Trees of Suitable Stature

Trees of Suitable Stature

Property owners often enlist tree care professionals to “fix” the problem of a large tree in a small space.

Unfortunately, few mitigating strategies can correct this problem. Trees need plenty of elbowroom; once confined in a small space, they are apt to decline and eventually require removal.

Avoid this by starting out with a suitable tree for the space available. Below are some excellent trees that remain reasonably sized throughout their lives.

As always, be sure to plant the right tree in the right spot, and consider your property’s sun exposure, drainage characteristics and soil chemistry before selecting the species.

Desert Willows

Desert willows (Chilopsis linearis) are one of the most desirable small trees. While the largest examples may reach 30 feet in height, the majority are about half of this size. While not a true willow species, the desert willow’s long, narrow leaves resemble those of the true willows. However, unlike the water-loving willows, the desert willow is an arid-adapted species. The colorful blossoms of the tree are a favorite food source for hummingbirds.

Pacific Wax Myrtle

Pacific Wax Myrtles (Myrica californica) are rather small trees that seldom exceed 20 feet in height. These drought-tolerant plants require well-drained soils to thrive. They do not produce showy flowers, but their fall fruit is an important food source for some of California’s native birds.

Scrub Oaks

Scrub oaks (Quercus beberidifolia) are a nice option when the available space demands a small tree, but you want to plant a species with a high wildlife value. Reaching 15 feet in height and spread, scrub oaks are decidedly puny by oak standards, but their acorns are still tasty to a variety of species. Some of these shrubby trees may require pruning to develop into a tree-like shape.


The western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) is a wonderful tree for small spaces. Producing bright purple flowers in the spring, and emerald green and heart-shaped leaves a few weeks later, red buds are very handsome trees. While their leaves fall in the winter, the seedpods remain on the branches, giving the tree a very interesting look. Redbuds rarely exceed 20 feet in height or spread, and they are drought tolerant, making them doubly attractive for space-conscious landowners.

Many Different Maples

A variety of maple trees remain relatively small and make excellent additions for your yard. Among others, trident maples (Acer buergeranum), Amur maples (Acer ginnala) hedge maples (Acer capestre) and vine maples (Acer circinatum) all grow about 20 to 30 feet high. Additionally, several different types of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) make excellent trees for tight spaces – many cultivars remain less than 10 feet high at maturity.

Crepe Myrtles

Some of the most popular small ornamentals, crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.) thrive in most warm, sunny climates. It is important to select a cultivar that suits the site. While some cultivars remain less than 20 feet high, other varieties can approach 100 feet in height. Some crepe myrtle cultivars have attractive, peeling bark.


Like the native Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), flowering dogwoods (Cornus floridana) of the east coast, have the potential to grow up to 50 feet tall, but most specimens top out around 20 to 25 feet high. Unlike the tiny fruit of their eastern relatives, Pacific dogwoods produce prickly, orange-red, golf-ball-sized fruit. Dogwoods require well drained soil, and are somewhat drought tolerant.

Golden Rain Tree

The golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is a unique and beautiful species that stays relatively small. Although occasional specimens may reach 40 feet in height or spread, most are less than 30 feet in both dimensions. Tolerant of drought, air pollution and a variety of soil conditions, golden rain trees fare well in California yards. Golden rain trees do have one significant drawback: They have become invasive in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas, which offsets some of their beneficial traits.

Saucer Magnolias

Saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangeana) are the attractive products of selective breeding. These popular trees, which are hybrids produced from crossing a Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata) with a Mulan magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora) bear purple-pink flowers and dark green, glossy leaves. Saucer magnolias, which fail to exceed 35 feet in height, are more tolerant of alkaline conditions than most magnolias are.

Tip of the Iceberg

Many other trees, including citrus trees, apple trees and serviceberries, remain small and work well in tight spaces. Just remember to consider the height of the mature tree, the spread of its crown and diameter of its root system before making a selection. For more information, check out this guide to native and drought tolerant trees, from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.

Sherman Oaks

Pine tree

Pine tree

An estimated 100-year-old pine tree in Sherman Oaks crashed into a family home early in the morning while the family was in residence. The owner of the house said it felt like an earthquake when the tree fell. No one was injured and both the family in the house and the neighbors living directly behind the house were evacuated. Los Angeles Fire Captain Steve Ruda said of the tree falling, “We’re lucky nobody was injured; the family managed to get out without any problems.” He added, “That is the thickest, heaviest pine tree I think I have ever seen.” Building inspectors have declared the house “unsafe” and they will need to decide when the family can move back into their house. In the meantime, power and water have been shut off to the house.   Evergreen Arborists Consultants, Inc. are tree specialists and tree experts who provide arboriculture and tree expert advice for tree roots, cutting tree roots, tree trunk damage, root damage, and damaged trees to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Brentwood, Los Angeles, Malibu, Palos Verdes, Encino, Sherman Oaks, and Laguna Beach. We specialize in conducting detailed investigations and providing independent analysis, as well as expert witness testimony in support of litigation. Please call us today for a consultation.

