6 Trees You Should Never, Ever Plant

September 27, 2015 | By | Comments (139)

Mimosa. Photo: Steve Bender

Fall is the best time of the year to plant a tree, but look before you leap. Some trees are nice. Others are monsters. Here are six monsters you should never, ever plant in a residential neighborhood, lest you earn your neighbor’s hatred and Grumpy’s scorn.

Terrible Tree #1 — Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
What’s wrong with it: Weedy, short-lived, insect- and disease-prone, invasive roots, unattractive most of the year.

Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with mimosas in the yard (sniff), they remind you of Meemaw’s garden (sniff, sniff), and they’re so pretty when their fluffy pink flowers open in early summer. But let’s get real. The flowers last about two weeks. Then they’re replaced by scads of these large, ugly, brown seed pods that hang there until the next spring. So for two weeks of beauty you get 50 weeks of gross. Plus, seedlings from your tree will sprout in everyone’s yard within a quarter-mile.

Terrible Tree #2 — White Mulberry (Morus alba)

White mulberry

White mulberry. Photo: www2.ku.edu

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, extremely messy, insect-prone, aggressive surface roots crack pavement, male trees produce prodigious amounts of pollen that cause allergies.

Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with a mulberry in the yard and you loved eating the insipid sweet fruit with Meemaw in summer (sniff). What you’re forgetting is that birds love its berries above all other foods and will gorge themselves. The fruit works on them just like a colonoscopy prep, so they enthusiastically splatter anything near a tree — car, sidewalk, porch, an unlucky Jehovah’s Witness — with seedy, purple mulberry poop. This is one crappy tree.

Terrible Tree #3 — Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)


Hackberry. Photo: biologicalthinking.blopspot.com

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, messy, subject to an astonishing array of insects and diseases.

Comment: People grow this shade tree when they can’t grow anything else. It takes drought, heat, poor soil, air pollution, and wind. That makes it OK for shading The Little House on the Prairie, but not your house in the burbs. Hackberry is easy to recognize by its silvery-gray bark encrusted with warty ridges. Small, blue-black fruits favored by birds spread seedlings all over. The worst thing about hackberry is that woolly aphids feeding on the leaves drip sticky honeydew. Sooty mold grows on the honeydew, blackening absolutely everything under the tree. Hack it down now.

Terrible Tree #4 — Eastern Cottonwood (Populus  deltoides)

Eastern cottonwood

Eastern cottonwood. Photo: statesymbolsusa.org

What’s wrong with it: Extremely messy, very weedy, breaks up in storms, short-lived, very prone to insects and diseases, roots crack pavement and invade water lines.

Comment: As with hackberry, most people saddled with this garbage tree live with it because no other trees will grow there. I can’t think of a messier tree. In addition to the sticks, twigs, broken branches, and leaves that shower down almost every day, it also blankets the yard around it in early summer with cottony seeds — hence, the name “cottonwood.” The cotton rolls up into lumpy pillows of foam that roll across the ground and pile up against houses, walls, fences, and immobile Congressmen (Is there any other kind?) The only good use for this nasty tree is as firewood. Burn one today!

Terrible Tree #5 — Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Silver maple

Two silver maples and a billion seeds. Photo: Steve Bender

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, breaks up in storms, roots crack pavement and invade water lines.

Comment: Folks plant silver maple for one reason — they want quick shade. It grows fast, upwards of three feet a year, eventually reaching 70 feet tall. But you pay a steep price for that shade. Its roots are infamous for clogging water lines and breaking sidewalks. Its weak branches fall in storms. And look at all the seeds it drops in one season, each destined to become a baby silver maple! Found in practically every state from Florida to the Canadian border, it proves the fallacy that “native plants are always better.” Let’s send this native packing.

Terrible Tree #6 — Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)

Bradford pear

A fitting end for Bradford pear. Photo: Steve Bender

What’s wrong with it: Its flowers stink like tuna on a trunk, thorny seedlings sprout everywhere, and its suicidal branching structure makes it explode in storms.

Comment: Finally — finally! — more people are cutting down Bradford pears than planting them. Given the trees’ short life spans, they’ll hopefully disappear from the suburbs within a decade or two. But the damage has been done. Cross-pollination with other selections of callery pear has resulted in impenetrable thickets of brutally thorny seedlings that clog roadsides, fields, and fence rows. How low should you prune a Bradford pear? As low as you can saw.

