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November 24, 2018
We planted some October Glory trees in full sun about 12 years ago. They flourished and were gorgeous for the first ten years.
However, last fall and this fall, they started shedding dried up leaves from the inside
of the trees in late September. And by the first of November, they have already shed
about 80% of their leaves - and the leaves that are left don't contain the vivid color
they are known to display. Have any ideas on why this is happening? They are well
watered from the irrigation system but not overwatered either.
I think your trees need further investigation. This has been one of the best years
for fall color on red maples that I have ever seen. The fact that your trees are
shutting down early leads me to believe you have something else going on. It for sure
is not water related this year—we have had ample rainfall, and maples are quite tolerant
of weather conditions. Do you see any scarring or cracking on the trunk of the tree,
particularly on the SW side of the trunk? Maples are fairly susceptible to sunscald
on the trunk which can lead to disease issues. If you do have sunscald damage, eventually
the dead bark and cambium tissue will loosen and peel away from the underlying wood.
This damaged tissue can lead to problems with wood-boring insects, canker disease
fungi, or wood decay fungi. You can take pictures and sample of the leaves and stems
to your county office for further diagnosis.
September 8, 2018
After living on the same farm in Conway for 30 years, I discovered a "new" tree …
or new to me! It has produced a round fruit that look like muscadines … the skin
is a deep reddish burgundy, thick and somewhat tough. When you squeeze one of the
fruits, the inside pops out and the flesh resembles a grape or muscadine and has the
same smell. The leaves are rough and have serrated edges, the bark on the tree (which
is double trunked) is rough or blistery in appearance. So, if it is a chinaberry,
isn't the fruit toxic? But if it's a strawberry tree, then is the fruit edible?
For proper identification, send in a picture. From the description I do not think
it is a chinaberry. They have compound leaves and the fruits turn yellow at maturity.
It is toxic and can be invasive. The strawberry tree common name could apply to two
separate plants. One is Arbutus which produces a tree that can be 30 feet tall or
more. It is rarely found in Arkansas, so I doubt this would be it, but the fruit is
edible. The other plant commonly called strawberry bush is Euonymus americanus, a
native shrub that grows to be 4-6 feet in height. The fruits are rough and somewhat
warty in appearance and turn pink when mature. The 5 orange seeds pop out when the
plant is mature. They are not edible. So none of them sound like your discovery.
June 16, 2018
Would you know what this plant/tree is? It must be perennial as it dies back in winter
and then reappears in May. They are in a wooded area about a mile up from the Arkansas
The tree in question is commonly called Tree of Heaven - Ailanthus altissima. The
deciduous tree is native to China and was introduced as an ornamental in 1784 in Philadelphia.
Today it has naturalized and has become quite invasive. There are separate male and
female trees, with the female trees being prolific seeders with the potential to produce
more than 300,000 seeds annually. They also have a deep root system and can send up
March 31, 2018
I have been seeing a lot of white flowering trees in the wooded areas where I live.
What is the name? Also, many are blooming on the Martin Luther King bypass in Hot Springs.
Depending on where you are in the state there a number of white blooming trees growing
in the wild. Some we love and some we hate. The biggest problem tree in Arkansas
which is predominantly what you are seeing on roadsides in Hot Springs is seedling
callery pears—seedlings of our Bradford pear trees. These ornamental trees set a
copious amount of seeds which the birds love to eat. They drop the seeds and seedlings
are wiping out native vegetation in their path. They are growing statewide. The
trees we love in the wild in order of blooming are white flowering wild cherries,
service berry, and soon the fringe tree (Grancy Gray Beard) and then our flowering
March 17, 2018
I have two beautiful loquat trees that were very badly freeze burned. They are normally
lush and green throughout the winter, but this season just couldn't handle the single
digit temps. When should I prune back the damaged foliage?
Unfortunately this is a common refrain this year. We have winter damaged foliage
across the state. Loquats only overwinter well in south Arkansas, but even south
Arkansas had bitter cold this winter. Start cutting back gradually. Some of the
damage I have seen is mild and it is just foliage that is burned and there are viable
buds beneath the leaves that are beginning to leaf out. Prune until you come to green
wood and then let them rebound.
December 9, 2017
I transplanted some 20 ft. white oak trees this spring. Do we still need to be watering
since we had a dry fall now that the weather is cold with temperatures below 30 at
We most definitely need to still water in the winter months if we don’t get ample
rainfall. It is particularly true for newly planted trees. November and early December
have been dry, so water to help get the roots established on your recently transplanted
trees. Dormant plants don't need as much water as actively growing plants, but if
they are too dry leading up to a hard freeze, they are more prone to winter damage.
Your tree needs moisture for the roots to continue to grow. How often you water
will not be as frequent as in the summer months but if we have more than 2-3 weeks
without moisture, I would consider watering.
September 9, 2017
I have lived in the same home for 20 years. On the southeast (front) corner, I have
managed to kill three dogwoods and now a serviceberry. The spot caps off a row of
20 year old azaleas across the front of the house. The spot gets hot bright afternoon
sun and sits in a wet spot from rain runoff and the lay of the yard. I would like
a small ornamental tree for this spot. Any advice? I’ve thought of a crab apple
and even a columnar English oak. The oak is not ornamental but there is a nice one
on the Hendrix campus in a somewhat similar spot.
While sunlight might have been the issue with the dogwoods, the serviceberry should
have done fine. I don't think it is the intense sun, but the poor drainage. I would
not attempt a crabapple or oak in wet feet. Redbuds are more tolerant of wet feet
and might be a better option, but solving the drainage issue or elevating the planting
July 29, 2017
Can you identify this tree for me? Thanks so much. I think birds planted it in my
Prunus serotina, commonly called black cherry or wild cherry is a very common native
tree. While many native plant folks really like it for its blooms and fruit which
are food for many insects and birds, it can become a tad aggressive, since the birds
do eat the fruits and drop the seeds. It is great to have in the landscape to attract
birds, but learn to recognize it.
