Keep or remove volunteer trees?

Asked October 8, 2019, 1:38 PM EDT

There are three volunteer trees next to the back porch. Two appear to be papayas. If this id is correct, they must have sprouted from papaya seeds that I put out for critters. Apparently, they love papaya seeds! The other is a baby from an ash that had to be removed due to the emerald ash borer. If it is a good location and not too close to the house, should I let the ash stay? What about the papayas?

District of Columbia

1 Response

Hi - Yes, indeed, those look like papaya plants. It is not unusual to see volunteers sprout from seeds that were tossed outside or placed in compost. Papaya plants are native to tropical areas (Mexico, Central, and South America). They will not survive the winter once the temperature dips below 30F. If you would want to try to overwinter them, they would have to be grown in a container and stored inside for the winter.

Regarding the ash tree seedling, it looks like it might be too close to your house in its current location. Small trees can be planted at 10 feet away from a house foundation, but for trees that get larger (like ash) it is recommended to plant about 20 feet away. Keep in mind that all ash trees in this area are now susceptible to emerald ash borer damage, so if you want to keep the tree, you should have a plan for preventing borer damage. Typically this is done by the application of a systemic insecticide every 2 or 3 years. You will find more about emerald ash borer management on our website. If that is not something you want to do, then it would be best to replace the tree. It is really up to you -- you may just want to enjoy the tree as it is for the time that it lasts in its current space. If, however, you want a nice shade tree or specimen tree, I recommend thinking about other options (without known pest problems) and siting it correctly on your property. Casey Trees does offer a residential tree planting program that you might want to look into.