Summer is here and the heat has already come. Here’s a great selection for lots of shade: Tipuana tipu (pronounced “tip-poo-ah-nuh TEE-poo”). It is native to the tropical regions in Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina and is very well adapted to the Southern California climate. It has been botanically classified into the Leguminosae (pea family), which is abundant with annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines and many ornamental trees.
This semi-evergreen tree is adorned with small apricot-yellow flowers at this time of year, followed with pea-like seed pods in abundance. The tipu tree is a rampart grower and can obtain heights of 25 feet in just a few years from a 15-gallon or 24-inch tree.
With such rapid growth, it is very important to adopt the arboricultural philosophy of juvenile pruning. Trees that grow so quickly need some training in the formative years to obtain good structural branching and a sturdy root system by proper tree staking.
It is also very important to remove the supportive tree stakes once the tree becomes established. Stakes left on too long cause the trunks of some trees to actually grow around these stakes or to be scarred from wind rubbing the trunks against the stakes, which opens wounds for infections.
It is also vital to note that you should use only rubber or plastic ties from the trunk to the tree stakes. Wire can cut into the tissue of the tree, causing long-range and costly problems. The proper tree ties are available at most nurseries and farm stores in the area.
Ultimately the tipu tree will reach heights of 40 to 50 feet with a very large arching crown. The foliage of this tree is light green with compound fern-like leaves and has very lacy weeping boughs with a very exotic overall appearance.
The tipu tree is not fussy about soils and can grow with regular watering. It will also tolerate some drought after three to five years of good garden care, depending on seasonal rainfall and proper stewardship. The tipu tree is also fairly cold hardy to about 25 degrees.
In the landscape, it’s a great tree for quickly creating a canopy of foliage to cool your home, shade a patio or protect other plants beneath the under-story.
Because of its toughness, it is also becoming increasingly popular and used as a street-lining shade tree in many communities. I like using low-branching tipu trees, for as they mature and become structurally strong, they make great climbing trees for kids.
My suggestion when using tipu trees or other trees that have a vigorous root system is to install protective root barriers. These barriers can save you headaches, landscape problems and money.
The barriers do not cost that much to install at time of planting and it’s like buying a little of garden insurance for aggressive root systems.
When planting trees at any time of year, it is very important to install a thick three- to four-inch layer of good clean mulch around the basin of the newly planted trees. This helps to conserve moisture, cut down on weeds and keep the expanding root system cool. Always remember to keep the mulch away from the trunks of the trees.
Shade produced by trees is a good thing and it is important to plan before you plant, be it trees or your overall landscape theme. The temperature variables can be five to 10 degrees cooler under a properly selected shade tree or combinations with other plantings.
The heat islands of driveways, rooftops and hardscapes can increase the temperature dramatically around your home and shade trees can aid in the cooling of the outside garden and the interior of your living environment.
So, to create some shade for your garden, your neighborhood streets and your community village… plant trees.
Roger Boddaert is an arborist and professional landscape designer. He can be reached at (760) 728-4297.
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