Are there trees you despise more than these? Please comment and let Grumpy and the whole world know!

Related Stories You’ll Undoubtedly Like

“I Just Hate Hate Bradford Pears!

“Mimosa — The Wonderful, Awful Weed”

“Five Awful Plants for the Front of Your House”

“Worst Tree I Ever Planted”



  1. JC

    You can eat the hackberry fruit and and many birds and animals love it. I happen to really enjoy the interesting bark and immensity of the 2 hackberry trees in our yard. Historians say our ancestors survived on hackberries it as they have protein, etc.

    May 29, 2017 at 6:36 pm
  2. Elizabeth Meredith

    I lived in Indiana growing up and near a creek. We had quite a few of the mimosa trees in our back yard. My dad decided to cut one down that was growing next to our garage. It wasn’t​ planted, it grew from seeds that travelled. He began to cut it down with a chainsaw and suddenly had to stop. From that day on he referred to those trees as “piss water” trees. I was finally told why when I was older. When he attempted to cut the tree down the overwhelming odor of urine came from the trunk. Be aware if you decide to cut it before stump removal that this is possible and the smell will remain on skin, clothing and in the surrounding area for a couple days after this. It is terrible!!

    May 27, 2017 at 9:31 pm
  3. Charles

    Great posts! I want to warm any Californians about mulberry trees. We live in earthquake country out here, but you would never assume that given the cement like soil under our feet. Clay that is soft and malable in the winter is impenetrable in summers. Our native oaks grow like weeds with tap roots that can penetrate anything. But they grow sloooowly. So city planners put in those water loving, weak rooted eastern brands, like the mulberry. I now suffer from nightmares reliving my back yard mulberry root extraction debacle. Dynamite anyone? And the slippery roots skins pull off and they stink! I am the most conservationist-minded person I know, but this mulberry is chainsaw bound!

    May 14, 2017 at 10:36 pm
  4. Mary

    Great post!
    I wish city planners, developers and even nurseries (and anyone planting) would be well-informed and considerate to points like this.

    I found your article while researching tree allergies. Would love to find such a list as yours on that topic!

    Yet, everyone responds to different allergens. California Peppertrees on streets (and in my yard!!) could be the cause of my particular allergy.

    Your post reminded me of the ornamental cherry trees here—beautiful along our neighborhood’s long sidewalk, but covering it with too many messy fruit droppings.

    Hoping you’ll write more about things to consider before planting!

    March 26, 2017 at 12:00 am
  5. Cheri Corbett-Wolfe

    I realize that this list, and blog, are for people in the South who are contemplating trees. Do yourself a huge favor and add a couple of trees to this list. I say this as a Coloradoan. Please heed my warning.

    1.) Aspen. Yes, I know it’s our state tree, but here’s the deal. Aspen should remain in the mountains and the foothills. They have no place in the suburban landscape and should not be considered for urban planting. At all. Ever. Why, you ask? For starters, they’re susceptible to black fungal infections, which discolor the leaves and bark. Second, they will send up shoots via a vigorous and wandering root system. This is what they do in the mountains and if you ever see a very pretty aspen thicket while hiking in the Rockies, you’re likely looking not at several, individual trees, but one massive root system with many shoots. You won’t be able to get rid of them unless you dig up the ENTIRE root. They’re like zombies. Keep killing them and more will show up, crawling up through the cracks in your sidewalk, near your home’s foundation or in your neighbor’s yard.

    2.) Western Cottonwood trees. This is another Colorado native that should be left to grow where it evolved – on the banks of western rivers and creeks. The trees grow quickly, to a great height, but also give off those cottony seedlings that torment those with allergies and asthma. Moreover, they’ll fall in high winds and I really don’t think you want a cottonwood trunk or heavy branch crushing your roof or your car. Or your neighbor’s roof or car, which is a common occurrence in Denver and anywhere else some poor sap planted one of these arboreal pains-in-the-keister. The seeds also sprout like nobody’s business and then they take on all of their cousin’s, the Aspen’s, nasty characteristics.