June 17, 2017
Please give me some do's and don’ts s regarding exposed roots of a tree. I love the
canopy of this maple I planted from a seed from upstate Virginia a dozen or so years
ago. May I safely establish a steel edging border and fill it with bark mulch? Would
it be safe to sever exposed roots a dozen or fewer feet from the tree? What would
the minimum distance be for cuts? The farthest exposed roots must be 20 feet from
Certain trees are simply prone to surface roots, and maples lead the pack. When there
is limited soil for the roots to grow in (next to a street or sidewalk) the surface
roots can become even more numerous. Cutting the roots can cause damage to the tree,
and in any event, more will grow back. It is best to simply mulch the area since
mulch has a large enough pore space to allow oxygen and water to make it through,
unlike soil. Where you have grass growing you can add a bit of soil to cover those
roots farther away from the tree and get the grass or groundcover to buffer the exposed
Do you know what kind of tree this is?
It is a beautiful mid-sized tree called yellowwood - Cladrastis kentukea. It typically blooms in late May with fragrant white flowers
and it has good yellow fall color. It grows to 40-50 feet tall with a nice rounded
May 1, 2017
During the construction of our home three years ago several of our large shade trees
were damaged. I don’t see any visible signs of wounds, but the trees have gotten
weaker and weaker and are dying back. We tried to keep the grade about the same,
but I am guessing the bulldozer may have damaged feeder roots. We hired a tree service
to prune them back severely removing all the branches that didn’t leaf out. Is there
anything else we should do to get them happy and healthy again?
Grade changes and physical wounds are one way to cause damage to trees, but following
construction, compaction of the soil is often one of the most common causes of tree
damage and root death. Aeration after construction is a good idea, but three years
later, I don’t think it will do much good. You would be in better shape if you replanted
new trees. If your trees are heavily damaged, they will not make strong trees for
many years, if ever. I know you hate to lose them or give up what shade they provide,
I would begin to plant some new trees, and once they have grown a couple of years,
remove the damaged ones.
December 24, 2016
We are trying to find a narrow growing tree that doesn't get too tall and possibly
has nice flowers in spring and colors in fall for a corner of our backyard. Water
runs through this area during big rains, but empties fairly quickly afterwards. Existing
Bermuda grass has washed out because it was shaded and sparse. We're having it re-
sodded and the old misshapen oak trees shading the area have been removed. Do you
have any suggestions? We are in Bentonville.
One of the new trends in trees is fastigiate trees—they are bred to grow much narrower
than their standard relations. I think the reason for this trend is we are seeing
huge homes going in with small yards or narrow planting areas that need height but
not spread. Many species are now sold in this fastigiated form, from columnar oaks,
slender silhouette sweet gums, fastigiate hornbeams and gingkoes, elms, and tulip
poplar all have fastigiate forms. Many have great fall color. For blooms there
are a few crabapple and cherry varieties with the fastigiate form. You might also
try a sourwood tree. It is a beautiful tree with white flowers in late spring and
outstanding fall color. Its natural growth habit is fairly narrow and it grows to
about 30-35 feet tall.
December 17, 2016
I just had a sewer line replaced which involved digging near very old oak trees.
I recently saw a similar situation addressed in a garden magazine. They suggested
putting fertilizer around the trees. Would you recommend this and if so, what kind
of fertilizer, when should it be applied, and how far out from the base of the trees?
Hopefully they were taking precautions during the replacement, but for now there is
nothing to do until next growing season. Watering will be most critical all next
year to help the root system grow back and help support the top of the tree. A light
application of fertilizer broadcast throughout the yard in the spring after the grass
greens up will feed the lawn and tree since the feeder roots can be out as far away
from the tree as it is tall.
My daughter has a cut Christmas tree in a pot on her sheltered front porch in Colorado Springs, CO. How should it
be cared for to make it through until New Year's please? Is there a water potion
she can mix up to keep it moist and fed? I used to mix up something that we watered
our cut indoor trees with but I can't find the recipe
There are all kinds of recipes for extending the life of a cut Christmas tree, but
the main thing is plenty of water. I believe in a fresh cut once you get the tree
home and then put it in a bucket of water to help it drink well before bringing it
inside. Since hers is outside, it will stay much fresher than if brought inside to
a heated and dry home. Some people do use the flower preservatives you get when you
get cut flower bouquets, but avoid things like sugary sodas which will gum things
up too quickly.
November 26, 2016
This bush came from Texas. It is about 15' tall. It is an evergreen and blooms in
the spring and again in the fall. The bees and butterflies love it. It is aromatic
and you get a pleasant odor when you get within 10-15 yards from it. What is this
The plant in the picture is a loquat. This tree is not common in Arkansas, but can
be grown. It blooms in the fall and sets its edible fruit in early winter to mature
in late winter. A well-established loquat tree can withstand temperatures to about
10 degrees without serious injury, but the flowers and fruit are killed at temperatures
below about 27. Since they blooms in late fall to early winter and must mature its
fruit during the winter months we would rarely ever get any fruit in Arkansas, since
our average winter low is usually around 15 in central and southern Arkansas and 10
in north Arkansas.
August 27, 2016
I have attached some photos of trees in our yard next to the house that have been
attacked by worms. As you can see, one tree is evidently dead and the second tree
seriously wounded. Can you identify the type of worms and advise what to do about
them? Are these worms a threat to other types of shrubbery? If so, what do we do to
protect the other plants? Can either of the trees be saved given their current state
Unfortunately there isn’t one correct answer that works for every situation. It all
depends on the tree species, how much area you are covering and how deeply and what
type of soil you have. For example, a dogwood tree can suffer from even a mild covering,
where the deep rooted bald cypress can handle it in stride. If you are just trying
to cover exposed roots, why not just use some mulch.
July 16, 2016
Wow, you have an impressive case of bagworms. These insects know how to use camouflage,
building their protective covering out of the plant they are feeding on. Bagworms
pass the winter as eggs inside the bags with up to 300 eggs inside each bag. The
eggs hatch in mid-May and the tiny larvae crawl out to feed. Each uses silk and bits
of plant material to make a small bag that protects and camouflages it as during feeding
and growth. They can also move from plant to plant when small, spinning strands of silk which they then use to fly in the wind. Bagworm caterpillars feed for about four to six weeks, constructing and expanding
the bag as they grow and feed, and withdrawing into it when disturbed. Bagworms
prefer needle type evergreens—junipers, Eastern red cedars, Leyland cypress and arborvitae
in particular, but will feed on deciduous trees occasionally. In large amounts, the
caterpillars can defoliate plants. Heavy infestations over several consecutive years,
especially when coupled with other stresses, can lead to plant death. Needle-type
evergreen plants are the slowest to rebound, and as much damage as the totally brown
one has, I would cut my losses and remove. The other one can be salvaged, but sprays
are no longer effective. By now your bagworms are probably done feeding and in the
resting or pupal stage. This fall, males will emerge from the bag going in search
for bags containing immobile females. After mating, the female lays several hundred
eggs inside the bag, and then she leaves the bag and dies. The eggs remain in the
bag on the plant until they hatch the following May. Hand pick and destroy as many
of the bags as you can to reduce problems next year. Destroy the plant that you are
removing. If you have this problem annually, you may want to be proactive and use
a preventative insecticide approach beginning mid-May next year. One application
a week with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) or similar insecticide will work. Three applications a year should suffice.
