En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
4 ratings

Monday - July 21, 2008

From: Diamond Springs, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Trimming oak threatening fence in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Diamond Springs,California,I have a large oak tree growing between my neighbors' house and mine. A large branch is cracked and in danger of falling on my fence,I would like to lighten it up by trimming it up,any certain time of year? It's in a spot called a green belt, between houses-between fences,it won't hurt his but would wipe mine out. Any suggestions ?


You'd better first check and see who that strip of greenbelt belongs to. If it is city or utility easement, they would be the ones responsible for trimming the tree. You could probably get permission to trim it on your own, but it would be safer to check.

The other thing that we're concerned about is the possibility of introducing disease into the tree if you trim it now. You didn't say what species of oak you have, but in Texas we are constantly on guard against the spread of oak wilt, a devastating disease of certain oaks spread by a small beetle which is active in warm weather. This USDA Forest Service Pest Alert discusses a recently discovered pathogen for oaks found, at the present, only in California and Oregon. The point being, many of these oak problems can be spread if there is an open wound on an oak that attracts insects that are the carriers of these diseases. The best time to do anything about trimming an oak, or just about any other woody plant, is in winter, when cool temperatures render most insects inactive and the plant is more dormant.

Because this is a more localized problem, we would suggest you go to the home page of the University of California Cooperative Extension office for El Dorado County. We noticed that on that home page there is a link to information on a Master Gardeners class on summer pruning, scheduled for July 29. It would seem that would be the best place to get good information on how, when and whether to prune that tree now. If you can't attend the class, there are contact links on the home page to reach personnel in the office who should be able to help you.


More Trees Questions

Searching for a red mulberry tree (Morus rubra) to buy
March 17, 2008 - Want to purchase a native Texas Red Mulberry tree (morus rubra). Can't find one. Can you help? Thanks,
view the full question and answer

Can Carolina jessamine be grown in Syracuse NY?
May 09, 2010 - Hi--Can Carolina Jessamine be grown in Syracuse, New York?
view the full question and answer

Problems with red oak in New Braunfels TX
May 11, 2009 - One of my red oaks still doesn't have all its flowers. The main bark has some dark stuff oozing out and one of the branches has a fine powdery substance on it. HELP!!!!
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Magnolia in Webster FL
May 24, 2009 - Do all Magnolias Bloom? I live in Central Florida - transplanted a Magnolia 7 1/2 years ago. It is a beautiful tree - very healthy - at least 10-12 ft. It has never had a bloom!! I have another li...
view the full question and answer

Looking for a tree to plant as a memorial in Leesburg, GA.
September 09, 2010 - I'm looking for tree to plant as memorial to my brother who died. It must be native, for South Georgia, zone 8, open fields. It should provide mast for wildlife. Heat zone 8, good drought-tolerance. ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center