Issue: October 5, 2007

Less invasive trees for pocket park / Encouraging bunch grasses to spread

Less invasive trees for pocket park

I planted a local, native locust tree in the park, the kind with the large thorns and it has just gotten totally out of control. It has sprouted out all over. I cannot control it. We will just be chopping the dozen or so new sprouts that are about 4 feet high now because I have not had time to get to them. My question is, am I going to have to remove the parent tree altogether or is there some way to prevent this tree from sending out runners all over the place and making new trees? It is a nightmare and I do so love these trees because of the wonderful aromatic blossoms in the spring but I just cannot deal with this situation any more. Is there a type of locust that does not spread like that? I have noticed other types in various places. What kind of tree would you suggest to take its place? It has to be a shade tree for folks sitting on the bancos underneath.

Olivia L.-W.
Las Vegas, NM


I am not sure which plant you are referring to as "native locust". I am assuming the tree is a black locust tree or the smaller New Mexico locust. These trees are common in New Mexico.

The New Mexico locust spreads prolifically by suckers (sprouts that develop from the roots). It has fragrant pink flowers in the spring. The black locust makes a larger tree with dark bark and clusters of fragrant white flowers in the spring. It also produces suckers, but not as prolifically as the New Mexico locust. The Idaho locust grows in New Mexico; it has pink flowers but grows in tree form. It is supposed to produce even fewer suckers than the black locust, but may produce some.

Another "locust tree" used in New Mexico is the honeylocust. This is a very different tree. It has a thin, light tan bark, many small leaflets and flowers that are not noticeable except for their fragrance in the spring. They can produce large three-parted spines and large flat, black pods. Some cultivars of honeylocust trees are less likely to produce pods, but they may produce suckers. Once again, they are less prolific sucker producers than the black locust. If you grow them under stress, they will produce more suckers. Proper site preparation and irrigation will reduce sucker production.

Encouraging bunch grasses to spread

How can I get gamma grass to grow and spread faster?

Olivia L.-W.
Las Vegas, NM


Are you asking about gamma grass, or grama grass?

Gamma grass is a pasture grass used in some parts of New Mexico. It is not native and requires high fertility and irrigation. It is not appropriate for landscape use. I suspect you meant grama grass.

Grama grass is a bunch grass. That means it does not spread by runners (blue grama). Black grama may spread by short runners. Neither spread as readily by runners as buffalo grass. Mowing or grazing causes tillers (branches) to form at the base of each grass clump. This causes each clump to become bigger and is the way to cause grama grass to fill in area. Otherwise, allow the grass to produce mature seeds. As these seeds to fall to the ground new grass plants grow to fill areas without grass.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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