ASK WENDY

Beautiful tree also is an invasive tree


Golden rain trees start blooming in early October.

Courtesy of Wendy Wilber
Published: Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.

Q: What is this beautiful flowering tree that I see that has yellow flowers that fade to a rose color? The tree is about 30 feet tall. I would love to buy one.

A: What you are seeing is one of our showier landscape trees called the Golden rain tree, or Koelreuteria elegans. It is native to Taiwan, and although they are very pretty, this tree also is very invasive.

Golden rain trees start blooming in early October with bright clusters or panicles of yellow flowers. The small flowers rain down from the tree canopy and cover the ground beneath with a carpet of yellow. Rose-colored fruit capsules follow the flowers, and they eventually fade to a beige hue. This is where the problem starts. The seeds from the fruit spread all around the tree and beyond. In our warm climate the seeds are quite viable and can germinate within six to eight days.

If you look under any established Golden rain tree, you can see hundreds of seedlings of various ages sprouting up.

The large compound leaves of the seedlings can be seen invading landscape beds, gardens and in natural areas. The Golden rain tree seedlings can crowd out our native species. If you were to introduce one of these to your landscape, you should do so with caution and plan on controlling the seedlings. You may think you want the flowers, but it can be tree that will end up costing you time and money to control.

For more information about Golden rain tree, visit the UF/IFAS website www.solutionsforyourlife.com.

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Q: My elm tree is losing its leaves, but it isn't normal. Little twigs and stems with leaves are covering the ground under the trees, and the leaves on them are still green. What is happening? Is this some sort of twig girdler insect?

A: The pest that is doing this damage is not of the six-legged variety. It is the pest that we love to hate: the Eastern gray squirrel. Some years, squirrels will go up into the canopy of certain trees — drake elm and winged elm are a common choice — and nibble the outer stems of the trees and get just a little bit of sap and moisture from the stem. The rest of the twig, usually about 3 to 4 inches long, falls to the ground with green leaves on it. It almost looks like a carpet of green leaves under the tree.

This will not do permanent damage to the tree since the tree is about to lose all of its leaves for winter in about a month or so. Simply rake up the leaves and chalk one up in the squirrel column for aggravating gardeners and landscapers across North Central Florida.

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Remember that with the change in daylight-saving time, we also adjust our irrigation watering to only water once per week. If you have an odd-numbered address, you can water on Saturday; if you have an even-numbered address you can water on Sunday. Irrigate in the early morning hours for plant health and water conservation. Calibrate your system to apply -inch to -inch per irrigation. As our plants slow down in growth, and depending on your landscape plants, you may be able to eliminate a week of watering as we go into the winter months. For more information about irrigating, visit the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping website http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/ and your local water provider.

Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at wlwilber@ifas.ufl.edu.

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