En Espa—ol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Live oaks lifting up sidewalks in Palm Coast FL

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - December 12, 2013

From: Palm Coast, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pruning, Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Live oaks lifting up sidewalks in Palm Coast FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My live oak trees roots are lifting up my side walks. Can I cut just the roots that are causing the problem without hurting the trees? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Our first impulse was to simply say "NO!" but that would have meant you did not get your money's worth, even though Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service. Frankly, you have a dilemma, and the first question we would ask you is "Which do you care about more, the sidewalk or the oaks?"

Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak) is the only oak in our Native Plant Database with the common name "live oak"-  it is native to Florida and to Flagler County on the upper east coast of Florida. Other oaks are sometimes dubbed "live oak" but we will use Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak) for our example.

First, please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on cutting a live oak's roots. This answer was in response to a question about oak roots interferring with other vegetation, not a sidewalk, but the same principles apply. Another previous question addresses the proximity of oak roots and paving materials.

From the last previous answer:

"Paving should be kept out of the dripline and no closer than 15 feet from the tree trunk. If at all possible, use a porous paving material such as brick with sand joints, open bricks, bark, gravel, etc., which will allow some water penetration and gas exchange. Even with porous paving, the area around the trunk-at least a 10 foot radius-should be natural and uncovered."

Since we live in drought-stricken Central Texas, we would probably vote in favor of losing the sidewalk, but that is going to be expensive and difficult, too, and the process of taking out the sidewalk paving could well result in damage to the tree. We know all this does not help you much, but many, many people read the questions in Ask Mr. Smarty Plants and, if we can't help you, perhaps we will prevent some other gardener from making the same mistake of expecting tree roots and pavement to co-exist. As you can see from the pictures below from our Image Gallery, oak trees can grow to be HUGE and if their root systems grow out to two to three times the circumference of the tree, they are going to go on relentlessly breaking up the sidewalk unless and until you kill the tree and dig out all those roots. We would say the sidewalk is a goner anyway, but only you can make the decision.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

More Problem Plants Questions

Plant-related skin rashes from Round Rock TX
September 23, 2013 - I have been plagued with persistent skin rashes this summer, and it is happening with plants that have never bothered me before, for example, red yucca. The dermatologist says it is a plant reaction,...
view the full question and answer

Poison ivy? vine in NJ
July 30, 2012 - I have a vine growing among some vegetation in my backyard. It has a leaf with 3 "points" with ridges along its edges. The smaller leaves are reddish which is why I thought poison ivy but definite...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of Whitemouth dayflower in Dothan AL
March 18, 2009 - I am infested with Widow's Tears in my yard. I would like to get rid of them. Can you tell me how?
view the full question and answer

Eliminating crabgrass in a newly mulched area in Austin
June 26, 2009 - We just had our whole front lawn taken out. We are starting to plant native plants in its place. The idea was to do whatís best for the environment and reduce maintenance. At this point Iím beginni...
view the full question and answer

Is Ruellia aggressive?
July 06, 2014 - Is Ruellia aggressive?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center