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Weeds that Look Like Small Trees: Identification Guide

Do you have weeds that look like small trees in your yard? Have you ever come across them when weeding your garden?

If not, you may find it difficult to distinguish them from other trees in the garden.

You may have been allowing weed trees to grow in your garden, thinking they were regular trees.

In amateur terms, a weed is any plant growing where you don’t want them to grow. 

They grow fast and quickly, colonizing an area. You will also spot them by their high rate of seed germination.

Typically, these trees are categorized as weeds because they grow outside their native areas, often competing with native species.

These trees in your yard could prove to be a nuisance in the long run if left unchecked.

Through this guide, we show you how to identify weed trees in your garden via their general features.

Each weed tree has some particular characteristics that you will need to look for.

Weed Trees vs. Tree Weeds

These terms are more or less similar but carry different meanings. Weed trees are tree species that grow in a new environment and quickly colonize that area. 

Once these visitors get in, they will choke out any small growing plants in your garden or lawn; tucked away in corners of your homestead you don’t care to look at.

Birds and animals are suitable carriers of the weed tree seedlings. Large established trees in your garden could also spread the weed trees around, albeit indirectly.

Alternatively, a tree weed could be any tree you don’t want growing on your farm. That makes it a weed.

Maybe the tree in question consumes excess water, denying your garden plants a vital resource.

An unwanted tree in your garden could also be a wide-rooted tree posing a danger to your property foundation. Some tree weeds could also destroy sections of your roof or cause saplings to grow in your gutter. 

Weeds that look like Small Trees

We have compiled a list of weed trees you should identify the next time you weed your garden. Let’s get down to it. 

1. Black Locust (Robinia Pseudoacacia L)

black-locustGeneral information

Symbol  ROPs 
Group  Dicot 
Family  Fabaceae
Duration  Perennial 
Growth habit  Tree 
Native Status  CAN 1 (Canada)

L48 N (Lower 48 States)

Other Common Names  False Acacia Robinia, Yellow Locust

The black locust nativity range is in the Appalachian mountains that stretch from Pennsylvania to Alabama. There are also secondary populations that exist in the Ozark region.

It thrives best in well-drained soils with a pH range of 4.6 to 8.2. The tree is medium-sized and comes with clusters of fragrant creamy-white flowers in the Spring.

The cluster of flowers turns feathery during Summer. The flowers are in a pyramidal spike arrangement.

Their compound leaves are pinnate and 8-14 inches long with short-stalked leaflets numbering from 7 -19.

Its root system is shallow and aggressive, with a reddish-brown to black bark. The plant is a heavy seed producer and highly invasive.

They can be quite a challenge to control once they land in your garden. They commonly spread through seeds and adventitious side shoots that emerge from the rootstock. 

2. Norway Maple (Acer platanoides L.)

norway-maple-treeGeneral Information

Symbol  ACPL
Group  Dicot 
Family  Aceraceae 
Duration  Perennial 
Growth Habit  Tree 
Native status  CAN 1 

L48 1

Norway Maple trees originate from Norway, as the name suggests. They grow to gigantic heights of over 65 feet.

Mature trees overshadow plants below with broad and well-rounded canopies. The plant adapts well to unfamiliar environments and is a lover of shade.

Its leaves are dark green with a width of 5-6 inches. The plant forms beautiful green-yellow flowers in May that form fruits with winged seeds.

Their winged seeds can spread over a large area. During the Fall, they change color to orange or red. They are fond of hedgerows and wooded areas.

Norway Maple can be a nuisance in your garden if you don’t spot it early enough.

3. Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima (Mill.))


General Information

Symbol AIAL
Group  Dicot 
Family  Simaroubaceae
Duration  Perennial 
Growth Habit  Tree 
Native Status  CAN 1 

H1 1 (Hawaii)

L48 1

Other Common Names  Chinese sumac, Stinking Sumac, Varnish tree, Stink tree 

Contrary to its name, the Tree of Heaven is found on earth and native to China. There is now a widespread invasion of the species across North America.

The weed tree grows 5 feet in a season and matures to 60 feet tall. There is a strong offensive smell emanating from its flowers, which helps to explain the naming.

The plant snowballs and establishes itself in any new area with ease. It’s also majorly resistant to pests and diseases. These traits made it spread rapidly in the US, colonizing the native species of trees.

The Tree of Heaven in your garden is a problem from the start. It reproduces at a very high rate and has the potential of eliminating nearby plants.

The enormous amount of seeds the plant produces leads to the crowding of native species with its dense nature. It also poisons surrounding plants by releasing a chemical into the soil.

Tree of Heaven can eliminate the entire ecosystem of native plants and animals in your garden if you don’t take action in time. It multiplies by sprouting side shoots that emerge from the rootstock.

4.White Mulberry (Morus alba L.)

white-mulberry-plantGeneral Information

Symbol  MOAL
Group  Dicot
Family  Moraceae 
Duration  Perennial 
Growth habit  Shrub tree 
Native Status  CAN 1 

H1 1 

L48 1 

Other Common Names  Russian Mulberry, Chinese White Mulberry, Common Mulberry, Silkworm, Mulberry, Moral Blanco, Chin Sang 

White mulberry is of Chinese origin. It’s a stubborn weed tree that comes with tiny white buds.

The plant is invasive and will displace vegetation in your garden if you don’t manage it early. It prefers loamy soil that is warm, moist, and well-drained.

The plant is also salt resistant and withstands drought once it establishes itself in an area.

Its leaves emerge in an alternate arrangement taking different shapes, such as serrate or dentate. They are two to seven inches long.

The flowers are small and green, crowding in clusters and hanging in catkins. The bark is smooth, taking a light brown to gray color; its fruits are like that of blackberry but can be white to pinkish violet.

Their stubborn nature makes them grow in a wide range of conditions, including forming sprouts from felled trees.

Get Rid of Weed Trees in your Garden

Before you start chopping down weed trees, first do a spot check around hidden areas such as behind garden shades, corners and fences to ensure you have all weeds in check. After making a note of all of them take the steps below:


You want to remove weed trees in your garden when they are still seedlings. Water the area around the weed tree and uproot them by hand. 

Use a Weed Removing Solution

Chopping a weed tree around the leg area could help control it for a period, but it doesn’t offer you a long-lasting solution. It would be best if you treat the cut area with a growth-inhibiting solution to prevent it from regrowing. 

Apply or paint a powerful weed remover at the cut area or the remaining leftover stump. The product should be able to translocate to the roots eliminating the plant leftovers.

Some vegetation control solutions function best before you cut the tree. Ensure to read the instructions before using them.

Bark Peeling

If you want to get rid of the weed trees quickly, this is not an ideal method as it takes quite some time.

Peeling a tree bark or girdling cuts the supply of nutrients and water from the roots to the branches and leaves.

This method is adequate but not 100% successful since some trees could bypass the girdle and continue growing. 


Weed Trees are indeed a nuisance and must be handled promptly. By the identification tips and elimination methods mentioned above, you can easily keep your garden or backyard free from these invasive plant species.

Weeds that Look Like Small Trees: Identification Guide

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