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Friday - October 02, 2009

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Shumard oak or live oak in Waco TX?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Mr Smarty Plants, I planted 2 small Shumard oaks in my front yard (east side of the house, 8-9 hours of sun per day) 18 months ago. Both had been purchased from a national chain store's garden center. After I planted them, my neighbor said that he and 2 other neighbors had no success with the Shumard/ Red oaks and had replaced them with live oaks which obviously have done well in their yards. We are in heavy clay with a gentle slope to the street. And, my Shumards' leaves looked good until late May, when the far ends of the leaves began to get brown and die, but still retained some green close to the stem. I automatically watered my yard 3x/ week this summer for about 30 minutes per time and watered the trees about once more each week. They have not grown taller or put out any new branches since planted! How long before I replace them with live oaks?!


Actually, we have no idea which would be the best choice for you, and sure wouldn't give you a date to cut down the tree you have. About all we can do is list their similiarities and differences (if any). You know what your property is like, what you want it to be like, and that should be what makes the decision, not hearsay.

Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak) - matures to from 50 to 90 ft. tall, native to the Central Texas area.

Growing Conditions:

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy, Sandy Loam Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: Quercus shumardii is a relatively fast-growing and adaptable oak. This species is quite drought resistant and also withstands short-term flooding. It is similar to the Texas or Spanish oak, but prefers deeper soils and tends to grow taller and straighter. Provides good fall foliage color.

From the Oak Wilt Partnership (in which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a partner), Oak Wilt in Texas: "Shumard Oak is extremely susceptible and may play a unique role in the establishment of new oak wilt infection."

Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) - one of several of the species Quercus with the common name "live oak;" this one is native to the McLennan County area. Grows to 20 to 40 ft. tall. Not a true evergreen; most of its leaves turn brown and fall off in early Spring, but are replaced by new green leaves in two or three weeks. 

Growing Conditions:

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, limestone soils. Calcareous, Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay Caliche type
Conditions Comments: Plateau oak or escarpment live oak is a thicket-forming tree that is nearly identical in appearance to, and considered much hardier than, Q. virginiana. A short, tapering trunk supports picturesquely gnarled branches and limbs. Evergreen leaves are leathery and unlobed.

From the same Oak Wilt Partnership: "Live oaks are intermediate in susceptiblity to Oak Wilt but are more seriously affected due to their tendency to grow from root sprouts and form vast interconnected root systems that allow movement (or spread) of the fungus between adjacent trees."

In summary, the Shumard oak can grow larger, the live oak is semi-evergreen, both are native to Central Texas, and both pose threats of Oak Wilt, which cannot be cured, and has laid waste to oak trees in many parts of Texas and other states. We suggest you read the entire Oak Wilt Partnership website before you make your decision. Beyond that, these trees have pretty similar growing conditions, and it's a personal choice on which to grow. 

Quercus shumardii

Quercus shumardii

Quercus fusiformis

Quercus fusiformis






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