I live in Cave Springs and I am a beekeeper and I would like to know if Sourwood trees
will grow here. The bees love sourwood trees plus they are a beautiful tree even if
I decide to quit keeping bees, but I can’t find anyone that know anything about them.
I know Crystal Bridges has planted 2-3 of them, but they are still pretty small trees.
I finally found a nursery that is fairly close by that says they will grow. I would
like a second opinion.
Sourwood trees are beautiful, small trees up to 25 feet in height. This member of
the azalea family has pretty white panicles of blooms in late spring, followed by
one of the prettiest red fall foliage colors of any tree growing. It is not as common
in nurseries as other trees, and it does need a bit of TLC to get established. It
likes an acidic, well-drained soil. It is not tolerant of heavy soils, or too much
moisture, or droughty conditions. But once established it is a gorgeous tree, and
well worth having in the garden, bees or no bees.
May 28, 2016
I'm trying to decide if this is a tree to save or destroy. We are replacing a fence
and it is in the way. Do I destroy it or try to transplant it?
The tree in question is sassafras, a great small tree. It is one of two species
of native trees that have three different leaf shapes on the same tree. The other
tree that shares the leaf variability is a common mulberry. Sassafras trees form
a taproot, which can make transplanting difficult, but give it a try. It will wilt
pretty badly for a while with the shock of transplant, but keep it watered, and hope
for the best.
February 27, 2016
I have a Bay Leaf Tree and I am wondering if it can be left outside. We live in Hot
While it is not considered 100% hardy in central Arkansas, I have overwintered two
in containers in a protected spot outdoors for the past two winters. I put my plant
between the house and the shrubs for the winter then bring it out where it gets morning
sun and afternoon shade for the summer. If you want to plant it in the ground, plant
it on the northeast side. Full afternoon sun would cause more fluctuations in winter
temperatures and would pose a problem.
February 1, 2016
I have had some dead branches removed in some of my trees and there are some dead
spots on the trunk. Is there some special tar to put on the places without bark to
help "heal the wound"? I can get regular tar from the Hardware store or the new Plastic/synthetic
tar. What do you suggest?
Tar should never be used, nor any wound dressing. They make you feel like you are
doing something to help, when in reality, they can sometimes hinder the recovery process.
Trees do not heal like humans. Once wounded, they can cover up or callous over the
wound, but never “heal”. Keeping the decayed wood cut out and the surface as clean
as possible is all you should do. Internal decay can continue, so over time the trees
may become weaker. Regular care with water in the dry periods and a little fertilization
annually is an added help.
January 16, 2016
We received a decorative tree face for Christmas. Are those okay to stick on trees?
Everyone has an opinion on the safety of poking holes into trees, but people have
been doing it for years with the old clothes lines, or hanging bird feeders or wind
chimes. Be aware any time a wound is made, it can be a potential source of infection,
but some trees are more forgiving than others. I would not intentionally poke holes
or nails onto a thin skinned tree like a dogwood or Japanese maple, but on large,
woody mature trees, a few holes should not do much damage. It is when people girdle
a tree, cut all the way around that can kill a tree. I would find a large, healthy
tree and add your whimsical face and enjoy.
December 19, 2015
I think this has been the most beautiful late fall for the trees. The Bradford pear,
sweet gums and crepe myrtles have been great this year. Why do you think this was
a better year than we saw the past few?
I agree that for the trees that did not shed their leaves early, it has been a spectacular
fall. In addition to the trees you mentioned, the Japanese maples, gingko, and red
maples were stunning, and some still are. We have had ideal conditions for leaf color
with cool nights and warm days. The rains in October saved us after the dry September.
We also have had several light frosts, but the majority of central and southern Arkansas
has still not seen a hard killing frost, so the leaves are still on the trees. If
you think back to the past two falls, we had extremely early hard freezes, which occurred
before fall color had fully set in, and before the abscission layers formed on the
leaves. Many crape myrtles and Japanese maples retained foliage all winter and had
winter damage because of this early frost. Our late season has allowed us to enjoy
the fall colors much longer this year and hopefully has the trees better prepared
for the winter ahead.
December 5, 2015
I have a twelve year old Bloodgood maple which has small holes in the bark that I
just noticed. They are seeping sap. What is happening?
Are the holes scattered or in a pattern—either straight up and down the trunk or in
a ring around the trunk? If they are scattered it could be an indication that you
have a boring insect. If the holes are patterned you would have woodpecker or sapsucker
activity. Depending on how thin the outer bark is and how frequently they feed, you
can get some sap bleeding. It won’t hurt the tree, but it can be unsightly. Scare
devices or wrapping the trunk with a tree wrap temporarily can help.
November 28, 2015
I started some avocado trees from seed early in the year. I do not know what variety
they are. This is the first time I have been successful in growing them. They are
planted outside in very large pots. One of them is now 4 feet tall and another one
is 31/2 feet tall. It will be impossible to move them inside this winter. How can
I protect them?
Avocado trees are definitely tropical plants and will not survive outdoors unprotected.
