Very wet ground, tree options?

fireweed22May 14, 2013

I'd like to plant some larger growing trees along a farm fence line that can manage great under wet and acidic conditions yet not shatter in heavy snows and windstorms. So no silver maples nor weeping willows, as fallen branches will damage the fence...

In the dry of summer the water table drops to 2' down. Rest of year it's about a foot or less below grade.
After a good rainstorm there will be 2-3" puddles that last for days even weeks.

Metasequoia seems to lose tops in the winter winds here and may not like the wet (??) Taxodium would be amazing if it weren't for the knees that would likely ruin the pasture by tripping cows!
Quercus palustris?
Acre rubrum?
Silver poplar? I think cows would eat the suckers. But assuming it snaps?

I'd prefer evergreen but don't know of anything that would survive(Thuja will drown) and flowering is a bonus but can't think of much else.

Thanks for any ideas!
Oh and since they are going into pasture (with trunk fencing) ideally a tree that can handle going from pot culture or BB right into this high water table condition. I'd imagine seedlings would adapt with a stronger root system, yet ideally the canopy will be above the cows heads to prevent foliage from becoming dinner.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Wow. What part of the country are ya in?

Acer rubrum, the generic who knows what fall color main species, seems to do ok in my frequently squishy low spot.

Oh, one of the Nyssas? Sylvatica or Aquatica? Not the fastest growth.

Cottonwood and sycamore both like my local low lands. Not perfect but each has its plusses

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 3:00AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Nuttall Oak

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 7:22AM
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It's in the mountains above the left coast.
Nyssa would be ideal if it wasn't such a slow grower! Due to the moist ground weeds outcompete slow growers rapidly.
The wild cottonwoods love it but collapse with weight or fall/lean in winds.

Will look up Nuttall, new one or me.
Wishing Taxodium didn't have knees they seem perfect in all other ways!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 9:54AM
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joeinmo 6b-7a

Giant Sequoia

They love water, and zone 6 is perfect. Can withstand very high winds as long as you have a few where they can interlock their roots.

The conditions you describe mimic the conditions they see from mountain snow melting all year and seeping 2-3 ft below the ground.

I added link where you can buy cheap.

They grow fast over 3ft a year

Here is a link that might be useful: Giant Sequoia supplier

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:41PM
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I've read that Overcup oak will take wet soil. Swamp Chestnut and Swamp white oak can take seasonal damp soil. If the soil dries out a bit in late spring and summer, it can take wet dormant season flooding/ bogginess.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:50PM
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I've had good luck with Quercus bicolor (Swamp White Oak) and Q. falcata (Swamp Red Oak). Both grow somewhat rapidly (1-2 ft./yr) and can tolerate almost constant inundation. I planted Q. lyrata this year after posting a similar question last winter on here. They were leafing out until the frost bit them 2 days ago.

Like mentioned previously, Red Maple will grow there. They are about as tough growing as anything, but not too tough in ice. Sycamore also tolerates wet conditions. Not an exciting choice, but another choice nonetheless.

Sequoiadendron giganteum is not recommended in poorly drained sites. Well drained, moist soils are what they need.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 10:15AM
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I vote swamp chestnut oak...its also called cow oak because the cows love to eat the sweet acorns in the fall.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Anything you try will have to be protected from livestock, weeds and wildlife for many years.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 5:47PM
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There is a difference - a BIG difference - between a plant that prefers moist soils and those that will grow in wet soils. And especially those that are winter wet. Many trees and other plants will take occasional flooding during the growing season but will not tolerate wet roots in winter.

If the location will drown a Thuja (aka "swamp" cedar), then you can bet the Sequoiadendron is not gonna be happy - this tree likes moist but very well drained soils - so forget that. If the thuja is a real issue, then your choices are somewhat limited.

First determine how wet your location really is and at what time of year. Then use the attached link as a basis for research on the individual plants to determine how much (and when) wet they will tolerate. I'd leave growth rate at the tail end of my criteria - it is much more important to get a tree for the right cultural conditions than it is to choose based on growth rate.This is going to be an investment both in terms of time and dollars so it makes sense to go into it properly prepared.

Here is a link that might be useful: plants for wet soils

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 6:56PM
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Y'know, I keep reading how Black Gum is 'slow growing.'

