We live in Virginia, on about 3 acres with several large black walnut trees...

Asked June 16, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT

We live in Virginia, on about 3 acres with several large black walnut trees at the property's edge. The squirrels plant nuts all over my garden, resulting in MANY seedlings popping up throughout the growing season. These seedlings are often located in clusters and when I dig them up and pull them out, the seedlings seem like they're connected underground - as though they're spreading via the root system rather than from individual seeds. Is this possible or does it only seem that way because of their close proximity? Thanks, Alex

Loudoun County Virginia

3 Responses

Thank you for seeking input on this question via eXtension. It is possible the roots are connecting with each other, but unlikley if they are just young seedlings of 1 or two years old.
In a forest setting, trees of the same species are likely to have grafted roots and to some extent "share" resources and messages. This is little understood newer field of study.
Otherwise, yes, it is possible to have a single seedling turn into more than one tree via root sprouts. It may also be, as you wonder, something that only seems like this because of close proximity.
It is also possible, even very likely, that if when you dig them up, if roots are broken/cut and left behind in the soil, they will sprout and do so in more than one place.
In general, what you are observing is a survival strategy and is quite successful. Infact, most of our eastern forests are dominated by trees that grew from sprouts (vs. seed).

I hope this is a satisfactory answer, if not, please feel free to come back.

If you would like advise on controlling these sprouts in a way that will kill the root system instead of stimulating sprouting, I can help.


Thanks Adam. Yes, I would like some advice on controlling these sprouts in a way that will humanely kill the root system instead of stimulating sprouting. The roots often go too deep to dig them out completely. Thanks, Alex

The most accessible and cheapest product to use is Glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in the Roundup brand but you can choose any brand, they are all the same material.
Buy the regular, full strength, undiluted quart or pint bottle or you may already have some.

When you have a stem of a woody plant you want to kill, cut it with a saw or pair or pruners and simply apply the material with a paint brush or sponge full strength on the cut surface immediately after cutting. This method limits the amount of product being used and only applies it to the target (unlike spraying the leaves). This product is most effective for complete kills in the late summer.

Here is a website with more information you may be interested in: http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/forests/vegetation-management/chemical-control/herbicides...
click on "cut stump"
Another product is triclorpyr (one brand is Garlon) but this is more expensive and a little harder to find.

I recommend trying the glyphosate first. You may have to treat the plant a couple of times.