Those who are passionate about gardening and maintaining their own properties are mostly aware of the plants that are best suited for their lot and what might not fare so well. The type of soil present, the level of traffic and sun exposure are all aspects that must be considered when planting a landscape; along the way, however, trees will come into play and it is important to know the good from the bad!
Not all trees are the same, and there are many features that will need to be considered before you pick the prettiest one at the nursery and plug it in your backyard. Often homeowners select trees for the shade and coolness they can provide during the summer months, which is great, but don’t forget to look into factors like the depth of the root system, the mature height and spread, susceptible diseases, smells, how they get along with other plants…etc.
Here in northeast Pennsylvania, we are blessed with rolling hills, wonderful waterways and lush residential properties that would make any nature lover envious. It would be a shame to introduce trees to our own properties that have less than desirable qualities, all because we didn’t do enough research! While the following trees are all beautiful on the surface, beware of what you don’t see.
This tree smells wonderful and is absolutely stunning when in bloom. This fern-like leafed tree is a food source for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and provides great shade in the warmer months. With that being said, how can something that shares the name with our favorite brunch beverage be so bad? Escaping cultivation in eastern Pennsylvania, this tree is known to invade roadsides, woodland edges and be invasive to residential lots. Reproducing vegetatively and by seed it doesn’t take much to travel and spread, becoming aggressive in its environment. Its seeds are highly toxic, being a great danger to children and pets.
The mimosa tree is also known to be a strong competitor to native trees and vegetation, and dense populations of the mimosa can reduce the amount of sunlight and nutrients available for other plants to thrive, essentially choking them out. Getting rid of this tree is not so easy either! Attempting to cut down a mimosa will not be fruitful, as the mimosa stumps are known to re-sprout! It is essential to remove the whole root system of a mimosa tree to truly eradicate it from your property.
If you have ever seen a Bradford Pear tree, chances are you admired it for its beautiful white flowers, so angelic and whimsical in nature. Native to China and introduced into the United States in the 60s as an ornamental sterile tree, it has since reared its ugly head. Turns out, one of its main attractive features of sterility is false. The Bradford Pear will pollinate with almost anything around it, and has reverted to its ancestral roots by forming impenetrable thorny thickets that will choke the life out of all surrounding native trees. This tree will form 4-inch thorns and are nasty as the day is long.
What’s worse? The smell! The aroma produced by this deceivingly beautiful cone-shaped tree has been compared to rotting fish…talk about gross! Its lifespan is only that of 20 years and it is notoriously structurally weak. As we all know, the northeast is not a stranger to strong winds, rain, snow and ice storms, all of which will break the fragile branches of the Bradford Pear and eventually lead to its demise.
This is a prime example of a gorgeous tree that if we had one wish, would not be an invasive problem. Beautiful yet aggressive, this is one of the fastest growing trees and is very disruptive for being easily propagated. This tree is so easily propagated that when the tree is just 10 years old, it is capable of producing 20,000,000 seeds that are spread by wind and water. That’s right, I said 20 million!
Intruding the eastern half of the country, its large leaves and fragrant purple flowers can be seen on trunks reaching 30-40’ in height, and just like the Bradford Pear, its fragility is noticeable in the slightest windy temperaments when the branches split and break. Unless you love raking up broken branches year-round, we suggest you should pass on this planting.
We often hear homeowners talking about Leyland Cypress trees and how they would like to implement them into privacy screening from their neighbors or to block out pesky nearby side streets. While these homeowners are on the right track by selecting fast-growing evergreens for a living privacy screen, the Leyland Cypress is not the best choice and for several reasons. This tree requires constant upkeep and trimming to remain maintained and healthy. Over time, the center of the tree is known to form clusters of dried twigs and branches creating a fire hazard to the tree and surrounding property. This has led many home owner associations to ban the planting of Leyland Cypress to ensure the safety of the community.
Another leading factor to the decline of the Leyland Cypress is infestation. Small pests, particularly bagworms, find their way to this tree and burrow inside to make it their home. These pests end up destroying the tree and are hard to irradiate. For those lucky enough to avoid fire and pests, should monitor the stability of their privacy screen. As this tree grows taller, reaching heights of up to 70’, its limited root support can become apparent, as it is one of the first trees to uproot and blow over in storms with high winds. With all considered, it is best to ask your landscape designer for alternatives to the Leyland Cypress to have the same affect, but without all of the worry.
Just like your mother used to say, it’s not the beauty on the outside that is important, it’s what’s inside that counts. In a weird way, the same can be applied to the aforementioned trees. While they may be beautiful, it is important to focus on their intrinsic qualities to make the best decisions for your property and your family.
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