Combating Sudden Oak Death

Incidences of Sudden Oak Death in California are being monitored to combat the disease. Residents in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills recently gathered to learn how to treat and protect trees from the disease, where so far few trees have been infected. Researchers at UC Berkeley have predicted that the disease could eliminate 90% of California’s black oak and live oak trees with 25 years if steps aren’t taken to control it. A survey of the area’s trees conducted in May showed that nearly 10 times more trees were infected with the disease than the previous year, with the highest incidence in East Bay, Saratoga, and Sonoma. Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are thought to have a low disease incidence because of the landscaped nature of the area with less native vegetation.

Sudden Oak Death showed up in California less than 25 years ago when infected California bay laurels and other infected plants were introduced into the landscape. Laurels can have the disease without dying, but once an oak gets the disease, it will die. Oak trees can be treated with an annual injection or bark application of phosphite, which has minimal environmental impact and increases resistance to the disease.

Residents can help stop the spread of the disease by cleaning garden tools and vehicles of soil and debris from infection sites and buying ornamental plants from nurseries that test for the disease.


Sherman Oaks Tree Root Damage

The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council’s Government Affairs Committee and the Neighborhood Services Committee held a joint meeting to discuss sidewalk repair in the area and what position Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) will take when they present the issue to the City Council. Under discussion was the possibility of shifting responsibility for sidewalk repair and liability from the city to property owners. Sidewalks that are uplifted and damaged due to tree root incursion were at issue. Area residents were encouraged to attend the meeting so they could give feedback on the issues.

“This is an important issue for residents in Sherman Oaks as the area has many miles of sidewalks in need of repair and the cost to individual property owners could be in the thousands of dollars,” read a statement from SONC.

Tree roots can also be destructive by cracking and lifting a home’s foundations, driveways or walls. Evergreen Arborists Consultants, Inc. has expert witness experience with property damage and personal injury cases. We have deposition and trial experience working for plaintiff and defense cases on behalf of individuals, insurance companies, and public agencies. Please call us today for a consultation.

Evergreen Arborists Consultants, Inc. are a Los Angeles certified arborist, tree experts, and tree specialists who provide arboriculture and tree expert advice to Beverly Hills, Brentwood,  West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Palos Verdes, Encino, Pasadena, and Sherman Oaks. We specialize in conducting detailed investigations and providing independent analysis, as well as expert witness testimony in support of litigation. Please call us today for a consultation.

Oaks to be Removed for Road-Widening Project

Old oak tree

Old oak tree

A new Ocean Springs High School is under construction in Jackson County Mississippi. Along with the new school, county supervisors plan on widening Mississippi 57 to three lanes between U.S. 90 and Old Spanish Trail. It will also add a sidewalk, other safety features, and crossing arms at the railroad track. But this construction comes at a price – four live oaks and some water oaks will have to be cut down on the east side of Mississippi 57.

To compensate for the tree losses, the county has been working closely with the city of Gautier, who opposes the removal of the trees. “We’ve mitigated by furnishing $10,000 to the city to plant additional trees and by agreeing to pay the full cost of moving all utilities, which would normally be the city’s responsibility,” said board President John McKay. Trees are also going to be donated by Land Trust, whom the county is working with.

A nearby resident who was interviewed feels that the county has rushed into a decision without thought and suggests using eminent domain to relocate the project to the west side of Mississippi 57. McKay says that the closeness of Fontainebleau Community Center, the fire station, and other buildings keep the county from considering a move to the west.


Saving 350-Year-Old Bur Oak

John Sam Williamson from Missouri has been working to save a 350-year-old bur oak, probably the largest of its kind, by hauling 1,600 gallons of water to the tree each week. Missouri has had one of its hottest summers on record, with 99.29 percent of the state in extreme drought or worse. Williamson gets his water from the Missouri River and he told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he plans on watering the tree weekly for the next month or so. He hopes his efforts will keep the drought from killing the tree.

Even with his efforts, Williamson said that the bur oak has been showing signs of stress. “The leaves are beginning to curl up a little bit, and they have turned kind of brown. I think it has aborted a lot of the acorns. And the leaves turn upside down to keep from losing moisture,” he said.


Eminent Domain of Rare Compton Oak

League City in Texas has been locked in negotiations with a landowner over an oak tree that is in the way of a road-widening project. Originally, the city agreed to keep the tree in a pocket park with the road going around the tree, but negotiations for this proposal stalled. The owner wants $60,000 more than what the city thinks the property and tree are worth.

Because of this deadlock, the city is now seeking to acquire the 0.896 acres through eminent domain proceedings. The move to start eminent domain proceedings was passed unanimously by the city council. Once the land is acquired, the city is proposing to move the rare 100-year-old Compton oak about 1,500 feet down the road on land next to the city’s Water Smart Park. Another property owner is expected to donate this land, but the city still needs to make a formal decision to move the tree.

The nonprofit Trees for Houston is offering to raise money to move the historic tree and it is also donating $10,000 of its own money for the move. The tree is 51 inches in diameter and it will be difficult to move. Earlier in the year, the city called on companies who are capable of moving the tree to respond to the moving proposal.