Last year I bought one & planted it; even got a grafted cultivar with reddish new growth, guessing 'Wildfire,' and it put on a LOT of new growth the first year, and already a few inches this year.

I probably put a little fertilizer on it at some point. I often walk around the backyard with a small plastic trowel & relocate dog turds to near the bases of my trees. Could be a factor.

Just saying I haven't experienced mine to be slow-growing as yet. Your mileage may vary. Our yard gets pretty soaked at times, but not as wet as long as yours.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 9:37PM
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All of these oaks and none that I've ever come across at nurseries, looks likei need to consider mail order.
Sequoiadendron is Very borderline in my 6 here even in the dry soils. From personal experience I've found it abhors wet feet developing root rot. Actually I always think of it as a dry land or upland tree? By chance are you thinking of the true Sequoia sempervirens? Still not a swamp tree but alo can't handle drying out either.
I can't seem to open the link, but it sounds like something I could spend plenty of time with- will try a different computer later.
I will look into Nyssa again as well, beautiful tree but for some reason incredibly pricy here.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:05AM
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All of these oaks and none that I've ever come across at nurseries, looks likei need to consider mail order.
Sequoiadendron is Very borderline in my 6 here even in the dry soils. From personal experience I've found it abhors wet feet developing root rot. Actually I always think of it as a dry land or upland tree? By chance are you thinking of the true Sequoia sempervirens? Still not a swamp tree but alo can't handle drying out either.
I can't seem to open the link, but it sounds like something I could spend plenty of time with- will try a different computer later.
I will look into Nyssa again as well, beautiful tree but for some reason incredibly pricy here.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:06AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Just and FYI on the Nuttall Oak. They are adapted to flood plains of the SE US. In their native habitat, the soil tends to be winter wet and even submerged at times, followed by summer dry, which is very similar to what you describe. Still even in summer, they do receive occasional rainfall, and I'm not sure how that would correlate with your western summer drought climate. However if the water table is only 2' down, I would expect that they would find that and have no issues after getting "established". However, they do transplant well.

Also consider you don't need to plant only one species. Both Nuttall and Nyssa mixed together would look fantastic.

What you plant does not matter to me, just wanted to make sure you had complete information. Also consider that all of them will require care for at least a couple years. So factor in how many you, or your help can care for during that time, when deciding on how many to plant. Also, "PROPER" planting is CRITICAL. Do everything else right, and plant 1-2" too deep, and it will be all for nothing. BE SURE TO COME BACK HERE FOR EDUCATION ON PROPER PLANTING.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:50AM
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The Texas hill-country bald cypress do not produce knees. Doubt that you can find them in any nursery however. Have some seeds available if you really want to try growing from seed. They are in Z8 & 9 parts of Tx., so while the species can grow in Z6, have no idea if these would do well up there. Send me an email.
Doesn't Larch grow in a very wet environment?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Sweet Gum (never would recommend them for any other purpose than the one described). Pond Cypress is very cool and doesn't tend to develop knees like the Bald Cypress. Chamaecyparis thyiodes Atlantic White Cedar will take wet soil and is evergreen.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 4:43PM
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joeinmo 6b-7a

For all those that say Giant Sequoia don't like their feet wet, that's a wrong statement. Their whole groves are sometimes flooded months of the year by melting snow. Sequoiadedron Giganteum regularly reaches temps near zero or below, they can withstand 100 degree days as well. They are fire resistant and pest resistant. That's why they live over 4000 years. The one thing they need is deep soil, not rock, with constant water. Mature (1000+ years old) trees drink upwards of 3000 gallons of water per day. Here is an excerpt from the Giant Sequoia website --

"Only the groves have the unique conditions necessary for the survival of the giant sequoias. There the soil is deep and rich and is virtually always moist. The groves are naturally irrigated with springs of cold clear water flowing from the crevices or from streams. The water can empty onto the surface from a crevice, in the form of a spring, in a grove and flow as a stream through the flooded grove and then, in the summertime dry season, disappear back into the earth as the stream exits the grove. There is also undoubtedly a labyrinth of fissures carrying water that open below the surface of the soil within the groves."

