Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - March 01, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live oak roots and house foundation in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our builder left a live oak on our lot that is 7' from our foundation. The tree is now around 18' tall with a 20" circumference. Will this tree eventually cause damage to our foundation and is there some way to prune a live oak to make the tree grow away from our roof?

ANSWER:

While it is certainly true that tree roots can grow up to three times the spread of a tree, the problem in foundations, especially in our very dry climate, is soil subsidence. The tree root does its part on this by looking for water and sucking it up, but the very dry soil is probably going to drop and shrink anyway, and that is much more likely to cause the foundation damage then the tree roots. That having been said, 7' is still pretty close to a house for a tree that will grow as big as a live oak, and not just because of the roots. There is really no way to tell a live oak to grow in another direction, and the branches against your roof can definitely cause problems. Insects, not to mention squirrels and raccoons, consider tree branches against a house as an open invitation to come in, have a bite to eat, and spend the winter. Certainly a trained arborist could prune the branches away from the house, but when you prune a plant, where does the new growth appear? Right, it appears in the area you pruned. And you surely don't want to be pruning now, as the Nitiludid beetle is most active in this area from now until May or June. That pesky bug also considers newly cut or damaged tree trunks or branches as an invitation. And, in that case, this often results in the spread of Oak Wilt disease, which has no known cure but prevention. We can't really recommend one way or the other on removing the tree (we assume you choose the house over the tree?) but you should certainly get the opinion of the aforementioned tree specialist. We would suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office in Travis County for possible information on this subject, and/or referral to an experienced arborist.
 

More Trees Questions

Allelopathy in Sassafras albidum
January 11, 2012 - Sassafras albidum description says "Sassafras is allelopathic and can discourage the growth of certain other plants within its root zone." My question is: WHICH plants are susce...
view the full question and answer

Will hand pollination of red plum tree result in fruits?
February 24, 2014 - Red Plum is blooming but no bees to pollinate & no associate plum trees near by. Can flowers be pollinated by hand with q-tip?
view the full question and answer

Impenetrable privacy hedge in Wimberly, TX.
July 26, 2011 - I live near Wimberly, TX. I'd like to grow an impenetrable privacy hedge about 200' long and at least 10' tall and 10' deep (or more) using native plants. I'd like it to be evergreen, drought t...
view the full question and answer

Native trees safe for cattle in Waller TX
October 27, 2009 - I have a ranch where the pastures have no trees. Can you recommend native species which as safe for cattle and relatively maintenance free?
view the full question and answer

Replacing a Mexican ash with a live oak in Rockport TX
April 25, 2010 - I live in the Texas Coastal Bend (Rockport, TX). I recently lost a huge Mexican Ash, probably 45 years old. The trunk measures 11'6" at ground level, and gets progressively larger from there up. Its...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.