    Ironically, these two trees are really Colorado’s only native deciduous trees. All else are hardy shrubs or have been introduced from lower elevations. As such, the first is hard to kill because it’s built to endure Colorado’s harsh climate extremes and the second lives and dies quickly in exchange for profligate seeding habits. Both are better off left in the wild.

    March 9, 2017 at 6:22 pm
  6. Tim Sanders

    The suggestion on these trees only applies to suburban or urban plantings. If you live on acreage in rural or semi-rural areas, you don’t have side walks, your water comes from a well and goes directly under your cement pad of your house. Building codes demand excess water be directed away from your home in most western states. A suggestion for those suburbanites and city folk: If you plant your tree with a 2-3 foot PVC pipe 1 foot away from the tree’s trunk and put your drip mist system into the pipe, your roots will go down, following the water. If you don’t like a white pipe, then spray paint it with a plastic spray paint colored brown. You can hardly see it then. However, two trees, (or even bush types) being willows and cottonwood, are problematic in drought-prone western states. If you baby them along they will mature out using 300 gals. per DAY for cottonwoods and 175 gals./DAY for willows. Nothing but a gas hog is worse than a water hog. And even that may be up for debate. Mulberries planted strategically keep birds away from your fruit trees. Mimosa and locust tree seed pods supply legume type feed for deer, squirrels, birds (nut crackers) and even wild horses. However, some seed pod varieties are poisonous so do your due diligence. I live in a high wind area and have over 50 silver maples planted as shade trees for multiple purposes. They do grow quickly but I have never had even ONE break in the wind and we have a NOAA station just up the road from us that have clocked gusts over 135mph. I’ve had 85 mph gusts here at the house located in the eastern Sierras. However, S.Maples do require informed pruning and staking for the first 5 years of their lives. Without that, they give you just what you see in the picture above. With pruning and staking they give you a 6-8 foot tall trunk with a nice round canopy 30′ tall in 15 years. Without it, they are a mess.

    February 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm
  7. Sara Somaiya

    Quite an interesting & informative post, keep it up.

    Sara Somaiya
    Dried Black Mulberry

    December 20, 2016 at 8:19 am
  8. Charles

    Box Elder. Breeding ground for the box elder beetle that is a worse neighborhood infestation than stink bugs or Florida’s dreaded love bugs.

    October 21, 2016 at 11:07 am
  9. Rebecca

    A good many of the trees people despise have gorgeous wood that sets a woodworker,s heart aflutter. If you can find me and I can find you, I’ll come and cut some for you and take them off. My list would include hackberry, black locust and honey locust, black or white walnuts, chinaberry, catalpa for examples. A tree I cannot kill is a white mulberry. It came up volunteer right in the middle of my garden and is tenacious.

    September 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm
  10. Kristen Gerling

    Don’t plant Chinese Chestnut. Blossoms smell like dog excrement and then turn into prickly spikes after they drop petals you have to clean up twice in spring. Then when chestnuts develop, you have spiny nuts to pick up

    September 6, 2016 at 8:28 am
  11. Mark Gateman

    Please unsubscribe me.

    September 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm
  12. Elaine

    Forgot to mention the Question Mark that I’ve also seen in my yard. That makes it four butterflies that use the hackberry for caterpillar food.

    September 2, 2016 at 8:25 am
  13. Elaine

    I garden for butterflies and birds, so I disagree with your assessment of the mulberry tree, since birds eat the fruit.

    The hackberry (sugarberry) tree, which grows in my back yard, is also a food source for a number of butterfly caterpillars.

    Tawny Emperor caterpillars eggs are laid in large groups of 200 to 500 on hackberry bark or leaves. The young caterpillars feed in large groups.

    Hackberry Emperor caterpillar eggs are laid in small groups ranging from one to twenty.

    American Snout caterpillar eggs are laid in small groups.

    Caterpillars of the Question Mark butterfly live alone on hackberry leaves.

    Mourning Cloak caterpillars live together in a web while eating Hackberry leaves.

    I have seen Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, and American Snout butterflies in my yard.

    September 2, 2016 at 8:02 am
  14. Roger Powell

    Cherry laurels. Yech!

    September 2, 2016 at 7:58 am
  15. Elaine Long

    I can’t believe that tree of heaven didn’t make the list.