Whatever water is there, these trees will suck it dry, I don't think it would be a problem. A foot or two under grade would be perfect, they have shallow roots and interlock with each other. It likes occasional floods. Can you plant it in a swamp, absolutely not, and from what I understand it's not a swamp where the site is. The question is, is the water table putting out clean water or is it full of toxins. Sometimes water tables that are high act like a sponge and move water upward, thus no filtering. So a simple water test from Lowes can resolve the issue.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:10PM
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joeinmo 6b-7a


Sequoia sempervirens, are Coastal Redwood or California Redwood and they do NOT do well with wet feet, they prefer a maritime climate like they have off the Pacific Coast. They like well drained soils and lots of rain.

Sequoia Giganteum are totally different, they grow wild from 2000' - 8000' elevation and in nearly every growing zone as a landscape tree except the desert and arctic. They are the largest trees on earth. These trees get water from the ground, but not as a rule from rain in the wild. They prefer very moist soils and regular flooding. Giant Sequoia keep green needles all year.

Dawn Redwood or Metasequoia are different yet, they like very acidic soil ph 4.5 which is more than lemon juice. They also like very moist conditions and they lose their needles in winter.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:28PM
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joe. I'm not at all sure where you got your information on giant sequoias but I would not consider it to be entirely accurate :-)

First, the correct botanical name is Sequoiadendron giganteum and while they like moist soils to be certain, they must have well drained soils - they will NOT tolerate periodic flooding and especially not in winter. This is not the norm in their natural environment - periodic snow melt is one thing.......standing water for any length of time is another. A great many conifers will experience growing conditions that offer considerable snow melt, particularly those natives from more mountainous areas. But do not mistake snow melt as periodic flooding or standing water or poor drainage such as the OP describes - this is comparing apples to oranges and seriously limits the type of plants that will tolerate those conditions.

Low temperatures seem to be the limiting factor for giant sequoia at the
upper elevational limits of its range, as well as in areas with severe
winters where the species has been introduced. Distribution of giant
sequoia at lower elevations appears to be restricted to sites with
available soil moisture throughout the summer drought period [24,28].

Climate: Giant sequoia is found in a humid climate characterized by dry
summers. Mean annual precipitation varies from 35 to 55 inches (88-138
cm). Most precipitation comes in the form of snow between October and
April. Mean annual snowfall ranges from 144 to 197 inches (360-493 cm),
and snow depths of 6.6 feet (2 m) or greater are common. Mean daily
maximum temperatures for July are typically 75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit
(24-29 deg C). Mean minimum temperatures for January vary from 34 to 21
degrees Fahrenheit (1 to -6 deg C) [28].

Soils and topography: Most giant sequoia groves are on granitic-based
residual and alluvial soils. Some groves are on glacial outwash from
granite. Other common parent materials include schistose, dioritic and
andesitic rocks. Giant sequoia grows best in deep, well-drained sandy
loams. It occurs with higher frequency on mesic sites, such as drainage
bottoms and meadow edges. Soil pH ranges from 5.5 to 7.5, with an
average of about 6.5. Long-term site occupancy develops soil of high
fertility, good base status, and low bulk density. Except for its
moisture content, soil typically plays only a minor role in influencing
the distribution of the species [28]."

The dawn redwood, Metasequoia, is certainly much more tolerant of wet soils than the giant sequoia and even standing water. It does not require very acidic soils - like the vast majority of plants, a slightly to moderately acidic soil is preferred. But it is in fact adaptable to a very wide range of soil conditions and will even tolerate neutral to slightly alkalline soils.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 4:24PM
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How about White or Black Spruce? It likes wet feet, doesn't need great drainage, grow 18" or so/year. The White is prettier. The Black likes it wetter.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:20PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Betula nigra is very happy in our lower yard which is very wet. It is also a fast grower as far as trees go and really quite lovely. I also have a Nuttall oak that is happy in an often wet spot.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 4:37PM
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I forgot about Nuttalls oak. I had no idea Swamp Red oak is hardy in zone 6 Quercus Falcata. If something doesn't make it I may try one.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 7:56PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Yeah, Sequoiadendron giganteum will probably not do well in this site, despite Joeinmo's claims ;) I've visited the groves in California and while there is usually water nearby, the surface soil is usually dry during the growing season. The way the OP describes this site seems too wet for Sequoiadendron giganteum.

Sequoia sempervirens might do OK if it was cold hardy enough, from what I understand their valley spots do receive real flooding, to the point where significant alluvial sediment builds around some trunks (and they still thrive). However, zone 6 is probably too chilly for them; the ones at my parents get a bit damaged in zone 7.

