Mimosa. Photo: Steve Bender
Fall is the best time of the year to plant a tree, but look before you leap. Some trees are nice. Others are monsters. Here are six monsters you should never, ever plant in a residential neighborhood, lest you earn your neighbor’s hatred and Grumpy’s scorn.
Terrible Tree #1 — Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
What’s wrong with it: Weedy, short-lived, insect- and disease-prone, invasive roots, unattractive most of the year.
Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with mimosas in the yard (sniff), they remind you of Meemaw’s garden (sniff, sniff), and they’re so pretty when their fluffy pink flowers open in early summer. But let’s get real. The flowers last about two weeks. Then they’re replaced by scads of these large, ugly, brown seed pods that hang there until the next spring. So for two weeks of beauty you get 50 weeks of gross. Plus, seedlings from your tree will sprout in everyone’s yard within a quarter-mile.
Terrible Tree #2 — White Mulberry (Morus alba)
White mulberry
White mulberry. Photo: www2.ku.edu
What’s wrong with it: Weedy, extremely messy, insect-prone, aggressive surface roots crack pavement, male trees produce prodigious amounts of pollen that cause allergies.
Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with a mulberry in the yard and you loved eating the insipid sweet fruit with Meemaw in summer (sniff). What you’re forgetting is that birds love its berries above all other foods and will gorge themselves. The fruit works on them just like a colonoscopy prep, so they enthusiastically splatter anything near a tree — car, sidewalk, porch, an unlucky Jehovah’s Witness — with seedy, purple mulberry poop. This is one crappy tree.
Terrible Tree #3 — Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry
Hackberry. Photo: biologicalthinking.blopspot.com
What’s wrong with it: Weedy, messy, subject to an astonishing array of insects and diseases.
Comment: People grow this shade tree when they can’t grow anything else. It takes drought, heat, poor soil, air pollution, and wind. That makes it OK for shading The Little House on the Prairie, but not your house in the burbs. Hackberry is easy to recognize by its silvery-gray bark encrusted with warty ridges. Small, blue-black fruits favored by birds spread seedlings all over. The worst thing about hackberry is that woolly aphids feeding on the leaves drip sticky honeydew. Sooty mold grows on the honeydew, blackening absolutely everything under the tree. Hack it down now.