If you can move them into a garage or under your house in the crawl space that could
help them survive. If that is not possible, if you can move them behind your shrubs
and adjacent to the house that will help. Then wrap the tops with sheets or some
type of breathable material and heavily mulch the base of the plants and hope for
November 14, 2015
A couple of years ago we purchased two palm trees and planted them in large pots to
have around the pool. We were concerned about wintering so one year we put them in
the cellar with terrible results. Last year we covered pots and all with leaves with
also poor results. Would it be better to plant them in the ground? We live in Paris
It all depends on what variety of palms you are growing. There are numerous hardy
palms that will survive uncovered outside in most winters. The past two colder than
normal winters may have caused some discoloration, but they came back great. If you
don’t know what varieties you have, then protection is needed, unless you are willing
to do a Hail Mary and see what happens. For hardiness sake, though, they would need
to be planted in the ground. Plants in containers have a more limited root system
and the soil will get colder than the soil at ground level. If you want to move
them inside, put them in a garage or under the crawl space of your house now. They
won’t look great when you bring them out, but they will not have frozen and died,
so you can cut them back and wait for them to leaf out next spring. In the ground,
I have had folks build a chicken wire frame around figs and other mildly hardy plants,
and lightly fill this up with leaves. I have had others cover the whole frame with
Remay (white protective cloth) and leave that covered. Last year I over-wintered
two bay leaf trees just by moving the pots between my shrubs and my house. They didn’t
have a burned leaf on them this spring
My co-workers and I have a bet, and you get to decide. Will we or will we not have
any fall color this year? Some of us say the summer was so bad that leaves will just
turn brown, while others say they have trees in their yard that already are beginning
to turn. What say you?
In some respects, you are both right. Trees that were not well maintained, may have
died or dropped all their leaves already — and they will not have a great fall show.
However, those trees with a full set of leaves are beginning to color up and our current
weather conditions are ideal — warm, sunny days and cool nights, coupled with a bit
of moisture. I think we will probably have a nice show of fall color, mixed with dead
In the spring of 2010 I planted four Bradford pear trees. They are growing straight
up; they don’t seem to be spreading out like I thought they should. Should I cut the
tops out of them? If so, when should I do this?
Topping a tree is a practice that should NEVER be done to a tree you want to keep
long-term. When you remove the entire top crown of a tree, you create internal decay
in the tree. It will eventually put out more branches and look like a tree, but the
damage done internally will last for a lifetime and makes the tree structurally unsound.
However, you can remove certain branches and take the top buds off of each branch
you leave, without removing the crown, and this will encourage branching. The top
bud on each branch has dominance, and left unchecked, will grow straight and taller.
Removing the top bud (or even going lower on a branch) will encourage lower buds to
grow, which should start to give your tree a fuller top. Pruning done correctly will
give you a fuller and healthier tree. Keep in mind that many ornamental pear varieties,
particularly Bradford are very susceptible to storm damage, and they often have too
many branches which cause them to resemble a lollipop on a stick and they break easily.
Someone told me last week that if you top a sweetgum tree it won't produce gumballs
for 4 or 5 years. Is this true? I have a huge sweetgum tree in the backyard that my
wife loves for the shade it produces, but I hate the gumballs I have to deal with
all year long. I want to cut it down, but if topping it will stunt the gumballs, I'm
willing to try that.
Not true, and very, very bad for the tree to be topped. Topping a tree leads to a
hollow, unsafe tree so should never be done. Sweetgum balls can be a nuisance, but
the fall color and the overall shade make it worthwhile. If you grow hostas, the sweetgum
balls make a great mulch to keep slugs away, and if neighborhood cats use your garden
as a litter box, sweetgum mulch keeps them away. I am still surprised that some enterprising
gardener hasn’t bagged the stuff and sold it for either or both uses. Maybe you have
a new cottage industry in your yard.
When should we stop watering trees and bushes in central Arkansas?
There is really not a cut off date for watering. It all depends on weather conditions.
If you remember back to the horrid drought of 1980, we actually had more drought damage
on trees and shrubs, because the drought continued all winter, and people quit watering.
We have been fortunate to have rain every few weeks lately, so additional watering
isn’t required unless you are planting new shrubs, trees and winter annuals. Then
you will need to water a bit. Most plants will do fine without additional water for
two to three weeks at a time in the winter months, but container plants will still
need to be watered, especially prior to a hard freeze. Dry plants will be more sensitive
to winter injury.
I am hoping you can identify a tree by description without a picture. This tree has
thorns on the truck and branches. We saw this in the wooded area just as you cross
over the Two Rivers Bridge over the Arkansas River. I have never seen a tree of this
size with thorns.
My guess would be a honey locust - Gleditsia triacanthos. They have compound leaves
with a lot of small leaflets on them, and the trunk and branches can have some deadly
thorns. They can form a large shade tree, but the thorniness is the reason most home
gardeners don’t want them in their yard. Plant breeders have bred a thornless variety
which has good fall color and makes a good yard tree. A smaller tree that is native,
and is covered in thorns is the Devil’s Walkingstick – Aralia spinosa.
I was recently on vacation and thought my sprinkler system was set, but when I came
home my Japanese maple looked pretty crispy. Do you think it is dead, or if I water
it light crazy now, it might come back?
The drought, coupled with high temperatures has really taken its toll on many plants,
but trees in particular. If the leaves on your tree are falling off, that is a better
sign than if they are brown and shriveled, but still attached to the tree. Water and
keep your fingers crossed. I am appalled at how many trees are dying along the roadsides
and in yards that are not watered. Two years in a row is tough on plants.
We have four large (20 feet tall) Japanese maple trees in our front bed. They are
15-20 years old and have seemed very healthy. Last week, my across the street neighbor
cut down one of his Japanese maple trees in his front yard because it had died. Seemed
like it died fairly quickly, just a year or two and it was gone. He has another one
also in his front yard that is has some dead major branches. Then, I took a closer
look at my trees and discovered that they all have many dead branches, although they
are small branches, no major ones. I am concerned that there may be some kind of disease.
What should I do?
Japanese maples were hit hard by last summer’s extreme heat and drought. If they weren’t
watered, they may have died or had some major damage. My neighbor had a large old
Japanese maple that is totally dead this year. Plants that were stressed would be
more susceptible to insect and disease attacks. Check out the trees, looking for any
holes or splits in the stems or leaf spots on the foliage. Remove any dead branches.
A little thinning never hurt a Japanese maple. Water when dry and hope for the best.
If you do see signs of insects or diseases, take a sample in to your local extension
After an exhausting search last year, I was finally able to locate and purchase a
Red Buckeye Tree for my Mother's 80th birthday. Now I think the tree is dead. I would
greatly appreciate any advice on this type of tree and where I may purchase another
Last growing season was tough on established plants, so doubly hard on newly planted
trees and shrubs. Give your buckeye a chance to start growing before you start replanting.
