Fast growing, climbable tree?

anchita(Bay area, CA)June 17, 2014

This is a bit of a cross-post, but I thought I'd ask the tree experts here. We have a 30'X40' spot in our backyard that gets sun from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer. I'd love to put in a tree there, which will grow to be something that kids can enjoy climbing. My kids are 6, 4 and 2 years old right now, so I understand that it may not grow fast enough for them to climb. Plus, this is not our "forever" home, so that adds to that uncertainty. But it is such a wonderful spot for a tree in a large yard, that I'm sure someone else's kids could enjoy climbing the tree in future too. If it would get edible fruit, that would be even better, but that's not a priority. Some folks over in the CA forum suggested Fig (verte) and Alder. I was wondering if I can get any endorsements or other recommendations here. Thanks in advance for any help.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

anchita, I am thinking if you want something that will be big enough to climb in a decade you'll need the fastest growing trees around.

Only thing I have planted that I can really think of is the infamous weeping willow. Not a tree for all spots but you should see the one my neighbor started from a stick eleven years back. It is 30 x 50 or so huge for that time frame.

My metasequoia is probably not 30 foot yet but you might be able to get one to that size. Not totally a climbing tree.

Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, grows fast here. That MIGHT be a choice.

I don't think silver maple, even a species tree can pull off a real climber in a decade.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 12:21AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

my kids outgrew my dream of planting them a tree to climb ,...

and you dont want anything that will grow faster than them ...

and i would suggest you dont plant an ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE on the front lawn ... thats what the lawyers will call it.. when some dolt falls out of it.. and sues you ...

fruit growing is an art of its own... to get any volume of edible fruit.. the fruit growers spray the trees 3 to 5 times per year ... and i didnt play that game with kids around... however.. there is a fruit forum if you want their input ...

they might also help you with fig.. most of us here.. dont live in temperate enough areas to have much specific knowledge ...

time for a playscape... actually.. i removed the grass from an area and gave them a mud pit... no one ever fell out of it.. lol ...


ps: when you move.. insure the trees are already in place ...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:28AM
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    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 6:59PM
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blakrab Centex(8a)

I would avoid planting any trash trees due to short-sighted instant gratification.

"Each generation has a responsibility to ensure the survival for the seventh generation." - Native American Elders

For a large, climbable fruiting tree - I would recommend an American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) or Oriental Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis).

"The American persimmon (D. virginiana) is a faster growing, larger tree that's hardy to USDA zone 5"

Here is a link that might be useful: American Persimmon

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:16PM
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I spent a lot of my youth in a weeping willow tree, has a form that is good for climbing around in.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:06AM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

Mulberry (morus) available in both fruiting and fruitless forms.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:18AM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Thank you for all the responses, suggestions and guidance. I definitely don't want to plant a tree that I (or someone else) will regret down the years, or something that's considered a trash tree, which is why I want to research my options first. This tree would be in a bare corner of a large backyard, so it shouldn't be a problem from passers-by perspective. Also, I don't want to be spraying it with anything that could be detrimental to my kids' or environmental health, and I'm willing to forgo the fruit if it only comes at that cost.

I'm guessing it is not very likely that a suitable tree would be large/strong enough for *my* kids to climb in time. But I'd still love to plant something of this nature, so hopefully others can enjoy it, even if a decade or two later.

I'm going to look into American Persimmon and Oriental Raisin Tree. I'd appreciate any other suggestions too. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:35AM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Didn't read the last two replies when I posted... I have fond memories of eating mulberries from a neighborhood tree where I grew up (which was a significantly different area/weather than here though.) I'm also wondering why weeping willow is both recommended and advised against... Will need to look into that as well.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:43AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

" I'm also wondering why weeping willow is both recommended and advised against... "

Its kinda like my Lincoln MarkVIII. Weeping willows have positives and negatives.

My MarkVIII is fun to drive. The Weeping willow is among the fastest growing of trees

My MarkVIII has no business being even started when there is snow on the road, it gets stuck easier than my 68 Mustang. The Weeping willow should not be planted where it does not have room or where old open pipes are, it has an aggressive root system.

The MarkVIII has a great drivetrain, engine, transmission, rear end are all very reliable. The Weeping Willow naturally gets the a low wide branching pattern needed for climbing.

Parts unique to the MarkVIII can be expensive or difficult to get. If I need a headlight to ebay I go for a used one!@#$#. The Weeping willow is a short lived tree. In your lifetime someone will have to saw it down or pay to have the formerly big bushy tree removed.

The air ride suspension on the MarkVIII was great when new but is an extra unnecessary maintenance problem after fifteen years and the front suspension is dainty. The Weeping willow is rather dainty in regards to disease resistance.

Every so often I find something on the MarkVIII that is just considerably more difficult to change than necessary. Yes you blend door and oil filter adapter plate! In 2012 many trees looked bad and many died from our heat and drought. Weeping willows were obviously stressed and many looked like crud but most I know recovered.

So there are some positives and negatives to both.


Tongue in cheek I'd say test drive that old MarkVIII and if you like dealing with things like old BMW's, Jags or unique cars the Mark just might be right for you.

If you have room for the weeping willow and can accept that in a few decades it might be near its end go for it. The willow is a unique tree, it survives or thrives in very damp conditions but does fine in yards and grows like no one's business here.

Sorry, long winded I was.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:07AM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Thank you for that very fun and informative analogy, toronado! Reading that, and some other info about Weeping Willows, I think I'll refrain from it. As pretty and fun as it sounds, I want to stick with something safer, longer lived and more classic, as trees go :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:54AM
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blakrab Centex(8a)

I would also agree that given sufficient space (they tend to have invasive lateral roots), a Mulberry tree would also be a great option as well. Morus nigra (black) is often considered the best-tasting and the larger Morus rubra (red) is the native American species. Morus alba (white) also grows to a similar size as Morus rubra and is what was used to feed silkworms in China, but is considered invasive here now.

So of these, I'd probably pick the Red Mulberry because of its larger size for climbing and preferred native status.

Here is a link that might be useful: Morus rubra

This post was edited by blakrab on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 12:51

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:50PM
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I did not know they were two colors of Mulberry trees.

Dad planted one when we were very young, by the time I was entering my teen, the tree would support a half dozen kid sitting in the tree eating mulberries. When I was older I can remember many times looking out at the tree and see a dozen or so legs hanging out of the tree.

The tree we had had black mulberries. However if we could not wait that long we ate them when they were red, before they completely matured.

PS it was a great climbing tree, And the way it grew it provided a real nice "play house" where the branches spread out.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:45PM
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Fori is not pleased

Avocado? They aren't super fast but they're not that slow and worth the wait.

Jacarandas are good for climbing and have kid-friendly seed pods, but for some reason people find them messy.

Mulberries do great in the bay area, but you have to decide fruit or not. The fruit is good...but everything will get purple, from kids tracking it in to bird poop nearby.

You will also make friends with the local school teachers as they're always looking for silkworm food.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 4:37PM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Thank you for your input, everyone! I decided to get a Pakistan Mulberry tree. Hopefully we'll at least get to enjoy the fruit, if not climbing. The part of the yard it'll be in is just dirt and a tool shed, and is the farthest corner away from the house. So hopefully the mess won't be a problem. With three kids under 6 years, this household is quite okay with messes though!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 1:19AM
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