Burr oak one of many good options for new trees
Looking ahead to this fall, we want to plant a tree. We were thinking of planting a globe willow but after playing “pick-up sticks” from the neighbor’s tree behind us, we’re thinking that’s not the tree for us. What about a burr oak tree, which likes sun, drought conditions, and soil that isn’t that great? My only reservation is that it has acorns. Can you help us find a tree that loves sun and poor soil, but doesn’t drop acorns or seed pods?
Boy, are you right about the globe willow! They’re attractive, fast-growing trees, but they have lots of problems as well. The constant twig drop is just one of them. They also tend to have shallow roots, making your lawn bumpy, are prone to a variety of insect and disease problems, and are weakly branched. Under the category of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” we have some friends who have several globe willows in their yard. They bought one of those chimineas (the little clay ovens) that they put on their patio and they burn the twigs in it to provide a cheerful, toasty spot during evenings out on the patio.
Burr oak is a wonderful tree for this area. Though they do produce acorns, we really don’t consider them to be a problem sprouting all over the place (probably something to do with our desert climate or our lack of squirrels). There are a number of great shade trees for this area; the problem comes when we don’t want them to produce any seeds or pods.
There are two common trees that fit the bill that we’ve planted for years — ash and honey locust. They are both good, strong, moderately growing, seedless trees. We used to consider them pretty pest-free, but I’ve noticed some more problems with these guys the past several years with a couple of insect pests.
Honey locusts are getting more plant bug and leafhopper damage than I’ve seen in the past. These small insects cause a stunting, curling distortion to the new growth. It’s not really that damaging to the tree. It sends out healthy new growth in early summer, but the plant looks sparse and thin and just “sick.”
I’m also seeing a lot more lilac-ash borer in our ash trees. This is a more serious problem that can badly damage or even kill a tree. We’ve always had this insect, but it seems to be more prevalent now.
The underlying problem is that I think we’ve overplanted both of these trees. We’ve provided so much “food” for the pests that feed on them that we’re seeing an increase in their numbers as well. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I still think ash and honey locust should be planted because they’re still good trees.
We should just mix things up a bit by planting some other varieties of trees as well. If you want to plant three or four trees, don’t plant all ash or honey locust. Do one of them, or maybe two, and then plant other things besides.
You might want to consider catalpa, Kentucky coffeetree, aome of the new hybrid elms, Turkish filbert, ginkgo, hackberry, linden, heritage oak, London plane sycamore, or zelkova. None of these trees is perfect (but then neither is ash or honey locust). They might bear pods or seeds, grow a little slowly, or drop their leaves gradually through the fall and winter, but I think that they are wonderfully attractive trees that add diversity to our urban landscape and they won’t add to the problems with insect pests that we’re fighting now.
Come on out when you get a chance and we can show you pictures of them and provide some information for you to make a decision.