, sort of compact with good shade.
We really like the Lacey Oak, but we can't seem to find any mature L.O. trees around to see what it would look like in person (only saplings). Live Oaks are great too, but there's the risk of wilt and also we don't want something that would be crowded in between the 2 houses.. and the future homeowners may think it's too close to the house.. they might resort to lopping off limbs or even cut it down.
A Pecan also might be good there.. and it's always nice to have a free source of nuts!)

Any thoughts..? Experience with Lacey Oaks vs. the others..??

It's also the spot where the sewer line is. Do you think putting another big tree there will cause future problems?

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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Lacey Oak is very slow grower. Avoid it if you want shade rather now than later. I mean really slow...

Fast growing...

Montezuma Cypress
Texas Ash
Mexican White Oak
Mexican Sugar Maple
Mexican Sycamore
Central Texas bald cypress (ask to make sure).

I am not too fond of Pecan trees being planted to close to house, etc. They tend to drop large limbs.

As far as sewers go, I have no idea. It may be what kind of pipe is used. Mine is PVC type and house builder planted a tree right on top of it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 7:11PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

How about chinquapin oak or cedar elm.. Lacey oaks are fairly small. Would you want it deciduous? there is Texas ash and Cedar elm. Pecans are "self pruning AKA they drop limbs. Not something that you want by a house. How large a tree are you looking for.Soapberry , Anacua, Big toothed maple and Escarpment Black Cherry.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 10:48PM
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rembetika(austin, TX)

Good point about the Pecans. About the Bald Cypress.. those are beautiful trees, but don't they have to be near the water? We are near Williamson creek (it's in back of the property, but not closeby) & might have an underground spring running under the house.. although I'm not sure, and don't know if that would help a cypress grow...?
Yes we are looking for something fairly fast growing so we could really start benefiting from the shade as soon as possible. Although not something so fast-growing that it would be unstable. I'm not a fan of Monterrey oaks, the leaves are huge & get everywhere. Cedar Elms always look a bit 'scrappy' to me. It would be nice to have something evergreen so we could have the shade in the winter too. (Although winter is so short here, that's not a huge deal.) I'd love to plant some pine trees but I heard those often don't do well this side of 35.
Bigtooth maple might be an option. Although someone told me Maples don't do well here? That's funny, it seems there's quite a few around & they look fine...
Also would like something stately looking and kind of tidy (because it's right by the driveway and also will be eventually be growing over the neighbor's lawn.. ). We were leaning towards the Shumard Oak, but I read that was susceptible to wilt.. however, there are no other oaks closeby. Maybe the Bigtooth Maple is it...?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:58PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Try looking into Afghan pines. Not native but my neighbor has them growing out here off of Hamilton pool rd . Our dirt is some bad schizz. Red Cedar are fast growers and if you trim them up as they grow they will grow faster into an evergreen TREE form with a crown and with beautiful stringy bark. I am actually partial to a nice old mountain ashe cedar that has been trained upwards.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:21PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Bald cypress and Montezuma will do just fine without having to be near water source. Like other trees, they would benefit from deep watering every once in a while during a dry spell. If you want to push maximum growth, you will have to water them weekly till you get the desired height then just simply maintain their health. Check out Krause Springs in Spicewood where they have huge bald cypress trees that get constant water from spring water underneath. That's how they get huge.

Montezuma cypress is somewhat like Live Oak, they stay green into winter then enter short dormancy before pushing out new growth in late February/early March. Faster growth too. I have four of them at my house nearby Spicewood. They grew at least 4 ft this past year. Bald cypress in my neighborhood are already turning color while my MCs are still green.

