User avatar
Allyn
Green Thumb
Posts: 485
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:38 pm
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast - zone 8b

Will a Willow Work?

The back of my property is really wet....like sopping wet. It's the low spot for the surrounding pastures around our house and rain water just cascades down the slope and pools there. It's so wet, I have resident crawfish. If it doesn't rain for 5 or 6 days, you can (probably) walk back there without mud oozing up over your shoes. If it has rained recently, forget it. It's rubber boots or wet mud up to your ankles. I understand that weeping willows love wet feet and can actually improve wet areas. I'd like to clear out the existing hodge-podge of wild undergrowth and plant weeping willows. Does this sound realistic?

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27488
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Will a Willow Work?

You might want to look into this:
The incorporation of fungi into outdoor biofiltration systems, however, began when a serendipitously placed ‘garden giant’ (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) mushroom bed reduced bacteria runoff from upland pasture (Stamets 2005).
http://www.fungi.com/pdf/articles/Taylo ... s_2014.pdf

Abstract: The intentional use of the vegetative growth of mushroom-forming fungi on wood mulch substrates as a biologically active filtration media, a process known as mycofiltration, is a promising new technology for enhancing biofiltration of stormwater, graywater, and agricultural runoff. Recent trials have documented that Escherichia coli can be selectively removed from contaminated water approximately 20% per cubic foot more effectively by mycofiltration than by wood mulch alone. This improvement in bacteria removal was con- sistent even after exposure of the mycofiltration media to harsh environmental conditions such as -15 to 40 °C (5 to 140 °F) temperature extremes. This article reviews the historical context, discusses the current state of research, describes best implementation practices, and highlights promising areas for future study to bring the cultivation of fungi in constructed ecosystems into common practice as a new ecological engineering tool for enhancing biological water treatment systems.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Will a Willow Work?

Was there a reason you were thinking that water might be contaminated, Applestar? That would certainly be true if animals are grazed on those pastures. Maybe pasture implies that? If there are animals grazed on those pastures, Allyn this would definitely be something to think about.

Otherwise, if no animals and no contamination. then perhaps by improve the area you just meant soak up some of the water, so it wouldn't stay so wet.

In that case the willow would work as would other wet-soil trees:
  • Atlantic White Cedar
    Bald Cypress
    Black Ash
    Freeman Maple
    Green Ash
    Nuttal Oak
    Pear
    Pin Oak
    Planetree
    Pond Cypress
    Pumpkin Ash
    Red Maple
    River Birch
    Swamp Cottonwood
    Swamp Tupelo
    Sweetbay Magnolia
    Water Tupelo
    Willow
Do you know if there are sewer pipes going through the area? One trouble with water loving trees is that if the soil does dry out at times, all those water roots will look else where and will grow in to water and sewer pipes, seeking water.

We did have a weeping willow planted in an area such as you described... a low spot in the yard that would fill up when it rained. It was at our Quaker Meeting House, so we called it "Quaker Lake," though of course the "lake" was temporary. The willow didn't keep the lake from appearing, but it did thrive in that location.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
Allyn
Green Thumb
Posts: 485
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:38 pm
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast - zone 8b

Re: Will a Willow Work?

rainbowgardener wrote: Was there a reason you were thinking that water might be contaminated, Applestar? That would certainly be true if animals are grazed on those pastures. Maybe pasture implies that? If there are animals grazed on those pastures, Allyn this would definitely be something to think about.
Otherwise, if no animals and no contamination. then perhaps by improve the area you just meant soak up some of the water, so it wouldn't stay so wet.
...
Do you know if there are sewer pipes going through the area? One trouble with water loving trees is that if the soil does dry out at times, all those water roots will look else where and will grow in to water and sewer pipes, seeking water.....
I apologize. I should have/could have been more clear on that in my opening post. Yes, that's what I was asking.....if the willows would 'soak up' the water so the ground wasn't soggy all the time -- or at least not as soggy. I was reading up on weeping willows and I saw wording of that nature mentioned in a couple of articles. There is about a half acre of the property that is too wet to do anything with. I was hoping I could clean out the wild vegetation and plant half a dozen willows and maybe it wouldn't be so swampy. It is a low spot, so the water is going to run there; but if it's sloppy for a day or two instead of a week or more, that would be an improvement.

