En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - February 18, 2008

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Tree protection during construction
Answered by: Candace Fountoulakis


What measures can/should be taken to ensure the health, future of live oaks while building a new home? There are many small to medium oaks on this property, some very close to the house site and the owners would like to preserve as many as possible while building their new home.


Congratulations for prioritizing the health of your trees during construction. To quote a previous answer by Green Guru Nan Hampton to a similar question, roots of trees generally extend at least as far out as the shadow of the canopy of the tree. This area is referred to as the Protected Root Zone (PRZ). Covering this area with concrete is likely to cause the death of the tree by physically damaging the roots and by inhibiting oxygen and water from reaching the roots. Additionally, the roots of the tree have the potential to damage/crack the concrete as they grow trying to reach water and oxygen. You can read more about protecting trees from damage during construction projects and advice about placement of pavement in the area of trees in Landscaping Around Established Trees from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service and Protecting Trees from Construction Damage: A Homeowner's Guide from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. In addition, you might like to consult Andy and Sally Wasowski's book Building Inside Nature's Envelope: How New Construction and Land Preservation Can Work Together.

You can find a list of Landscape Professionals near your area who could advise you on permeable paving materials in our National Suppliers Directory if that is an option you would like to explore.

Compaction of the soil, damage to limbs and trunk, bark and other parts of the tree will all be eliminated if heavy construction equipment and storage of materials is avoided in the PRZ. Methods of protection this zone are described in the books listed above.


More Trees Questions

Suitability of Monterrey oaks for small space in San Antonio
April 23, 2009 - I am purchasing a home and the existing owners have planted three Monterrey oaks in the back. It is a small yard and the trees are no more than 15 feet from the house.The trees back up to a fence that...
view the full question and answer

Erosion Solution for Lorton, VA
February 07, 2014 - We have a steep slope in our common area of our homeowners association. Trees that were planted have died. It is a large area around a pond. What should we plant that will hold the soil? The soil...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for dead oak tree after hurricane
October 01, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, It still is hard to believe but my dead Oak tree survived H.Ike! Now that I've gotten that dreaded letter from the HOA, they want me to replace it with at least a 45 gallon tree....
view the full question and answer

Source for dwarf red mulberry from Spring Hill TN
December 08, 2012 - Hello: Where can I buy a dwarf red mulberry tree in the USA? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Watering Oak Trees in the Summer
July 15, 2011 - Should you water oak trees in the summer? Some people say its not good for them. But many trees seem to be withering up and dying in this heat. Especially the black jack oaks. There are also post ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center