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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.

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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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Friday - April 18, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Shoots sprouting around base of liveoak tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a Live Oak that was planted in my yard about 15 years ago. In the last several years, small shoots have been sprouting up around the tree base, are getting more dense and spreading into the grass. I assume these are from the root system. I have cut them back to the ground with an edger, and mow over them, but cannot get rid of them. Is there a way to eliminate them without affecting the tree itself? I have Live Oaks that were there prior to the house, but they do not create this problem. Thanks

ANSWER:

Sorry, but the only safe way to get rid of those sprouts is to cut them off. You can dig down and cut them off below ground. They will still return but it will take them a little longer to come back out again than if you cut them off at or above the surface. Any sort of herbicide you might use will affect the growth of the parent tree and I'm sure you don't want that to happen. According to John Begnaud, horticulturist, writing in Go San Angelo:

"To date, there are no repellants, hormones or chemical sprays that reliably suppress or remove thse suckers without harming the mother trees. Hand grubbing or deeproot pruning can reduce these suckers for a few years at best and then they will return."

You can read the answer to a previous question concerning the problem of live oak sprouts.

 

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