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Friday - February 06, 2009

From: Llano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Trimming a bur oak in Llano, TX
Answered by: Janice Kvale


We have a beautiful, large Burr Oak next to our house. This tree has many large lateral branches. I have trimmed dead branches, but no other trimming. It grows a lot of "suckers" during growing season. Several of the branches droop almost touching the ground. I would like to clean up this tree but don't want to do the wrong thing. The tree appears very healthy. Any trimming tips would be appreciated. Thanks


In caring for your Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak),  Mr. Smarty Plants sees three options for you. First, do nothing and let it behave in its natural way, suckers and all, with the wind pruning dead limbs. Second, research how to prune and do it yourself. And, third, engage a licensed, certified arborist. The description you have given of your tree makes it clear that you have a very special and valuable feature in your landscape.  You may want to consider the third option, as arborists are specialists in the care of trees. There is no substitute for trained eyes and professional advice regarding the care of such an important tree and when it comes to the potential for tree disease and pruning large trees, they have all the right tools and take all the risks.

However, it sounds like you are interested in learning about trimming oaks, so let's explore that. You are wise to be concerned about doing the right thing as oak wilt disease is common in Texas. Oak wilt disease is a caused by a fungus introduced into the trees by the Nitidulid beetles, which are most active in warm weather from February through May. Cuts or wounds to the tree may allow introduction of the beetles. The best time to prune the tree would be during a cold snap November to January. Branches that are completely dead may be removed at any time; it is only open wounds in living tissue that are attractive to the offending beatles. No matter what time of year you remove living branches of oaks the wounds should be immediately covered with pruning paint. Learn more about Oak Wilt at the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership page "Guidelines for Proper Pruning to Prevent Oak Wilt Infection" and "Studies on Pruning Cuts and Wound Dressings for Oak Wilt Control." Both have excellent information on treating pruning cuts. Alternatively, check out this Texas A&M Extension site "Follow Proper Pruning Techniques" on pruning or this ehow.com site, "How to Trim Your Trees."

In short, you may want to postpone this trimming job, however it is accomplished, for a few months.  

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa



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