Buckeyes form a taproot quickly when grown from seed, which makes them fairly tough.
I have not looked at our nurseries for a buckeye for awhile but I would not expect
them to be that difficult to find. Check with your local nurseries, and if they don’t
carry them, two that carry a wide variety of natives include Pine Ridge Gardens in
London, Arkansas and Custom Landscape in Mt. Vernon, Arkansas
In late September we drove from our home in Bella Vista to Colorado. It was time
for the Aspens to shine. Some were bright gold, some were just turning and some were
still green. Overall they put on a beautiful show. We would like to plant a small
grove of Aspens on our property near the water line. Since the Aspens thrive in Colorado,
one would assume our winters would not be a problem. How about the summers? Is it
entirely too hot here for the Aspens to survive? Haven't noticed Aspens in Arkansas.
Does that mean they won't grow in our rocky red dirt? I remember being told Aspens
in a grove are technically one organism sending out shoots underground to grow new
trees. Does that mean the surrounding area must be constantly monitored for new shoots
if the size of the "grove" would be problematic, say near a concrete cart path?
Aspens are quite cold tolerant, but really don’t like heat and humidity, so they would
not be happy campers in Arkansas. That being said, I have seen at least one aspen
tree in Arkansas, in Conway to be exact. I am not sure if it is still living after
our past two summers, but it survived for several years. Bella Vista would stand an
easier chance of growing them than Conway, so if you want to give it a try, go for
it. I would not plant a grove but two or three and see how they do. Your best bet
would be the quaking aspen – Populus tremuloides. If they are happy and thriving,
they do sucker which aids in the grove effect, but I doubt that would ever happen
in Arkansas. Make sure you give them ample water, because drought tolerance is not
one of their attributes.
I have always loved the Japanese maples and I just planted a young 4' tall one outside
of my daughters window(partial sun, shaded in the morning) . Apparently my errant
puppy of 8 months shares the same affection for the maple as I do. He chewed through
the bark about 12" to 14" up. The tree has since been protected from the wayward canine.
What (if anything) can I do to help this tree recover?
It all depends on how deeply the puppy ate into the trunk as to whether it survives
or not. If it is only on one side of the tree, and he just gnawed on the outer bark,
cleaning up the wound by scraping off any loose bark and then waiting is all you can
do. If he chewed completely around the tree, it could girdle the tree which will kill
it. Only time will tell, but tree paints or wound dressings won’t help. Making sure
the wound is clean and protecting from further damage is really all you can do.
Could the thorny seeded tree you talked about Dec. 24 be a sweetgum instead of a
chesnut? I don’t think there are any chesnut trees left in Arkansas. Without a picture,
how can I be sure of the difference? What about a horse chesnut? I think they are
It certainly is a possibility that the thorny fruits were sweetgums. I had chestnuts
on my mind, since someone sent me a sample and asked for identification recently.
Chestnuts were practically wiped out in the United State due to chesnut blight, but
they are not extinct, and there are millions of seedlings nationwide. We have been
seeing a resurgence of the American chesnut tree in Arkansas. I have seen fruiting
trees from Baxter County, to Petit Jean, Little Rock and Monticello. It’s fruit has
lots of spines on the outside and a narrow, toothed leaf and edible inside nut. The
American chesnut foundation is also breeding disease resistant varieties which should
soon be available to the public. The sweetgum tree does have thorny smaller fruit,
but you won't get too much inside, nor is it edible and it is very widespread in our
state. The single leaves look almost like stars with five points. The horse chesnut
is also called a buckeye and while it does have a large poisonous seed, the pods have
small thorns, but it is not as common in our state as the red buckeye, which has .
As with all members of the Aesculus (horsechestnut family) they have compound leaves
with 5-7 leaflets. I have attached pictures of all three for proper identification.
I have a 25 year old dogwood tree that is blooming now. I noticed a couple full sized
blooms last Saturday. Sunday I noticed one additional branch full of smaller blooms.
How unusual is this? The dry hot summer has stressed the tree, which has about half
its leaves withered and brown. I had never pruned the tree, until July of this year,
when I remove quite a few of the lower limbs to allow sunlight to shrubs and various
plants under the dogwood. I painted the wounds where I cut off the branches.
You are not alone--many spring bloomers have had some errant blooms this fall. My
loropetalum shrub is in full bloom right now! Many of our plants set their flower
buds early and shut down early to deal with our horrendous summer. Then we finally
got some rain, it turned cool, heated up again and they thought spring had arrived.
There is nothing you can do but enjoy the blooms. Assess the damage next spring to
your tree from the summer heat and prune as needed after they finish blooming next
spring. Tree paints for pruning cuts are not needed--a nice clean cut is all you want.
We have a tree by our driveway, we don't know what kind it is. Every year it has
balls on it that are about as big as a golf ball, they have thorns on them that hurt
if you pick them up. There are so many on our driveway it is hard not to step on them,
sometimes it is hard not to fall. Is there anything we can do so these balls won't
come on the tree next year?
Sounds to me like you have a chestnut tree. If you can get to the nuts inside—a thorny
problem, they are quite tasty. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent
them from setting fruit. On the positive side, we are gaining success in growing chestnuts
again. For many years they were wiped out by the chestnut blight.
Do all trees struck by lightning eventually die? The tree in the attached picture
was hit this past August and is continuing to lose its bark.
All trees that are struck by lightning do not die, but there aren't any clear cut
guidelines telling you if your tree will or will not die. I have seen some trees with
what appeared to be horrible damage, survive, and some that had very little visible
damage, die. Make sure you contact your homeowners insurance to let them know it happened
and assess how well the tree leafs out this spring. From the look of the damage, you
will probably have internal decay in the trunk, even if the tree survives, so assessing
where it is in the yard and the potential for damage, should it fall is also important.
Decay is not something that happens overnight, but it will happen. Plants will callous
over wounds, but the internal decay will continue over time.
About five years ago I planted a rooted magnolia that was about a foot high. Today,
it is about 10 feet high and healthy...except it has never blossomed! Before I cut
it down, I wanted to check with you to see if t here is any way I can make it bloom.
