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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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Monday - November 23, 2009

From: Lakeland, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Controlling live oak sprouts in Lakeland FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had a live oak taken down last year. We now have sprouts we cannot get rid of and they continue to multiply invading the lawn. We did not have this problem so much when the tree was there. Is there an effective herbicide we can use to get rid of the residual sprouts/root system?

ANSWER:

This is a common problem when a tree is taken down. Those sprouts represent the attempt by the tree to survive. You have taken away all the leaves that formerly provided food to the rest of the tree. But, the root is still alive, and it is putting out those little sprouts from the existing roots. They are functioning as small branches and leaves to keep the root alive. The first thing we would suggest is to mow that area, with the mower pretty low. If you keep this up long enough, eventually the original roots will starve. More directly, if the trunk is still where you can cut some more of it off, you can use a disposable sponge brush to paint the freshly cut surface with a wide spectrum herbicide. It has to be painted within 5 minutes, because the tree will be hastily trying to seal that cut to protect it. The herbicide should then be absorbed into the roots and at least begin to slow them down. The process will probably have to be repeated, and you still need to stay after the sprouts or suckers in the lawn. Be very careful with the herbicide, don't spill any on the ground and don't spray. You will end up killing things you didn't want to.
 

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