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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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Saturday - August 02, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Live oaks dropping brown leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Eric Beckers

QUESTION:

We have three live oaks and one of them has been dropping quite a few brown leaves over the past two weeks. I looked at pictures of trees with oak wilt and ours do not look like the pictures. I also bent back a few branches and the insides are whitish green. Any ideas of what could be causing this would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants contacted Eric Beckers with Texas Forest Service about your problem and this is what he says:

"Live oaks (and most other trees) in the Austin area remain under stress from this extended drought.  One of the reactions to stress is the senescing (dropping) of non-essential leaves, and with live oaks that usually means the older leaves of that year found further back on the stem or twig.  It is important to note that leaves further out on the twig are remaining green and lustrous...and attached!  Again, nothing abnormal for a healthy live oak to loose a small percentage of interior (older) leaves during the peak of summer, and they typically fall in various shades of yellow and brown.  However, if many leaves are shedding from the outer branch tips it might be time to have an arborist take a closer look at your valuable tree."

 

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