There is a huge magnolia tree across the street from me so shouldn't that take care
of any necessary pollination?
A traditional southern magnolia can take 8-10 years before it begins blooming, so
I think patience is in order. The stately Magnolia grandiflora is a huge tree at maturity
and often gets too large for a common landscape. For that reason, many are planting
the smaller ‘Little Gem’ magnolia or ‘Bracken's Brown Beauty’. The leaves and flowers
are about 1/2 the size of the standard, but an added benefit, besides the smaller
size is that they bloom at a very young age. For your tree, just enjoy the evergreen
foliage. Once it begins to bloom, provided it has plenty of sun, you should have flowers
Please help! I have lost three large pine trees since the spring and my neighbor
has simply given in and had all his pines cut down. The man at the tree service said
the culprit is pine beetles--what can be done to stop them and save the remaining
I wish I had a better answer for you. Unfortunately, there are several common species
of bark beetles that attack pines—the Southern pine beetle, the turpentine beetle
and the IPS engraver beetle. Probably the most devastating is the Southern pine beetle.
Some pine tree species are more susceptible than others as are weak or damaged trees.
Trees damaged by lightning, ice, or drought and other natural events or construction
are more likely to be infested. In the spring, beetles emerge and colonize new host
trees. Infested trees decline rapidly especially during hot, dry summer months and
infestations may spread from tree to tree as additional beetles are attracted to the
site of infestation. Multiple generations may be completed within a year. If there
are large populations they can attack healthy trees. While there are some sprays on
the market, timing and repeated spraying would be needed, so they really are not all
that effective—and they are for prevention, not cure. The best defense is a strong
offense—keep your trees healthy and prune out any damage that occurs from weather.
The turpentine beetle and the IPS engraver beetle often come in to finish off the
trees that are too far gone to save anyway.
My neighbor recently ran into my Bradford Pear with his truck, knocking off a large
section of bark. What can I do to treat the damaged area in hopes of saving the tree?
Once a tree is wounded, the wound will always be there, but you can help by cleaning
up the wound. Cut off any lose or jagged bark and try to keep it as clean as possible.
Time will tell how deep the wound went and how much, if any damage will occur to the
top. Have you seen any signs of stress to the top of the tree that is on the side
where the damage is? Wound dressings or tree paints are ineffective, the best remedy
is a clean wound.
I have never heard of this, but my young dogwood (about 3 years old) is getting ready
to bloom! Is it normal for a dogwood to bloom in October?
Flower buds should be set—dogwoods often set them as early as late July some years,
but blooming is another story. Are they just full of buds or actually showing flower
I have attached photos of what I believe to be some kind of pear. As you will notice,
the fruit is small about the size of a ping pong ball, but the texture and flesh very
much resemble a pear, as does the leaf and limbs. Please let me know what you think
that it is. The reason for the inquiry is that there are 3 of these trees along the
Arkansas River and the deer like to camp out around them endlessly searching for dropping
fruit. If you know what this tree is, could you possibly tell me where I could purchase
some of them or if the seed might be viable, Thanks.
You will find many seedling pears around the state. The Bradford pear and other ornamental
pears are all selections of the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana). The fruits can run
the size of a bb to a crabapple. When the birds drop the seeds, there is a great deal
of variability in the resulting seedling pear. While deer may flock to them, and probably
birds and squirrels, many of these seedling pears are becoming a nuisance plant--quite
invasive. You will also find that many of these seedlings have thorns on them too.
I was inspecting a house in Eureka Springs this week and saw this cluster on a tree
that I never noticed before. I was told it was a magnolia tree, but it didn't have
the glossy leaves. I couldn't find it in my tree book. What are your thoughts?
I think it is a slightly deformed seed pod on a Magnolia soulangiana--the tulip or
saucer magnolia. It should have light pink to purple flowers in the spring before
the foliage. This magnolia is deciduous, losing its leaves every fall, thus it doesn’t
have the thick, glossy leaves of the evergreen Magnolia grandiflora.
This came up in our flower garden three years ago we cut it down first year. We left
it alone last year, and now this year it has multiplied to three stalks. It's about
six feet tall and the leaves are about 14 inches wide. So far it hasn't produced any
We get samples of this every year. I often refer to it as the Jack-in-the-beanstalk
tree, because of its rampant young growth. The tree is Royal Paulownia or Empress
Tree—Paulownia tomentosa. This year many very young trees bloomed with what looked
like purple candelabras—I think last year’s copious rainfall had something to do with
that. Normally they don’t start blooming until they are around 5 to 7 years old. The
tree does produce pretty purple flowers but then they form woody seed capsules which
disperse their seed and you end up with weedy seedlings coming up everywhere. Because
they are fast growing they also are fairly soft wooded and can start falling apart
with age. All in all, not a great yard tree.
Can you tell me what the tree is that's blooming now along the roadsides. It has
white blossoms similar to the pear tree and it blooms around the same time, before
dogwoods but after the wild plums. I call it the 'popcorn' tree because that's what
it reminds me of, but I would really like to know its true name. Is it a variety of
wild pear? Someone told me a ‘popcorn’ tree has white fruit, not flowers.
I do think it is a wild pear tree that is blooming now. The ornamental ‘Bradford’
pear has been grossly overplanted in the south and seedlings are emerging everywhere.
They are all callery pear seedlings—Pyrus calleryana. Flowers are white and fruit
size varies from bb to marble or crabapple sized fruits with thorns common on the
stems. While they are attractive when in bloom, they are overtaking native vegetation
and becoming a bit of a problem in areas of the state. The ‘Popcorn’ tree you are
referring to is also considered an invasive plant but only in southern Arkansas and
other southern states. It is Sapium sebiferum, also known as Chinese Tallow tree.
It has yellowish flowers which produce a white waxy fruit in the fall which looks
like a piece of popped popcorn, thus the common name.
I live in west Little Rock on a very secluded lot with lots of trees and a small
stream in the front. My beds are a mess! There are weeds everywhere and they continue
to come back no matter how many times I pull them or spray them with Round Up. I have
tried a pre-emergent, to no avail. The shrubs are overgrown and I have WAY too many
trees just growing on top of each other. I need help along with information and education.
