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

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Sunday - May 18, 2014

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Trees
Title: Trimming of Escarpment Oak from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a 2-year-old quercus fusiformis in our front yard and have been advised by some people that we need to remove the bottom branches and trim the ends of the branches that are hanging far down. While we kind of like the bushy look of the tree, we want to do the right thing for it. How would you recommend we trim it now and in the future? Thanks!

ANSWER:

If you follow this link to our webpage on this plant, Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak), you will find this paragraph:

"Plateau oak or Escarpment live oak is a thicket-forming shrub or large, spreading tree that is nearly identical in appearance to, and considered much hardier than, Q. virginiana."

This we take to mean you can allow it to remain a shrubby plant and train it by judicious pruning but NOT NOW!

"Its magnificent, stately form has endeared it to generations of residents and it remains popular to this day. Also like Q. virginiana, it is susceptible to live oak wilt and live oak decline when stressed by drought, so care must be taken to protect it from injury both aboveground and below ground to prevent infection."

This makes two points; the first being that it is not necessary to try to limit the size and shape of this "magnificent" tree, and the second being that any kind of trimming on this tree this time of year is a very bad idea. Frankly, this sounds like a pitch you would get from someone who just "happened" to notice your tree, rang your doorbell and would be only too happy to cut on it for cash, payable in advance. That person would be nowhere around when the tree began to die of Oak Wilt.

Mr. Smarty Plants always recommends that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be pruned, trimmed and/or transplanted in cooler weather; i.e., December and January in Texas. Between now and then, you can make a decision on what shape tree you want, including trimming up the trailing branches. Trees are the most valuable part of your landscape, and certainly the native oaks are stars that deserve protection. We suggest you read this entire article on Texas Oak Wilt.org .

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

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