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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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Thursday - July 23, 2009

From: Moore, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Pruning, Transplants, Trees
Title: Transplant shock in my Nuttall Oak tree in Moore, OK.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I had a Nutall oak tree planted; it is 5 inches in diameter and about 24 feet tall. It was planted in March of this year, leafed out ok; now since June 20th I have had a large quantity of the leaves turn yellow to brown, as if the tree has its seasons mixed up. Since middle of June we have had record high temperatures. I would like help diagnosing the problem and hopefully the tree is not dead. I have noticed other trees doing the same thing. I hope it is just the heat and or a water problem. Your answer could help many others just in my neighborhood area.

ANSWER:

The Nuttall Oak (Quercus nuttalli)  is also known as Quercus texana (Texas red oak), and this is the name that is used in our Native Plant Information Network (NPIN) Database. If you click on the link above, you will get the NPIN page that describes the tree and tells about its growth characteristics and habitat. Scroll down the page to the USDA link which shows its distribution. Two points to note; its native habitat includes flood plains and bottomlands, and Oklahoma is not included in its natural distribution.

Our first thought is that the tree is suffering from transplant shock. This is a rather large tree to transplant, and the root system has not grown enough to keep up with the water demand in the hot and dry conditions. Pruning is sometimes suggested as a relief for transplant shock, but pruning red oaks in the summer is an invitation for infestation with Oak Wilt. A slow drip of water with a hose into the root area every other day for a week or two may help.

If you had the tree planted by a reputable nursery, they should be able to offer some suggestions. The service of a certified arborist can also be helpful, and this link to the International Society of Arboriculture will help you find one in Oklahoma City.

Here is an answer to a previous question regarding transplant shock in oak trees that may prove helpful.

 

 

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