Where do I start? A landscape architect? A nursery? A tree/lawn service? I am so overwhelmed
that I am paralyzed! I am hosting an outdoor wedding party on June 19 and I break
out in a cold sweat every time I think about it, which is hard to do considering I
am in a constant state of hot flashes! I would GREATLY appreciate any advice you could
give me or any names you would recommend that I contact. My lot is a little over an
acre and what seemed like the perfect situation at the time we bought the property,
but has doubled the trouble, we also own the lot next door that is empty except for
I can’t make specific suggestions on who to hire, but there are many qualified landscaping
folks out there who could come and help get your yard in order. I would start with
some of your local nurseries and ask them who they recommend to do work. Ask for references
and see some of the work they have done and then choose. From the pictures you sent,
it doesn’t look that bad—just very natural. A good layer of mulch will go a long way
in helping to keep weeds down. Pre-emergent products only work on annual weeds, not
perennials, and from the looks of things, that seems to be more your problem. I saw
poison ivy and Virginia creeper in several of the shots you sent. Regardless of what
you do this year, more weeds will follow, that is the nature of the beast. A good
layer of mulch and a few rounds with the hoe or herbicide will help annually. To make
your life easier, concentrate your efforts for now on where the wedding party will
be and don’t try to tackle the entire yard at once. Bring in some beautiful containers
and judiciously spread them out and your party will be a success!
Help!! We planted a sugar maple tree last May. It is about 10 to 12' tall. The leaves
fell off early & so far this year we have not had any new leaves. How do we tell if
it is dead or not? What should we do?
By now, all trees should have leafed out. If you see no signs of any new growth, I
would say it is a goner. Did you water it well last season after you planted? Do you
have any idea why the tree defoliated early? Keep in mind that trees utilize a lot
of water, but they don’t want to stand in water either—good drainage is essential.
Sugar maples are best grown in the northern tier of Arkansas, as they can struggle
in hot, dry summers. Last summer, however was milder than most with more than average
water, so I would investigate. When you take the tree up, look at the root system—did
it grow and expand? Could it have been planted too deep? Before replanting another
tree, I would try to get some idea of what happened.
We planted a flowering crab in our back yard here in Springdale, about 5-6 years
ago. The Jan 2009 ice storm broke one of the large branches off, but the tree bloomed
and seemed to be fine except when looking at it from a certain angle. This year has
been a different story. The tree never bloomed and when it leafed out, the leaves
are real small, about one fourth the size of the leaves in the past. What do you think
is wrong? The tree has leafed out everywhere but just looks plain old BLAH. I would
hope that it is not on its deathbed.
It doesn't sound good. Check the main trunk for signs of borers. Once a tree is damaged,
that is often a calling card for boring insects to attack and finish it off. Obviously
it is not getting enough energy up to the top of the tree to form flower buds and
full sized leaves. You can try fertilizing and watering this season, but often once
major decline starts on a tree there is little you can do to reverse it. Good luck.
I would like your recommendation for a deciduous tree for Fayetteville with a maximum
width or span of 20 ft. This is to provide shade for our patio and I would like fall
color if possible. The limitation is because our back yard is only about 25 ft. wide
from the house to privacy fence.
There are several options including gingko, fastigiate European hornbeam or blackgum.
All have a narrower growth habit but will still get tall enough to give you shade.
The gingko has excellent yellow fall color and the blackgum is brilliant red. The
hornbeam is an ok yellow.
I am unable to determine if one of two trees in my front lawn is dead. Both, according
to my neighbor, are white oak. One shed all of its leaves in the fall and is now appearing
to form sprouts. The other did not shed leaves; they turned brown but still remain.
Some of the leaves did fall with the strong winds and rains of the winter. It is difficult
for me to determine if there is any sprouting. How long do I wait to see any greenery?
With the advancement of springtime, I am anxious to begin working in the lawn, but
am fearful that anything done might be upset if the tree has to be removed. I do want
to save the tree if possible. I did call my local Cooperative Extension Service, but
was advised to wait until spring, that there was no danger of the tree falling. It
is very near to the house.
The tree that did not shed its leaves is a concern, but you still need to be patient
and wait to see if they leaf out this spring or not. We are having a late spring this
year, so I wouldn’t make any decisions until mid to late April. Rarely does a tree
die and decay enough to fall over in one season. See what happens this spring and
then prune out any dead branches or trees. Any idea on what caused the problems? Any
recent construction, grade changes, etc?
We are building a new house and there are no trees in the yard. Can you recommend
a tree that gives nice shade and grows quickly? When is the best time to plant them?
There are quite a few trees that grow quickly and make nice shade trees. Probably
the fastest growing tree is the tulip poplar—Liriodendron tulipifera. This tree will
be large at maturity, so make sure you have ample room for it to grow. Don’t plant
a shade tree any closer than 15 to 20 feet from the foundation, and always look up
to avoid power lines before planting. Some other good choices include: Lacebark elm
– Ulmus parvifolia, Willow oak – Quercus phellos and Littleleaf Linden – Tilia cordata.
In my opinion, the best time to plant a tree is in the fall. Planting in the fall
as the trees are going dormant allows the root system to grow and get established
without having to supply energy to the rest of the tree. This will give you a stronger
tree once the growing season begins. Having said that, be aware that today many trees
are containerized, and can be planted 12 months out of the year, as long as you are
willing to water.
We planted a weeping willow tree this spring and it has been doing quite well. That
is, until my husband completely girdled it with his weed eater. The bark has been
broken all around the tree. Do you think it will survive, or should we just dig it
up and plant another in the fall?
Lawnmower and weed eater disease get a lot of landscape plants! Let me first forewarn
you that weeping willows aren't particularly long-lived trees in Arkansas even without
the help of the weed eater. They do need a water source, so if you have a pond or
stream on property they will do better than in a standard landscape. If the tree has
been girdled to the layer beneath the bark called the cambium layer, chances are good
that the tree will die from that point up. That is the area where food and water move
up and down the tree and once it is damaged, nothing makes it to the upper portions.
You should see wilting and decline fairly soon, especially since it is summer. See
what happens. You don't want to replant a tree in the summer anyway. Wait until November.
Then, if need be, replant, but consider some other tree species as well.
This 'tree' was here when we moved here two years ago--was about six feet tall, with
only foliage. The leaves are compound with extra tissue around the midrib of the leaf.
