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Thursday - December 13, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Red oak (Quercus shumardii or Q. buckleyi) for small yard.
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hello, I want to plant a red oak but my yard is not large. I'm looking for a red oak that is medium size in width. The height is not so much of a concern. From what I've read, the Shumard is much taller than the Buckley's oak but not neccessarily larger in width. I have a wild Red oak that has sprung up in my front yard and I planned to transplant it to the spot in question if this particular tree is a good choice. I think it is a Shumard. Which tree is larger in width and which would you recommend for South Austin.


First of all, Mr. Smarty Plants thinks that Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak) and Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak) are very difficult to tell apart. To add to that confusion the two species can hybridize according to Shinners & Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, p. 714.

"S. buckleyi and the the similar Q. shumardii (occurring mainly from the w edge of the Blackland Prairie e to e TX) hybridize along a narrow zone of overlap from the Cooke and Grayson co. area near the Red River s to the vicinity of San Antonio (Bexar Co.). To the w of this hybrid zone "pure" individuals of Q. buckleyii can be found while to the e "pure" Q. shumardii occurs."

So, the tree you have in your front yard may be Q. shumardii, but it also might be Q. buckleyi—or a hybrid of the two. You are correct that Q. shumardii (maximum ~100 feet) tends to be taller at maturity than Q. buckleyi (maximum ~50 feet), but we don't have any figures for hybrid maximum heights. Our information for the width, or spread, of the trees is that Buckley oak is up to 60 feet and that is also the maximum spread for Shumard oak. Since the width of the tree generally increases with the height of the tree, the maximum spread of the tree shouldn't occur until it is well above your roof line. So, unless you are worried about the canopy of your tree spreading over your roof or encroaching on your neighbor's yard, it shouldn't be a real problem for your small yard.

There is one other red oak, Quercus texana (Texas red oak), that is native to Texas. It occurs in extreme East Texas in different type of soil and climate and wouldn't be well-adapted for Austin.

You can read descriptions, see illustrations and distributions of these 3 Texas red oaks—Quercus buckleyi, Quercus shumardii, and Quercus texana—in eFloras.com, the online version of the Flora of North America.


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