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Sweetgum trees have beautiful fall color and a pleasing shape, but oh, the plague
of the sweetgum balls. Here's my question/problem. Ten years ago I bought a ten foot
sweetgum tree from a nursery and was told it would not produce the dreaded gum balls.
It didn't for 8 years or if there were any, I sure didn't notice them. Last year,
for the first time, I noticed a few. This year, the darn things are all over the tree.
How can a sweetgum tree go from being "gum ball-less" to "gum ball-full?"
It has to be old enough to begin to bear fruit. Most sweetgum balls will begin to
bear at on average, 8-10 years, and will continue to produce the rest of their lives.
There is a fruitless variety that has rounded lobes instead of the pointy ones of
the fruited variety. Fruitless varieties are typically grafted trees, and if they
are killed beneath the graft union, the root stalk is typically a common sweetgum
and will bear fruit. In a recent column we discussed the merits and lack thereof for
sweetgum trees. Here isare some additional responses and questions from readers: I
would suggest one other attribute of the sweet gum. In 1953, when I attended the Boy
Scout Jamboree in California, I took several sweet gum balls to trade with other scouts
for different items of equal value. I called these gum balls porcupine eggs to suggest
that porcupines grew in the forests of Oklahoma and Arkansas. One scout from California
traded me a block of California Redwood with inscription and a clear finish. We were
both pleased with the trade. Since then, I have pointed out to many kids that I have
encountered in the woods to be on the look out for porcupine eggs on the ground. I
do have a certain degree of credibility since I have a degree in Forestry from Oklahoma
State University. No telling how many kids are still looking for porcupines in our
We have lost some oak trees recently from lightening and want to replace these trees.
We are looking to replace the canopy of shade we had, with trees, but I do not want
to replace oak with oak, as I still have several Oaks and Hickory trees that drive
me insane with the nuts they bear. I am looking for trees that will provide shade,
and have deep rooting systems. We were successful in growing Seedless Ash in Iowa,
but the climate there is different than here in Arkansas. Could Ash handle the extreme
heat and survive? Other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Ash does grow in Arkansas but can be plagued by borers. Some other options include
Lacebark Elm- Ulmus parvifolia, tulip poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera, little leaf
linden – Tilia cordata, Blackgum – Nyssa sylvatica and bald cypress – Taxodium distichum.
With the exception of the established tree in North Little Rock, do you know of any
other successful efforts with live oaks in central Arkansas? As the past several winters
have been rather mild, I am thinking about attempting to grow one on my south facing
lawn. Any thoughts or advice?
Live oak trees will live and thrive in south Arkansas and do fairly well in central
Arkansas, but don’t expect the plantation style live oaks you see further south. Live
oaks are one of the few oak species that are evergreen. They are relatively slow growing
in central Arkansas, but worth planting.
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
I have 72 Bradford Pear lining my driveway, planted in 1995, have never been trimmed
except underneath so you could mow. I have had a little wind damage but so far it
has been to the inside and you couldn't tell it. But with winter close, they will
never withstand any ice and probably not much more wind. I have a tree service to
give me an estimate but this time of year won't be like trimming in the spring. Will
they survive the winter cut this late in the year?
You are fortunate to have as little damage as you have had. I am also surprised by
the sheer number you have. Pruning this late in the year shouldn’t hurt a pear tree.
However, their two most showy seasons are fall foliage—which they have yet to have;
and spring blooms, whose buds are set. If you want to wait until spring to prune,
you can, but if you are worried about winter damage, then prune as the foliage sheds.
The proper way to prune is to thin out excessive branching—don’t top the trees, nor
limb them up like telephone poles. Both of those methods ruin the trees and make them
more susceptible to damage. Good luck and if you do lose a few trees, consider replacing
with a different tree. Diversity is a good thing in a landscape.
I am very interested in planting two types of trees in my yard in Maumelle. I wanted
one that produces a brilliant red leaf in the fall and recently bought an October
Glory Maple. I want the other one to produce a brilliant yellow leaf in the fall.
I’ve done some research on the internet and some that have been mentioned are Ginkgo
tree, but I’m not particularly in favor of this one. Others are Golden Sycamore, Silver
Maple, Sugar Maple, and Sweet Gum. Janet, would your recommendation any one of these,
or do you believe another would be a better choice for what I want to accomplish?
Gingko’s have the prettiest yellow fall color, but they can be slow to get established.