Question for the OP: Is there any documented evidence (or have you witnessed yourself) that the knees of Taxodium would trip cows? Because I kinda think they might be able to navigate ;)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:28AM
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joeinmo 6b-7a


Seriously, I don't get my info from Wikipedia which is probably the worst place on the net to get correct information.

First of all, I have 5 Giant Sequoia, so I have studied about them from various sources for years.

I also have been to California several times to see them and this was during the winter and early spring, not just thevsummer and I can assure many areas get flooded. Most people and photos you see are people that go during the summer (dry season) when the water level drops. There are huge giant sequoia growing smack in the middle of a creek in a gravel bed estimated over 1000 years old.

The info I refrenced is from the website of the #1 grower of giant sequoias in the United States.

For one, technically there is no sandy loam in the Sierra Nevada, it's alluvial granite.

Second, the mature trees need thousands of gallons a water a day to survive, they are not getting that from JUST "moist soil", they have a massive source of water at all times.

Third, they have a very shallow root system for the size of the trees, that means they get most of their water from the just above the soil to about 10 feet below.

But your repeating info from a man (John Muir) that first wrote about Giant Sequoia before the 1920's that has been debunked long ago.

This is an excerpt from the National Park Service today:

"John Muir was perhaps the first writer to single out the role of soil moisture. He found that medium soil moisture is optimal for sequoia growth.

The sequoia is never found in any valley exposed to the rush of floods, nor on any hillside so steep and unporous as to shed its soil and rain. It grows always where the deep sandy or loamy soil is capable of holding the winter moisture all the year, or where the rock is full of innumerable fissures and is shaded and cool and moist" (Wolfe 1938).

Even though he failed to indicate the necessity of sunlight for seedling development, his assumptions are essentially correct, and many writers have repeated them in modified ways. Invariably, these modifications involve the effect of climatic differences, soil type, depth of organic layer, leaf litter, shading, etc.

***Recent investigations, curiously, do not bear out the belief that rich, deep soils are a necessity for sequoia growth. Observers have tended to compare forest soils to agricultural soils. While crop plants need nutritionally rich as well as moist soils, trees depend mainly upon available soil moisture. The grayish podzolic soils of the Sierra are less than impressive to the serious farmer. Furthermore, many people tend to grossly underestimate the complexity of soils. By and large, Sierran podzolic soils are relatively thin and not abundantly nutritious. With clay a minimal soil constituent, the total moisture-holding capacity of these soils is limited by the amount and distribution of precipitation, subsequent density of vegetation, temperature and relative humidity during the growing season, and the wetability factor of the soil. Sequoias show a strong tendency to favor drainageways where the requisite degree of moisture content is constant. Yet the drier slopes also support sequoia growth wherever the trees can become established (Wulff et al. 1911). Contrary to popular belief, then, soil depth and richness are clearly secondary to soil moisture availability. Sequoia distribution within groves strongly reflects its affinity for soil moisture; a crown that may weigh a ton or more seems to demand it.

Muir (1911, 1912) was a proponent of the thought that sequoias created their own moist environment as he wrote below.

"It is a mistake to suppose that water is the cause of the groves being there. On the contrary, the groves are the cause of the water being there. The roots of the Big Trees fill the ground forming a sponge which holds the water. The Big Tree is a tree of life, a never-failing spring all through the hot, rainless summer. For every grove cut down, a stream is dried up."

Perhaps Muir failed to understand the magnitude of transpiration, i.e., the vegetation "pumping" soil moisture back into the atmosphere. It is true that forest vegetation regulates the yearly flow of water, thus modifying the distribution of runoff and moderating the extremes. Forest trees play an important role in cycling water from the ground back into the atmosphere. Removal of the transpirational pumps, namely, the trees, has often converted a dry forest into a swamp.

The patterns of growth- and site-selectivity all bespeak the species' affinity for high soil moisture and reflect the effect of temperature and relative humidity perhaps more than does precipitation alone. The ratio of evaporation potential to precipitation as an environmental factor is important, and its recognition has produced the widespread belief that the sequoia grows best in protected locations where the average annual precipitation is from 45 to 60 inches (Schubert 1952).