I have Shantung maples as well. Mine got pretty big pretty early at the previous house that was sitting on top of limestone rubbles. Over 20 ft after 7,8 years. So far, mine are doing fine. I planted Mexican Sugar Maple at in law's house nearby Marble Falls and it looked like it grew at least 3 ft in its first year. Would be nice if Deer would stop nibbling on the side branches. Seems to be a faster grower than Bigtooth Maple but their growth rate seem to vary quite a bit.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Bigtooth maples are the wonderful kind that comprise Lost Maples so they are used to alkaline soil. If you want a red oak you should get a Texas Red Oak and not a Shumard Red Oak.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Bigtooth maples are the wonderful kind that comprise Lost Maples so they are used to alkaline soil. If you want a red oak you should get a Texas Red Oak and not a Shumard Red Oak.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 9:27PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

If one does pick a red Oak or Shumard for the spot, pick it out while the leaves are turning red at the nursery. Not all red oaks turn red or purple . Some just progress to brown and then fall off. Bummer. This is what I have heard and I have followed this advice. It sounded logical and I have seen brown turning oaks.

May of the "RED TEXAS " oaks in this area of Texas are actually a natural intergrade of the two species.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 9:33PM
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rembetika(austin, TX)

Yeah I'm beyond confused on the topic of Oaks. Just when I think I have one pegged, I see a photo of the same tree but it looks completely different! I've heard that many Oaks are hybrids and it's often hard to tell one from another.
Wanton- thanks for the tip about the Red Oaks. That's definitely a plus to have one that actually turns red. But doesn't that have a lot to do with temperature?
Phoenix- why not a Shumard Oak? We actually did pick up a Shumard oak today, from a big box store (that shall not be named).. evil, I know.. but we were tempted by the price. Now I know why so cheap-- it was totally root bound. We tried to cut the circling roots, but I think it is unsaveable, and besides it would delay the growth of the tree to recover from the cutting. So I guess we will get our money back, and go to a real nursery that actually gives a sheet. Poor tree, it didn't deserve such a fate...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:13PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Some is due to temperature but some trees will turn brown year after year after year. I know, I had one. That is why I was told about that. My next red Oak (following the advice) was red the first year and almost every year after.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:28PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

How to tell Texas Red Oak and Shumard Red Oak apart...

Texas Red Oak's terminal and lateral buds are all same size (around 1/4").

Shumard's terminal is 1/4" and lateral buds are 1/8" size.

I noticed in central Texas that red oaks are starting to turn color.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 10:26AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Yes they are turning. A little early.. I was out walking up to some larger ones on my property that I dearly love.

Red Oaks are not long lived like many other oaks. I think they have the life span of a man. Not hundreds of years. I have some dead ones to clean up. The deer overpopulation have been keeping the replacement trees from growing and teenage red oaks are becoming rare on my land unless I protect them with cages. . This is a problem trough out Central Texas wild lands. oops , I am straying off topic.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 10:36AM
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gmatx zone 6

DH has been a master plumber since 1975, youngest son has been a journeyman plumber for at least 12 years, and we own a plumbing shop here in Texas. PLEASE, DO NOT plant any tree over a sewer or septic system line. While the tree roots may not invade the line in the near future, the odd are very high that it will at some point in time. Tree roots are very strong and have more invasive potential when subsoil moisture is low, such as what we have experienced during the last few years of drought. It's not worth the risk.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 1:43PM
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gmatx zone 6

Oops - double post.

This post was edited by gmatx on Mon, Nov 18, 13 at 17:57

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 1:50PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Wondering why the Chinkapin Oak (aka Chinquapin) suggested earlier by wantonamara has not been discussed more: it's stately, suited to the (alkaline) location, has moderate growth rate, may be more resistant to oak wilt than the Shumard/Red oaks, and can have as reliable fall color. Believe leaves are similar or smaller sized than on the other oaks and maple that are being discussed. Not so much recommending, just interested in knowing what disqualified a tree that, on paper, appears to meet many of the preferences mentioned so far.

Strongly agree with the suggestion to shop for color when buying deciduous trees this time of year. Not an absolute guarantee of reliable color in the final location, but improves the odds.

It's shaping up as a great year for fall color in north Texas, too. The Shumard has been changing color from inside out/top down and the cypress is on its heals. The dogwood is already an incredible red after a couple lackluster years, as are the crepe myrtles, Chinese pistache, and even the Asian pear that has always before gone straight to brown..... there are others, but have already drifted far enough off topic.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chinkapin Oak: An Excellent Native Texas Shade Tree

This post was edited by bostedo on Mon, Nov 18, 13 at 17:16

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 2:37PM
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Are you looking for evergreen or one that's bare part of the year? That's the BIG first choice. Cooking in the afternoon heat can be tough.

