Can trees really grow to 30'-35' in 3-4 years? ("Austrees")

Jack Decker ao944 at yfn.ysu.edu
Fri Mar 11 21:18:14 EST 1994


Ask the right question, and you can get a LOT of e-mail fast!  My
thanks to all who wrote in response to my question about "Austrees"
(Salix matsudana x alba).

I guess I should have stated the reason for my interest in these trees,
because many of the respondents seem to be under the impression that my
interest in these trees is primarily for wood production.  That is not
the case.

Actually, I'm more interested in these trees for the purpose of shade,
privacy screening, and windbreak, not necessarily in that order.

Several respondents have mentioned that poplar trees are also fast
growers.  I was aware of that, but I have seen some poplars that were
not all that attractive (in my opinion), although I suppose there are
many varieties of poplar.

Some have mentioned certain undesirable characteristics normally
associated with fast growing trees.  Characteristics CLAIMED for the
Austrees in the literature I received include:

Hardy ("has survived some of the coldest winters in the history of
Northern Canada").  "[T]he trees DO NOT spread or have BRITTLE WOOD and
have a LIFE SPAN of about 70 years. (This will depend on the growing
conditions and the planting site.)"

Do not spread by seed or sucker (actually, I wonder if this means you
can't propagate them except by buying more from the company?  I don't
mean legally, I mean I wonder if it's physically possible.)

Low branches provide a complete privacy screen (but you can cut off the
low branches if you want a more conventionally-shaped tree.  "[I]f a
shade tree is required the bottom branches can be cut off so there is
one trunk with a leafy canopy.").

Good for fire breaks.  "They do not ignite like many other trees.  Fire
damaged Austrees recover well by simply pruning off scorched wood."

The mailing makes several other claims, but I just wanted to try and
address some of the general concerns that have been voiced in my
e-mail.

I really haven't received any specific comments from people who have
had actual experience with these particular trees, except for one
gentleman whose brother in law had tried growing some (at least he
thinks they may have been Austrees) with good results, and one other
gentleman who was decidedly negative on them.  He likes fast-growing
hybrid poplars much better, but then he works with them in a biomass
production program at a major university.  I give his opinions a bit
more weight than I would those of someone who has no experience in the
field, but at the same time I recognize that he might be a bit partial
to the type of trees he works with on a day-to-day basis.

One reason I would tend to prefer an Austree over a poplar, all else
being equal (and I'm not saying it is) is that if the photos can be
believed, the Austrees have low branches that (if the tress are lined
up in a row) provide almost as much privacy as, say, a line of Blue
Spruce trees would.  However, the Austree is a deciduous tree, so
presumably some of that privacy would be lost in the winter.  My
thought would be that perhaps you could plant a row of Austrees and
then a row of slower-growing evergreens behind.  When the evergreens
mature, you could cut down the Austrees if you like.  In the meantime
you still get shade and privacy.  Or, in a situation where you want
shade trees around a home, you plant some Austrees and maybe some
maples or oaks, and then you have a mix of fast growing trees and
long-lived trees that will provide shade for now and the future
(although in this application you could probably use a hybrid poplar to
achieve the same effect).

One possible negative that I sort of infer from the literature is that
these trees may soak up a LOT of water, to the point where they could
actually lower the water table a bit.  That could potetially be bad for
other plant life in the area, I would think, unless you are willing to
compensate with extra irrigation.  But, I may be drawing an incorrect
inference here.

I would most like to hear from those who've had actual experience with
these trees (or knows someone who has grown them).  The testimonials in
the mailing piece are glowing, but of course they aren't going to print
the letters of complaint, if any!  I'm mainly looking for info from
unbiased sources, as it were.

Thanks again for all the information I've received so far.

Jack



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