Rundel (1969) amplified this interpretation somewhat. He found that sequoia stands on northerly slopes have greater density than on slopes of other aspects, although the total number is generally less. It is perhaps perplexing that these trees, admittedly with an affinity for abundant soil moisture, are much more numerous on westerly and southwesterly slopes, which are potentially the drier ones because of the sun's more nearly direct rays. Thus, for example, relatively moist drainage bottoms and meadow margins, although small in their total acreage, support dense stands of sequoias. Even rocky slopes support some 3% of the total sequoia population in the Giant Forest. Contrary to the records of John Muir, large specimens are fairly common on slopes exceeding 30° and we find some on slopes approaching 45°. We conclude that, regardless of a grove's geographical position, this species favors avenues of surface or subsurface drainage. Although surface drainage patterns are obvious, subsurface drainage may be too obscure for visual identification. The Grizzly Giant in Yosemite's Mariposa Grove, a good example, grows on a low ridge which appears well drained, but an apparently abundant subsurface flow of soil water is undoubtedly a major reason for the tree's great size.

Evaporation potential is partly a function of temperature. Since temperature decreases with increasing latitude, average temperatures in the north are the same as at higher elevations in the south. Thus, the mean altitude of sequoia groves in the Kaweah Basin to the south is 6600 ft, whereas it is 5400 ft in the northernmost grove. In the northern groves sequoias are found mostly on south-facing slopes; in the southernmost, on north-facing ones. Altitude and direction of slope, then, indirectly reduce water loss from the trees while maintaining an optimum temperature regime for growth.

The stream drainage channels are also channels of cold air drainage, especially if they descend from high mountain peaks, so that the value of available moisture must be pitted against the limitations of winter survival when temperatures may drop to sub-survival values. The same drainage channels, however, transport cones and seeds that are carried downslope where grove extensions form long, narrow fingers and occasional detached outliers.

In the Mariposa Grove, flooding, not too many years ago, carried seeds along a tributary of Rattlesnake Creek, and today there are numerous thriving young sequoias mostly at high flood level on either side of the creek. No parent trees grow above them, although some are so close to the drainage divide that chickarees might have carried the cones into the other drainage basin to eat them.

Perhaps the best-known and most classical grove extension is along the South Fork of the Kaweah River below the Garfield Grove. A dozen sequoias line the river bank at elevations as low as 2800 ft��"one specimen growing on a gravel bar in the river channel, a most unlikely site (Fig. 29). The altitude is the lowest known in the world for a naturally seeded giant sequoia. An increment boring indicates that this tree was seeded in the middle 1880s, when a torrential flood also floated huge sequoia logs through the town of Visalia some 40 miles to the west in the San Joaquin Valley."

I can go on and on with info, but as they point out with this statement:

"We conclude that, regardless of a grove's geographical position, this species favors avenues of surface or subsurface drainage. Although surface drainage patterns are obvious, subsurface drainage may be too obscure for visual identification".

Surface drainage is from water draining off the surface from rain, snow or flooding from creeks, rivers etc..

Sub surface is obviously from springs, cracks and fissures pumping water upward or a high water table.

from the original poster:

"In the dry of summer the water table drops to 2' down. Rest of year it's about a foot or less below grade.
After a good rainstorm there will be 2-3" puddles that last for days even weeks."

I see no indication of swampy area here. Puddles does not mean swamp and after a good rain storm in the Giant Sequoia groves you will see puddles that last for a awhile.

I do not see any indication the water in the area is from run off or a collection point. She indicates she is in the mountains, that's exactly the same growing conditions as a Giant Sequoia.

In addition, her summer water table is fairly typical of a sequoia grove water table that's not on a mountainside.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 8:33AM
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Whatever. You obviously believe you know more than the US Forest Service and any number of degreed horticulturists and arborecologists. And isn't somewhat telling that not a single source of trees and shrubs recommended for wet or poorly draining soils lists Sequoiadendron as a suitable candidate for consideration??

In my not inexperienced opinion, as well as those of various other knowledgeable members of this forum, Sequoiadendron gigantium is unlikely to fair well in the situation the OP has described. Whatever we may suggest, it is ultimately their choice and it would seem the most prudent to select from lists of plants that are known to do well under the described conditions.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 2:41PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Almost makes ya wonder if Joeinmo actually works for, eh?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 2:43PM
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