Providing shade and beauty, trees are a joy to behold, but some trees require more maintenance and upkeep than homeowners are willing to give. Invasive or messy, smelly or short-lived, some trees may not be worth planting.
Big, mature trees are a sound investment, said certified arborist Tom Tyler of Bartlett Tree Experts in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Strategically placed trees are energy savers and can cut up to 56 percent of annual air conditioning costs and reduce heating needs by 20 to 50 percent in winter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
"They cut wind, are aesthetically pleasing, catch rainfall and minimize runoff, which is a serious issue. They provide habitat for birds and wildlife," Tyler said.
However, some trees are known for their undesirable qualities. Think twice before planting these varieties:
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Introduced in the 1880s for its use in hedgerows, European buckthorn acclimated well to North America — too well.
"It’s horribly invasive," Tyler said. Female trees profusely produce berries, which are eaten by birds, which in turn spread the seeds far and wide. This creates dense stands of buckthorn that push out other more favorable trees, Tyler said.
With broad trunks and bright green foliage, cottonwoods may be pretty to look at but are messy trees that are prone to disease, Tyler said. For part of its reproductive cycle, the female cottonwood produces tiny red flowers that are followed by tufts of seeds surrounded by cotton. In early to midsummer, the swirling cotton becomes lawn litter especially hated by pool owners.
"The black walnut is a problem tree if it is planted too close to a house or other plantings," Tyler said.
Known as shade trees with edible nuts and prized wood, black walnut trees produce big nuts that fall all over the yard or driveway. Squirrels crack and eat the walnuts, which can stain patios and sidewalks, Tyler said. Additionally, these trees produce a toxin called juglone that can inhibit the growth of other trees, shrubs and flowers, Tyler said.
It’s not a good fit for a backyard setting, but you’ve got 40 acres in the back consider planting a black oak out there on its own.
Called a "beautiful menace," the flowering Bradford pear tree is an invasive plant that is banned for sale in some states such as Ohio, Tyler said. In addition to pushing out native plants, flowering pear trees produce smelly flowers and have weak structures.
"Pear trees are well-known to break when they get to a certain age. They also require a lot of pruning," Tyler said.
The gingko tree is a living dinosaur that’s been in existence for over 200 million years. It still stinks. The female produces a foul-smelling fruit in the fall when the tree sheds its leaves and berries, Tyler said.
One of the most common trees in North America, the silver maple is fast-growing with a shallow and aggressive root system, Tyler said. Because the roots are shallow they can be easily damaged by a lawn mower, and can buckle sidewalks and crack home foundations.