Least-Asked Question of the Week Number 1: January 31, 2019

“What are the best, long-lived shade trees?”
People ask for “the best, fast-growing shade trees” all the time, but they never seem to pair up “longevity” with “quality”. So I always ask them to help me develop a list of other attributes that might matter – things like adaptability to local soils and climate, pest resistance, good looks, strength of limbs, and so forth.

Transplanted by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (I believe in 1924), this magnificent old live oak is the perfect commemorative tree for the grounds of The Alamo. Click image for larger view.

Somewhere along the line the factor of life expectancy enters the picture, since all the fast-growing trees have one or more fatal flaw. So that’s when I come up with these comments:

Oaks will live 100 to 500 years (or longer), and the four best for big parts of Texas are live oak, Shumard red oak, chinquapin oak and bur oak.

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In East Texas and other areas with acidic soils you can add in water oak, willow oak and southern red oak.

Cedar elms, Chinese pistachios, pecans, bald cypress (acidic soils only) and magnolias live up to 100 to 150 years.

Those are the best large shade trees for our state, because not only are they survivors, but they’re also handsome and low-maintenance. They’re much better choices than those fast-growing trees that flame out after 10 or 15 years.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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