24 June 2012

"SUCKER" (my love hate relationship with Swedish Columnar Aspen continues)


As you might recall, last summer I wrote a post "My Love Hate Relationship With Swedish Columnar Aspen", which is one of my top viewed postings.  At any rate, I cited what I love about the trees and what I hated.  The above photo is an example of what I hate about this otherwise beautiful tree.  I found this little sucker growing between mine and my neighbour's houses.  Left unchecked, this little guy would grow to the height of its parent plants in a few short years.  See the parents below.


I exaggerate not.  The Swedish Columnar Aspen grows on average 3-4 feet per year.  This makes it a perfect specimen for use as a privacy screen.  The biggest drawback is the suckering.  Last year I found two in my lawn and one by my foundation at the back of the house.  As seen above, our house is the one on the left. That's at least 10 feet away from the original tree!  So much for being good as a foundation plant!

I am not the only one to have cited this drawback; see the comments on my post from last July.  

Please, before you consider planting this tree, plan its location so it is far from foundations and water/sewer lines.  They have been known to grow into water lines and clog them, repeatedly!  

A good place for this tree is along the back of your property, away from foundations and water lines.  Oh, and be prepared in the fall for repeated raking as they drop a lot of leaves and twigs, over a period of time.

The love part, in case you've forgotten there is something to love about the Swedish Columnar Aspen, is the sound of the leaves in the breeze.  That is heavenly!


19 comments:

Carole M. said...

I understand the angst with suckers merging, and tree roots pushing up pavers, and palms dropping their seeds and coming up in their thousands ....more challenges

Sheila said...

I enjoyed lewarning about this tree. I hope you get all those suckers and put them in their proper place! Would they work in someone else's yard if snipped off and rooted? Have a great week!

Shirley said...

Hi Sheila, a reader, Derek, said he did just that so it appears that this would work so long as enough of the root is attached for it to take.

In the proper location, this tree is wonderful. Just not growing near a house.

Shirley said...

Carole, thanks for the comment here today. I know there are a few trees out there with this bad habit. I just wanted people to be aware before they make the mistake of planting this aspen close to their homes.

Anne said...

yes, that suckering is bad on any city grown plant. even our olive tree is suckering, coming up in the gravel

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I've never seen this but I like the idea of the sound of the leaves. I love hearing palm trees blowing!

Anonymous said...
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Dawn the kayaker said...

Hello there,

I too am the victim of this Aspen. Our trees are now 9 years old. After much research both written and in speaking with the "experts" I chose these for my tiny fishbowl of a yard. Our neighbourhood is wet so it is not like the tree has to travel for moisture. Well, not only are we being suckered, but now the trees are dying. We lost one last year and another this spring. So...now am I not only dealing with a bumpy, root filled lawn but with gaps and stumps. Repeat after me...this is not a tree for my yard.

Shirley said...

Dawn, that's terrible! That's an awfully short lifespan for your trees. Generally they are expected to live about 20 years, which is short relative to other trees. Too bad the "experts" hadn't been better informed and could have saved you all this trouble and mess.

Anonymous said...

Well, I too love this tree until we decided to have our backyard aerated. After that I have so many suckers coming up my backyard. Apperantly you are not suppose to disturb its roots or this what happens. I don't know what to do as this is a 14 yrs old three.

This tree should not have been sold for city planting at all!

I am thinking of maybe get this tree killed before it sprout all over my neighbor and wreak my foundation. I don't sound too mean and I do love trees but this is not good at all.

Shirley said...

If you are trying to get rid of these trees and have cut them down but don't know how to get rid of the stump, check out this link: http://albertaarborists.com/News/Top-5-Tree-Stump-Removal-Techniques

Anonymous said...

Welcome to gardening... Most everything in nature does an excellent job in reproducing. Why would a poplar tree be any different. Just remove the new shoots and it will provide you with some activity to do right along side of removing the weeds...

arabella said...

After living on my small property for 22 years the vacant lot was sold and a huge home is now towering over me and my space. Their house is built facing south - three stories high and many, many windows. All of my comings are goings are clearly visible to my new neighbours. In consultation with my nursery guy he has suggested Swedish Aspen as a solution to my privacy issues. These would be planted up against the fence which divides our properties. The problem is, their septic tank is on the other side of that fence and I am thinking these trees might wreak havoc with their system! Also I am so familiar with invasive trees. On their side there was a huge Siberian Elm - an insect infested major shoot producing tree. They cut it down but it sends out shoots all over my property. So what do i do??