It has a single trunk at the bottom, and between about 18 inches to 2 feet up splits
into three branches with the same distance between each branch. Last year it grew
more, and only had foliage. This year it developed what we thought would be flowers
in early summer, which ended up purple-colored seeds in a grape-like cluster, and
is now about twelve feet tall. Do you know what the name of it is? Is it a tree? If
so, do you know about how tall it might get? (It right next to a carport and may have
to be moved). If it's a bush, we can 'prune it' to control the growth. At first we
thought it was a young Mimosa tree, but the leaves are larger that that. Then we thought
it might be a Tree of Heaven, but do they produce purple berries?
It is a sumac—Rhus copallina. This native plant has one of the most lovely fall colors
going, turning a brilliant red, which persists for quite some time. Once the foliage
falls off, the fruit persists. The only downside to it is that it can become a bit
weedy over time, by spreading out. Some varieties can grow up to twenty feet tall
and have the potential to get that wide. It is extremely drought tolerant with few
to no pest problems. Just pay attention to eventual spread. I am surprised there is
a single trunk. In time, it will start to sucker.
I am having a problem with an oak tree in the back yard. It appears to be dying.
It is losing its leaves from top to bottom. Several other trees around it seem to
be fine. Another oak nearby already died several years ago. I never water the back
yard. There doesn't appear to be any strange bug or disease on the tree. I believe
it is a red or scarlet oak. Thanks for any information.
Many folks are finding leaves falling early this season. If a tree gets stressed,
it will start to shut down early. A deciduous tree that sheds leaves early is probably
not dead, simply conserving what energy it has. Wait until next spring to see how
it leafs out. However when a tree begins to die back a little more each year, the
tree may be on its way out. I think you nailed it on the head when you say you never
water. Water is the key to a healthy tree. Many folks wonder why trees in the forest
survive on whatever is doled out by Mother Nature, but let’s be aware that in the
woods, there is usually a heavy canopy with dense shade and a fairly good layer of
mulch to help conserve moisture. When we have lawns and or bare ground, there isn't
much to offer in the way of moisture retention. Couple that with asphalt, houses covering
the roots, and concrete, and you are left with a stressed tree. Lack of water in one
season normally won't kill a large, established tree, but repeated years of drought
will take their toll. Try aerating the soil and doing some deep soaking waterings.
It won't turn the tree around overnight, but with a little TLC it hopefully can recover.
We built a landscape block flower bed approximately 12” high around a large red oak
tree 2 years ago. My uncle said we would kill the tree because we used too much dirt
and should slowly raise the amount of dirt in the bed. The tree died less than 1 year
after we established the raised bed. I did have several red oaks die the previous
year due to the "red oak borer insect". My question is this; can you build a raised
bed around a mature oak tree without killing it? My wife and I have another tree that
we would like to landscape, but do not desire to kill another tree.
I wish there were an exact formula for the total amount of soil you can build up around
an existing tree. Unfortunately, there are too many variables, such as type of tree,
soil type, size of bed, etc. As a general rule, we really don't recommend adding more
than 1-3 inches of soil around an existing tree, and even that in a limited fashion.
If the flower bed is relatively small, it usually isn't a major cause of concern.
Keep in mind that a tree has an extensive root network, and that the feeder roots
should be far and wide under a trees canopy. If the bed is small and not overly deep,
I would suggest going for it. I would avoid piling up huge amounts of soil next to
the tree trunk as excess moisture on the trunk can lead to decay.
I moved to a condo about six years ago. The focal point of the front flower bed was
a beautiful, large, healthy Japanese maple. Recently, the tree has changed. Many of
the branches are bare, and the leaves are a rusty brown color. A sprinkler system
supplies water to the tree. Please help me know what to do to restore/save this once
Have the leaves just fallen off, or did it leaf out thinner this season. Usually with
tree problems, it is not a matter of something happening overnight, it is more a slow
decline. If the tree had an early attack by a leaf spotting disease, it could have
defoliated and may be trying to leaf back out. Investigate a bit further. Do you see
any holes in the tree trunk, any wounds or growths? Are there leaves littering the
ground underneath, or did the branches not leaf out this spring. Get all the information
you can. For now, keeping it watered should help.
(November 2005) During a mid-September hike in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area,
we discovered some ripe pawpaws, the first I have come across in many years. We tasted
them, bringing back nice childhood memories. I saved some seeds, which I now have
in my windowsill. I would like to try to grow a pawpaw tree, just as a novelty. How
and when should one plant the seeds? What kind of soil is best? I do understand that
this plant needs partial shade, being an understory plant. Does it have any other
Unfortunately, germination is somewhat erratic on pawpaw seeds. They must go through
a cool, moist period known as stratification. Get a plastic bag, fill it with moist
potting soil and place the seeds inside. Then put the plastic bag in your refrigerator
for two to three months. After this period you can pot up the seeds, lightly covering
them with soil. Be patient. You probably won't get 100% germination, but hope for
the best. You can buy pawpaw trees from some local nurseries.
The front of our home faces southwest and receives full afternoon sun in the summer.
There is a raised bed that contains a crepe myrtle surrounded by compacta holly. I
recently removed a Japanese maple the previous owner had planted in the same bed.
Size wise it was dwarfed by the crepe myrtle and temperature wise it baked all summer.
I considered another crepe myrtle but wanted something evergreen to provide some winter
color / interest and shelter for birds. There is good but not deep soil in the bed
and it is irrigated. The plant would be in front of a brick wall that radiates heat
from the summer sun. I would like something that would grow to 15 to 20' and not more
than 10-12' in diameter. I have considered several tree form hollies. Is there a particular
variety you would recommend or some other type of ornamental tree / shrub that thrives
in full sun and heat?
You were wise to move the Japanese maple. They don't thrive in afternoon sun, especially
during a particularly hot summer. There are several options for you. A multi-trunked
yaupon holly can be nice, or the deciduous holly--while not evergreen, the berries
give good winter color. A Little Gem southern magnolia is a nice smaller evergreen
plant with fantastic white summer blooms. If left unchecked it can grow taller, but
it is a slow grower and quite compact when young. A large shrub which if left to grow
could become tree-like that is gaining in popularity is the Loropetalum. It is evergreen
with purple foliage year-round, loves the sun and has bright pink spring flowers.
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