I'm sorry Applestar. My brain glazed over just reading the abstract for that paper. When it started talking about mushrooms, I wasn't sure that pertained to my situation. Horses and goats graze in the pastures. Is that a problem for the trees? I wasn't planning to grow edibles back there.

There are no sewer pipes. The well and septic system are in the front of the property, more than 110 feet from the edge of the 'bowl'. The trees would be planted a minimum of 150 feet from any pipes carrying potable, grey or black water.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Will a Willow Work?

The horses etc would not be a problem for the trees, just add fertility! :) It could be a problem if you were going to grow any edibles there - hence the reference to E. coli.

The idea of the mushrooms is that they can remove contaminants, even the E. coli. From the abstract: "process known as mycofiltration, is a promising new technology for enhancing biofiltration of stormwater, graywater, and agricultural runoff"

myco-filtration would be filtration by mushrooms and agricultural runoff would be the drainage from your horse pastures. So if you wanted that all cleaned up, growing mushrooms there could help. But as long as you aren't growing any edibles, you really don't need to worry about it.

So yes, the willows or other water loving trees would like your spot. Sounds like they would be fine there, since there's no pipes nearby. And yes, they would soak up a lot of the water, though as in my Quaker Lake, probably not enough to make it dry.

I am always opposed to mono-cultures - more vulnerable to any pest or disease that comes along and less diversity of habitat value. Perhaps think about having a few different kinds of trees, instead of a half dozen willows?

swamp maple, catalpa, serviceberry, hawthorn, water tupelo, eastern cottonwood, water oak, swamp spanish oak, black willow

These are all native trees for you, that are water loving, that have lots of habitat value for birds, bees ("tupelo honey" :) ), beneficial insects, butterflies, etc. There are over 40 species of birds that love the service berries. Often you can spot rivers from a ways off, by the line of cottonwoods growing along them. Birds use it for nesting material and eat the seeds and it is a larval host for Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy & Tiger Swallowtail butterfies.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: Will a Willow Work?

I would think a few trees (ones that like wet feet) would be beneficial to help dry and 'clean' the area, and provide habitat. As you drive around see what is growing in lower areas, especially if you have wildlife refuges, state parks etc in your area. Visit plant nurseries and see what is suggested and available.

Let us know what you find out, and better yet what you plant.
Have fun!
Susan

User avatar
GardeningCook
Greener Thumb
Posts: 787
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:35 am
Location: Upper Piedmont area of Virginia, Zone 7a

Re: Will a Willow Work?

I would definitely give willows a try. They love moisture to the point where bodies of freshwater around here frequently have them growing in the semi-shallows. In addition, one can never plant them anywhere near wells or septic systems, because their roots will determinedly seek those water sources out & can really screw things up. One downside to willows is that they tend to be shallow-rooted. In the event of extremely severe weather, willows used in landscaping are frequently one of the very first downed trees.

Maybe try one or two & see how they do for a few seasons before investing in more.
My body is a temple. Unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper.

User avatar
Allyn
Green Thumb
Posts: 485
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:38 pm
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast - zone 8b

Re: Will a Willow Work?

Thank you all for your input. It is invaluable to me. :)
GardeningCook wrote:... One downside to willows is that they tend to be shallow-rooted. In the event of extremely severe weather, willows used in landscaping are frequently one of the very first downed trees. ....
Now see, I thought the opposite was true. I thought they had deep roots because they're looking for water and would be good for severe weather (read: hurricanes) because they're so flexible -- you know. . . bend without breaking. Now that you mention it, it has me thinking. If it is a low spot and wet most of the time, the roots wouldn't have to go down to find water and they'd stay quite shallow.