    “Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is known by a number of names – stinking sumac, Chinese sumac, varnishtree and stinktree. No matter what you call it, it still remains an invasive species.

    The tree of heaven is a rapidly growing deciduous tree with pale gray bark, light brown twigs and large pinnately compound leaves. It is native to China and was brought to the United States in the late 1700’s as a horticultural specimen and shade tree. Its ease of establishment, rapid growth and absence of insect or disease problems made it popular when planning urban landscaping. Its ability to produce an overly abundant amount of seeds, reproduction through roots and a chemical that can prevent or kill other plants near it has made it a species that have many states concerned.”

    September 2, 2016 at 7:37 am
  16. Shellene Guerra

    The worst tree we have ever had (neighbors) are pecans! They are a mess! They are a mess in the spring, summer, and fall. Not to mention the nasty bag worms all over them in the summer. They are terrible. They also come up everywhere in the yard and in pots since the squirrels like to “plant” them. The gutters are full of leaves and the wind and ice damages the limbs at every chance. How in the world did they not make the “LIST”. Oh yes, and these trees have little pecans that aren’t the kind you eat! Just our luck!

    September 1, 2016 at 7:32 pm
  17. Tammy Sue

    The Sugar Gum Tree is torture!! I used to go barefoot in my yard but a neighbor has a sugar gum that drops those dangerous little balls everywhere and the wind carries them to my front yard. The roots will also damage a foundation; as they have found out.

    September 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm
  18. Maureen Davis

    I just had three pin oaks taken down. When we moved into our house they were cute little saplings so we left them to grow. Oh how they grew, and grew, and grew…. They weren’t pretty and those darn thin leaves were impossible to rake. In addition, the leaves took their time in coming down in the fall. They continued to fall right into the next spring. The roots were all on the surface of the yard so I couldn’t grow any grass within a 10 foot radius of them. I forgot to mention how often giant branches fell down during summer storms. Sorry I left them when we moved in. It would’ve saved me $5,000.00 if I had taken them down right away.

    September 1, 2016 at 11:43 am
  19. James parks

    Maybe you should move to a condominium with nothing but concrete everywhere!

    September 1, 2016 at 11:25 am
  20. Katie

    All of these trees are native somewhere. They may have been brought here but no doubt some of our favored native plants are a scourge somewhere else. My husband and I have had all of these trees in one place or another and they have good and bad qualities, but something in nature has favored them for some purpose beyond our landscaping sensibilities. After all, nobody wanted the homely milkweed until we realized the crucial role it played in the lifecycle of the amazing monarch butterfly.

    August 28, 2016 at 10:50 pm
  21. Sandra Andrews

    It’s amazing to me after reading all the comments that there are any trees anywhere. What do you like?

    August 28, 2016 at 6:45 pm
  22. Sandra Andrews

    I love the mulberry tree, the Tallow tree ( I have 2 in my yard and watch blue birds in the spring and it feeds the bees) and the Mimosa, Oh and I also love Magnolias, leaves and all. You people are just whiners.

    August 28, 2016 at 6:43 pm
  23. Debra Creech

    Golden raintree

    August 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm
  24. Fran Russell

    Black Locust. They have pods that manage to drop off everywhere, usually after it has turned cold so that you are freezing while you rake them up. They sprout freely and have thorns that are downright hazardous. Instead plant Thornless Honey Locusts. You do have some mess when they bloom in spring, but the leaves are tiny and blow away in the fall, greatly reducing raking time. They also break down quickly in the compost pile.

    August 28, 2016 at 4:39 pm
  25. Janice Gandy

    Popcorn (Tallow trees) are the worst. They cause allergies in the spring. Their roots kill all plants and trees close to them and their nasty seedlings sprout up everywhere. However the worst is the damage to the environment. The seedlings are spread by birds and squirrels into forest areas and their nasty roots take over and kill indigenous trees and plants. So unless you want natural areas ruined by these monsters get rid of them now. They are also fast growing and that is the reason people get stuck with them. Cut them down now and you will still have years of seedlings to dig up.

