It broke our hearts that we lost the tree. But we moved on. My husband did the gruesome tree removal process, complete with stump-grinding. We waited about a year before planting another tree, just to make sure the previous tree roots decomposed a bit, as well as to give us enough time to consider what new tree to add. And after much debate, we finally decided on our new courtyard tree, a Chinese Pistache (pistacia chinensis).
With a name incorporating "Chinese" in the title, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that this tree is not a Texas native. I'll admit, this was a bit of a dilemma for me. I know the importance of planting Texas natives to our ecosystem and was considering the Texas Ash for some time and almost purchased one. Then, a landscaping friend mentioned how an ash would create a lot more debris and require a lot more clean-up in the courtyard. That fact, mixed with the facts that the ash is susceptible to the emerald ash borer, and that my husband much preferred the small-leaf foliage and bright orange and red coloring the tree will have in the fall, resulted in the pistache winning out over the ash.
Since I wasn't planting a native, I wanted to make sure that the tree at least wasn't considered invasive. The USDA put out a report stating that the tree had a "60 percent probability of being a minor invader and a 35 percent probability of being a non-invader." Their low to non-invasive status is helped by the fact that female trees do not produce large quantities of seeds until they are established in a landscape for 15 to 20 years. I do not yet know if a have a male or female tree. Additionally, because the Chinese Pistache is listed as a Texas Superstar by the Texas Agriculture Extension Service, it put my mind at ease about purchasing a non-native.
Some of the advantages of this tree, as listed by the Texas Agriculture Extension Service include:
- Regarded by many knowledgeable horticulturists as one of the most beautiful, pest free and easily maintained shade trees for the Southwest and Gulf Coast regions.
- Winter hardy to central Kansas, the pistache forms a spreading, umbrella-like canopy which at maturity is 40-50 feet high with a width of 30 feet. This is an ideal size to provide shade, enframement and background for single-story homes.
- Medium to fine textured foliage (an asset in smaller landscapes) that creates a light-textured shade pattern.
- Foliage that remains an attractive, deep green color during the growing season, even in the rocky, highly alkaline, horribly abused soils common to many new home sites across Texas.
- Spectacular fall color in shades of orange, red-orange and even crimson, often rivaling the show of sugar maples in the Northeast. In addition to its brilliance, this tree is also one of the most dependable sources of fall color in the lower South.
- Very acceptable growth rate for such a long-lived species, with 2-3 feet of growth possible each year with good management.
- The first shade tree to receive the coveted "Earth-Kind" designation from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service for its high levels of genetic resistance to insect and disease problems.
- Extremely hard, durable wood, which is also very decay resistant, helps protect tree from wind, ice and vandal injury .
- Superior drought, heat and wind tolerance once tree is established (that is, after 2 or 3 growing seasons).
- Outstanding adaptability, with beautiful specimens growing form Amarillo to El Paso to Houston. The pistache is superbly adapted to all areas of Texas except the Rio Grande Valley.
- An extremely tough, durable and adaptable medium-size tree which is tolerant of both urban and rural conditions.
- Fruit set, only on female trees, consisting of clusters of small, round green berries which turn red to reddish-purple in the fall. These fruit clusters make excellent table decorations. And while inedible for humans, the fruit is relished by birds.
Some stats on my Chinese Pistache:
- 10 feet tall, 5 feet tall trunk to first branches
- Trunk is 3 inches in diameter, 8 1/4 inches in circumfrance
- There are 3 main branches off the trunk
- Leaflets are 11 inches long, 5 inches wide, with 12-18 leaves that are about 2 1/2 inches long
- Purchased from Countryside Nursery in Austin, TX
- Planted on April 16, 2015
I look forward to watching this tree grow in the coming years and plan to post periodic updates on it as part of Lucy's Tree Following meme.