- Lacey Oaks are EXTREMELY hard to find in larger landscape sizes in our area (Austin/SA) They're just not that well known and are SLOW. Larger specimens are usually only available from wholesale places. Here's a picture of some I looked at about an hour south of SA. Unfortunately I didn't have room for the Lacey on my trailer. These are 24in boxes. I opted for the even harder to find Canby Oak in 24in box.

24in Box Lacey Oak

Nearly all the local nursery Lacey Oaks (not many) looked terrible. I may head back to get that Lacey next spring.

Mexican, Bigtooth or Caddo Maples are all options but good luck finding any of those locally. I ordered all of mine and none bigger than 5g size. Bigtooth and Caddo are SLOW. Mexican Sugar is faster.

Have you considered the Monterrey Oak (Q. polymorpha)? It's becoming common down here and seems to do very well. It's one of the faster growing oaks I've seen.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 5:25PM
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Remember, although red oaks are beautiful, they are even more susceptible to oak wilt than live oaks. I love my Bur and Chinquapin oaks. I think the Chinquapin has grown a little faster than the Bur. In my experience, fast growing equals short-lived, disease-prone, etc. The slow growers are the best trees. Pecans have a tap root that will find water. Once that happens, they take off. As mentioned, they are messy trees and require lots of spraying, etc. if you want a good nut crop.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 9:59AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)


Fast growing that I listed are perfectly fine... plus Montezuma cypress can live for hundreds of years... We just have very short life span...

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 12:42PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Yeah, Chinquapin Oak is my fave. The leaves are beautiful, and it is wilt resistant. Unlike the other oaks I'm seeing here. I've planted several on my property, and small-balled ones get to be about 15-feet tall in about five years.

But if you want quick shade, you're looking at short lifetime. Do another Ash?

I hate to be a pessimist, but botanists around here are resigned to the fact that oak wilt is going to eventually get all the non-resistant ones. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a hundred years.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 5:59PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

But if you want quick shade, you're looking at short lifetime. Do another Ash?

Texas Ash (Fraxinus texensis) can be a very nice fast growing tree, especially compared to the Arizona ashes that were ubiquitously misplanted in Texas by developers for several decades.... though suppose there's the worry that EAB will eventually find its way to Texas.

Surprised nobody has mentioned Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) as a quick growing evergreen reported to do well in the Austin area. Qualifies as a Texas native, though only in the west.

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Ash, Mountain Ash

This post was edited by bostedo on Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 23:08

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 10:42PM
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We cut 3 huge oaks around house from 2008 to 2012.
Never again I would plant something unmanageable with such a root system in regular subdivision, unless we move to a farm :)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 2:47PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

HMM, Ilived with them in Old area of Austin on a small 1/6 acre lots. We had 300 year old oaks all around us. I never had problems with the roots. Our house was post and beam. I did cut in a terraced back yard and build a patio area and still did not have a problem with roots. We trimmed up one to build a garage/workshop and pored a slab without problem and that was under the neighbors monster of a tree.. I did not see the sun a whole bunch in most of my yard. Lots of partial shade. I live amongst escarpment live oaks now. I just trim the branches away from the buildings. That just makes them grow up tall. Maybe you are in another area of Texas and the dirt or clay makes the coastal live oak roots go sidewards. The roots in Central Austin would head down to Hades pretty quickly. Same here where I am now.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 4:09PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Bostedo mentioned Arizona Cypress...

'Carolina Sapphire' is what I planted at parents in law's house. Pretty cool color. I think I'll get one to plant at my house... I know of a spot that I won't have to worry about watering once it's established.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 9:41PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Where did you find the Carolina Sapphire? In Austin?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 10:16PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

My mother in law ordered a couple online but I don't recall which one. Supposedly this cultivar is a fast grower compared to another blue one, 'Blue Ice'.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 10:38PM
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