Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

Solutions you can use for your gardening problems.

My Garden Nemesis? Drake Elm Seedlings… March 5, 2011

Late winter and early spring in central Florida should be a time for new beginnings. In the garden, that means pruning plants to encourage new growth, creating new landscaped beds, and replenishing mulch in existing beds. The experience should be rejuvenating and enjoyable.

The drake elm is deciduous, losing its leaves in winter months.

During our last workday at the Bette S Walker Discovery Garden at the UF IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service, however, it was anything but.

We received an extraordinary number  of phone calls late last year about the bumper crop of acorns that were falling on heads and being stashed away by squirrels. But there was another plant that took advantage of the early December freeze and quick warm-up immediately after — the drake elm.

This tree, often stunning because of its textured bark, long limbs and small, delicate leaves, produced a record number of seeds this year. These seeds are very small and are easily carried on the wind.

Drake elm seedlings in the mulch

But what do you get from seeds? That’s right… SEEDLINGS!!! Thousands and thousands of them. Under the tree, in the mulch, in the pots, in the bromeliads, in the bird feeder, under the bench, along the edge of the pond, in the Asiatic jasmine ground cover, in-between the pavers… need I say more?

Days after hitting them with a 5% solution of Roundup®, they still stood tall and green, mocking me. So while the Master Gardener volunteers were enjoying the glorious weather in which to prune and plant, I was cursing under my breath crawling on hands and knees to rid every inch of the Discovery Garden from my nemesis — elm seedlings.

Luckily, they were merely growing in the top layer of mulch, so I was able to take a hard rake and fluff the mulch, thereby disturbing the tender roots of the seedlings. This was by no means a permanent fix, but at least I’ve thwarted maybe 50% of them from their cunning plan to take over the garden.

In another week or so, I’ll head out there again to attack the remaining vigilante seedlings before their roots actually touch soil! AARRGGHH!

More elm seedlings...

After raking the mulch and disturbing the seedlings

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3 Responses to “My Garden Nemesis? Drake Elm Seedlings…”

  1. mdabreau Says:

    Question: How can you identify the rascals from the beauties? I like to scatter flower seeds under trees but sometimes I “weed out” the flower rather than the weeds.
    Comment: You make the most mundane topics sound very interesting. You are talented.

    • Anne with an E Says:

      That’s why I now germinate seeds in pots and transplant them into the ground later! I spend half my time in the garden, it seems, “weeding” out the tree seedlings! Ugh. Love the tree, hate the seedlings.

  2. Carol Says:

    The weather makes no difference. Each neighbor on either side of me has a Drake Elm and I get 10 million seedlings EVERY year. I hate those trees. I spend hours and hours and hours pulling them.


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