Once they do, they are great. Tulip poplars have decent yellow fall color, and thornless
honey locust trees are a good yellow. I would avoid silver maple, and the sugar maple
is not as well adapted in central Arkansas as it is up north. It can have yellow,
red or orange fall color. Same with the sweetgums—I see way more orange and red pigmentation
than yellow usually. Another option is the yellowwood tree, but it is also a little
slow to establish. Choosing a tree for planting in the fall when it has its fall color,
can also help you get one that suits your needs, but that would mean waiting another
I live in Cabot and my house gets full sun the entire day. I went to a tree giveaway
and got a little fir tree, a red oak and a dogwood. Would any of those be good for
backyard plants? Will the dogwood do well in full sun? All of them are very young
trees! I am thinking of putting a red maple in the back yard with loropetalum and
azaleas to hide the cable box. I have never lived in Arkansas and don't know your
Welcome to Arkansas. Dogwoods would not do well in full sun all day—they would sunburn
every summer. They are best in full morning sun or filtered sun. The oak tree is a
wonderful shade tree and by fir, I am assuming you have a bald cypress maybe? It too
will make a large shade tree. Red maples are great mid-sized trees. If you want one
with guaranteed fall color, choose one now with color or go with a named cultivar.
My wife and I viewed the most beautiful red maple we've ever seen on the grounds of
the big Heber Springs dam viewing area just off the highway over the dam. This was
about a month ago. We asked dam employees and area nurseries about its varietal name
but no one knew other than it was a maple. The tree is conical. The leaf coloration
is not red. It was a more subdued light red, with a distinctive orange, perhaps light
pinkish tone. The tree has been planted as a specimen tree and has no other trees
near it. Could you please specify quite precisely what it is and where we might obtain
My bet is that it is a common red maple, Acer rubrum. The maples this year have been
glorious in their fall color. However, just because it is a red maple does not mean
it will be red in the fall. Some varieties turn orange, yellow or a variety of shades
of red. Some actually have little fall color. If you want to purchase a fall foliaged
red maple for your yard you need to buy it in the fall when it is in its fall color.
There are named cultivars such as 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Flame' and 'October Glory'
which are guaranteed to have fall color, but you can get some outstanding color from
seedling maples, it just isn't a guarantee. Weather also plays a role, but if you
buy a tree with good fall color, it should have it annually.
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.
We would like to plant two dwarf crape-myrtles in our back yard and would like to
know if any have the pretty red bark for winter time.
Unfortunately, the dwarf crape myrtles do not develop pretty bark like the standard
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 just returned from a trip to California, and after seeing the huge redwoods I really
want one for my yard. I realize I would not be around to see it in all its glory,
but how I would smile every time I looked at it. Since I haven't seen redwoods in
central Arkansas, there must be a reason. What conditions are required (soil PH, water
requirements, etc), and would it be worth a try
The giant redwood trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia
sempervirens) which grow to 300 feet or more are quite impressive. The giant redwood
tree will tolerate drier conditions and actually could probably do fine in Arkansas,
yet I have never seen one at a nursery nor in an Arkansas landscape. You will probably
have to mail order one. The Coastal redwood trees don’t like the heat and humidity
of our summers. They do best in moist acidic soils with high atmospheric moisture.
A close relative is the dawn redwood: Metasequoia glyptostroboides which will grow
quite nicely in Arkansas and should be available from local nurseries.
Our beautiful Chinese Photinia (30 ft. tall, crown 25 ft. in diam.) has died in spite
of our efforts to save it with fungicide. It was not only a focal point, but the screen
between our windows and our neighbors. We need to replace it with an evergreen shrub
or tree that will eventually fill that space as gracefully. Any suggestions?
There are several possibilities. Cryptomeria plants grow quite large at maturity but
can be slow to get started. A common name is Japanese cedar. There are numerous cultivars
and size varies based on which you choose. Another possibility is one of the hollies--lusterleaf
holly (Ilex latifolia) is fast growing and I think fairly graceful in central and
south Arkansas. Nellie R. Stevens holly is fairly fast growing but will not get near
as tall as your photenia. As far as graceful, I would look at a deodara cedar. Some
cultivars will grow way taller, but others can fit your size.
We recently had a storm that damaged our Bradford Pear tree and had to cut it down.
We are looking for a replacement tree. Can you tell us what is a good replacement
tree that is similar in height and shape? We also want it to be fast growing and provide
good shade in the summer. Also, if we completely remove the old stump, how close in
position can we safely re-plant a new tree? What is the best time to plant a new tree?
You aren't the only one needing to replace a storm damaged ornamental pear tree. They
are prone to storm damage. If you simply want the shape and would consider even a
slightly taller mature tree, consider a fastigiate hornbeam - Carpinus betulus Fastigiata.
The trees have the nice tear-drop shape, but are much more stable, and fairly fast
growing. I would try to grind out the stump if you can, or the ground will begin to
settle a bit over time as the trunk decays. Planting near the site will not be a problem.
The best time to plant a new tree in my opinion, is fall. November is ideal. The ground
is still fairly warm, the plants are dormant, and they can begin to establish roots
before they need to deal with leaves and new growth. With today’s container grown
plants, we can plant year-round, but to make it easier choose fall.
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