There are trees back there that provide a canopy. Most are scrubby little nuisance trees, but a few are large mature trees. Because of the thick underbrush, I can't get back in there to see what's already there. There is a Live Oak right on the edge of the bowl that would stay. I want to clear out the scrubby mess and the underbrush and add the wet-feet trees to what might be salvagable. I'm hoping that would help with the mosquito problem as a side benefit. Whatever we do, it won't happen until the winter. It's just too hot and humid to undertake that kind of work in the summer and fall.
Last edited by Allyn on Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
GardeningCook
Greener Thumb
Posts: 787
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:35 am
Location: Upper Piedmont area of Virginia, Zone 7a

Re: Will a Willow Work?

Yup - willows do tend to be shallow-rooted. Throughout the decades, every hurricane or blizzard I've had the pleasure of enduring found neighborhood willows down & out. Back on Long Island, NY, one family replaced one three times before giving up, & here in Virginia one neighbor has had to replace one as well due to storm uprooting. It's sort of a crap shoot depending on where you live & how serious your wind-weather is.
My body is a temple. Unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper.

User avatar
KeyWee
Senior Member
Posts: 234
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 7:50 pm
Location: West Kentucky

Re: Will a Willow Work?

How about nashiki willows as opposed to weeping or other types? I have one in a low wet spot in my front landscape (away from house) and it is immense, fast-growing, attractive and resistant to pests and disease. Plus it has survived high winds and a vicious ice storm with no problems. These may be expensive in a garden center, but you only need one, since they are super-easy propagated from cuttings in water. Their shrub-like form will not break or topple in high winds. I planted mine about 6 years ago and it is at least 10' high by about 15' wide, and I have started many more babies from the original.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27488
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Will a Willow Work?

...I mentioned it because @allyn mentioned mud up to ankles and wondered about bacterial and other contaminants. In terms of contaminants, I believe goats are less of an issue than horses. You may still be looking at parasites etc. and horse meds depending on what kind of horses they are.

It sounds like we are talking about a large area. Is the entire area low lying and soggy/muddy? If you are up to it, digging an area lower will drain and dry some of the outer areas, which if planted will dry even more.

Then you can deal with the deeper mud/water area in a suitable manner.

When -BEFORE- clearing out the "undergrowth" be sure to ID them all because if they are growing and thriving there, they are sure to be good candidates for the existing condition and may provide the service you are seeking, especially once the extraneous/undesirable others are weeded/culled and they are allowed to grow to their potential.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27488
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Will a Willow Work?

http://jcho.masgc.org/
image.jpg
Plants of the Rivers, Lakes, and Wetlands - Mississippi National River & Recreation Area
(U.S. National Park Service) http://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/nature/pl ... tlands.htm
Plants of the Rivers, Lakes, and Wetlands

Trees

Eastern Cottonwood
Silver Maple

Grasses and Sedges

Prairie Cord Grass
Pointed Broom Sedge
Awl Fruited Sedge
Foxtail Sedge
Fox Sedge

Wildflowers

Cattails
Arrowheads
Duckweed
Spotted Jewelweed
Blue Vervain
Marsh Marigold
Skunk Cabbage

Invasive Species
Reed Canary Grass, Purple Loosestrife

Visit a River, Lake, and Wetland: Crosby Farm Regional Park, Fort Snelling State Park, Coon Rapids Regional Park (East and West) and the Lake Rebecca/Hastings River Flats Park area all have good access to wetlands, floodplain ponds, and the Mississippi River.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: Will a Willow Work?

Oh my, am I confused?! Nothing new! The area in discussion is the Miss Gulf area, warm, muggy, lots of rain plus heavy rain/wind with storms. Yes, there are cooties (bacteria and much more). Low areas and bayous help hold water, and let it seep in slowly over time. They are also an awesome habitat for wildlife.

Finally, some powers that be realize it is healthier to foster these low areas rather than to channel or drain (also hard to drain if there is little topography!). Next step is to how to work WITH not AGAINST natural factors.

Trees and shrubs are natural cleaners as the water and air filtered through. As no edibles in there, area livestock not a threat. A few good and suitable trees sound awesome! Next is to figure which trees to try. That's why I suggested checking natural areas in your region, local nurseries, dept of conservation and other resources.

Just some hot muggy thoughts from a more northern edge of The Delta.
Have fun!
Susan

Return to “Trees, Shrubs, and Hedges”