Shirley said...

Arabella,

Thanks for visiting and for your sharing your concerns about planting the Swedish Columnar Aspen. As you have said, using this aspen as a screen would be the answer for you if it weren't for the septic tank next door. You could have a pergola built and plant a vine on it for some privacy. Not knowing the layout of your combined properties, this seems a good solution. A wooden structure with a hardy vine would offer the screening you desire without the complications of the roots of a tree but check first with your city bylaws to be sure you are in compliance.

Anyone else out there have a suggestion?

Sherwood Botsford said...

To respond to an earlier post about dying SA: Bronze leaf disease is a real problem where swedish aspen is densely planted (cities)

As to root problems and foundation problems. I disagree. Foundation and large nearby roots can make for problems, but with swedish aspen you don't have large roots very far from the tree. We have balsam poplar -- 2 feet thick, 100 feet tall growing within 15 feet of our house. No problems. THEY have massive roots.

Roots and foundations can be a bad mix if you have a concrete block foundation, a laid stone foundation, or already have cracks in your foundation.

Sewer lines. Two comments here: In our climate water lines are a minimum of 6 feet down, and usually 8 feet. Tree roots were a real problem with shallow lines made with either tile or concrete segments that weren't sealed. Modern sewer lines don't leak. The root doesn't have ESP. To it a sewer line is a long narrow rock.

House damage: If you have trees near your house, you will have gutter issues, piles of leaves on the roof, trying to destroy your shingles. But the damage is small compared to the joy the trees bring. Live with it. Modern houses are strong enough to withstand a tree falling on them, without crushing. That's why you have insurance.

Suckers. All poplars sucker. SA suckers less than others. They are most likely to sucker when they have a damaged root. Want lots of suckers? Run an aerator over your lawn. For this reason, planting any poplar next to a flower bed will be an exercise in frustration.

You have two options dealing with suckers: 1. Mow them. This is fast, but leaves a painful pokey bit that is tough on bare feet. 2. Use a set of pruners and snip them off at ground level. Generally they show themselves in batches. I have an acre of poplar in my yard. (A mix of balsam poplar and native trembling aspen) Takes me about an hour twice a summer to keep up with the suckers.

Bronze leaf disease is a good reason not to plant swedish aspen. But all trees have issues. If you don't want their beauty, grow petunias and bluegrass.

Krista Rasmussen said...

We have a line of Swedish Aspen along our back fence - yes, as a privacy screen between us and the neighbours. We love these trees. BUT... we just discovered that a few of the trees have horizontal roots just barely "underground".

The trees were planted in an area raised about 8 inches above the true ground level, with a very short interlocking brick retaining wall. The ground tends to be very wet in the area, so we raised ground level a bit with the wall.

Now these horizontal tree roots are starting to buckle our wall. Nothing serious yet, but the bricks no longer sit perfectly level. When we lifted the bricks away to have a look, we discovered the roots.

The roots are large and the connection with the wall is only a few feet from the trunk of the trees. The trees are tall, probably 25-30 feet tall. We planted them 7 years ago. They seem very healthy.

Our question: Can we cut a single horizontal root from a tree (to restore our wall) without damaging the tree?

Shirley said...

Hi Krista. The long horizontal/lateral roots help to anchor the tree. If the tree root has a diameter of more than 2 inches or you are cutting the root close to the trunk of the tree, you can affect the stability of the tree. If neither of those apply, you may. Cuts should be done at a distance of a minimum of 3-5 times the diameter of the trunk from outside the trunk. If the trunk is 4 inches in diameter, the cut should be made at least 12 to 20 feet from the trunk, for example. Do not cut more than 25% of the tree's root zone. Wait at least two years if more root pruning is needed. Late winter or early spring is the best time to root prune. Immediately cover the remainder of the cut root with soil and keep moist but not soaking wet to prevent the roots from drying out. Don't prune after the leaves break bud in the spring.

Sir Spandy said...

If I cut the SA trunk down, will that stop the roots from growing? Thanks, I enjoyed learning about the SA.

Shirley said...

Hi Sir Spandy,

One would think cutting a tree down would achieve that effect but not so with the SA. It will continue suckering. You need to kill the root system. A professional arborist might be your best choice in dealing with this. They can grind out the root or may be able to apply something to kill it off. A lot of products are not available to the homeowner to do this ourselves so you need someone who is a licensed pesticide applicator.

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