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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - September 22, 2009

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live Oaks and Foundations
Answered by: Damon Waitt and Barbara Medford


I have a young live oak (18 inch trunk at it's base) growing within four feet of my house. What kind of damage can it cause my foundation? Need your help!


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  said, that's pretty darn close to the house for a tree that can attain a large size such as Quercus fusiformis (plateau 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. 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.

Quercus fusiformis



More Trees Questions

Growing a Swamp Oak from Seed
July 02, 2014 - I have a swamp oak that I started from an acorn. Someone at a nursery stated that after 4 years I should cut it off at ground level and then allow one of the suckers to grow while keep removing the ot...
view the full question and answer

Suitability of Monterrey oaks for small space in San Antonio
April 23, 2009 - I am purchasing a home and the existing owners have planted three Monterrey oaks in the back. It is a small yard and the trees are no more than 15 feet from the house.The trees back up to a fence that...
view the full question and answer

Germinating Mexican Persimmon seeds in Austin, TX.
November 15, 2011 - I'm planning to germinate Mexican Persimmon seeds, and plant them this spring. I want a female for fruit. Is there any way to encourage a plant to be female, and if not, is there any way you can iden...
view the full question and answer

What's causing holes in trunk of white oak tree in SouthBend IN?
June 10, 2013 - We have a huge White Oak in our backyard that is approx. 130 years old. This evening I became aware that there are several small holes around the trunk that appear to be oozing a dark sappy liquid. ...
view the full question and answer

Pecan trees too close together in Austin
August 14, 2012 - There are two pecan trees in my central Austin yard. Each is four or five inches diameter at chest height and maybe 15 feet tall. They are within six feet of each other and their canopies interfere wi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center