    August 28, 2016 at 4:17 pm
  26. Lu

    Yes! And add to this Willow trees! Unless you live ON a golf course!😂

    August 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm
  27. Lee

    You forgot to mention the ugly oak trees of Florida they are messy they cause a lot of allergies they have to be trimmed continuously or they become overgrown and dangerous during are hurricanes but Builders continue to plant them because they’re so cheap

    August 28, 2016 at 11:17 am
  28. Ernest Ayo

    The river birch messy as any you’ve mentioned. Involves daily grooming. The pretty Curley bark isn’t worth it.

    August 28, 2016 at 10:59 am
  29. Elizabeth

    I just had two Bradford pears removed. One more to go and my yard will be rid of this nuisance.

    August 28, 2016 at 9:26 am
  30. basketpam

    I want to add the Cleveland Pear tree that I was sneakingly conned into planting. If they were in a yard it wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re on that small strip of earth between the street and the sidewalk. And as I park my car on the street its a nightmare. What’s worse is I own three houses in a row, I planted two trees in front of each house. I soon discovered the flowers STINK! None of these lovely sweet smelling blossoms in the spring. But THE worst are the tiny pears which drop all over my car for months. They don’t fall off at some point when the “fruit” is overly ripe either like a real pear tree so all winter, for months, they keep making a horrendous mess. I guess the 6 trees pollinate each other.

    We can blame the town authorities around the nation for a lot of these irritating trees in our lives because just my situation, its these bothersome trees they put on lists of ones allowed to be planted in town along the streets. And yet they don’t help pay for the problems they cause or clean after the mess they make. If someone wanted my trees, it they would dig them out and move them, I’d give them away, when young, I paid $150 each for them about 18 years ago, money poorly spent overall. I only have one positive for them, they do provide very nice shade for each home, especially mine, as that side of the homes gets very strong evening sun.

    August 28, 2016 at 9:17 am
  31. Mel

    I beg to differ about the Beautiful Mimosas!!
    Ours bloom for about 4-6 weeks and we have Never had any form of disease on ours!!!
    Yes the blooms turn once they are done but they fall off and all you do is rake them us like you would leaves!!
    The smell is beautiful and the flowers are gorgeous!!

    August 28, 2016 at 8:30 am
  32. Penny Peeler

    I would add the black walnut tree. Not a typical choice for a yard tree. We moved into a farmhouse that has 2 of them in the side yard. It may be nice to have the nuts for cakes (which are a favorite around here) but it’s so much work keeping the nut pods picked up. The squirrels hide the nuts everywhere so seedlings pop up everywhere. To get the nut meat, assuming it has been a good year and they’re not faulty, the green pods have to be placed somewhere to dry and turn black so the outer part can be taken off. Gotta wear gloves or your hands will be black for days. Then you crack the thick shell and pick the meat out of the crevices. We purchased a special walnut cracker but it’s still lots of tedious work. They’re faulty so many years that we don’t even bother anymore. The pods drop for weeks, are messy, and are slippery/tripping hazards. We finally cut down one of them but hubby is reluctant to remove the other one because of the shade it provides. Buy your black walnuts at the store, the trees are not worth the trouble!

    August 28, 2016 at 6:44 am
  33. neeliemom

    Arizona Ash are just awful. They grow fast, that’s why builders would plant them in subdivisions, but their limbs break easily and the trees rot and split. They also have sharp seeds that go everywhere.

    August 28, 2016 at 6:10 am
  34. Mark Raunser


    August 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm
  35. Maureen schenker

    Well I have 3 out of six on my property

    August 8, 2016 at 9:40 pm
  36. Chris

    Boxelder, they are brittle, constantly shedding dead limbs, and the quadrillion helicopter seeds it drops gather in gutters and landscaping, and every damned one of them sprout and invite a friend to sprout with them

    August 8, 2016 at 8:02 pm
  37. Vicky Bennett

    I hate mimosa trees. How can you get rid of them. They take over.

    August 8, 2016 at 6:07 pm
  38. Judy Hill

    Chinese Tallow/ Chinaberry. Planted one. Big mistake. Makes shade and turns pretty colors in fall..but messy tassels catch in my Poodle’s coat.

    August 8, 2016 at 1:47 pm
  39. Chuck McDermott

    How about those incredibly messy catalpas. The popcorn flowers mess the lawn in spring. The long seed pods mess the lawns in fall/winter. Then you have gazillions of seedlings everywhere. Just like those infamous mimosas.

    August 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

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