En Español

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
15 ratings

Thursday - February 04, 2010

From: New Braunfels, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Trees
Title: Should I use wound paint when pruning my live oak tree?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

When trimming live oak branches, is it best to coat the wound on the tree? I have been doing this but have recently heard that it can actually be bad for the tree.

ANSWER:

Once upon a time it was standard practice to treat an open wound on any tree with tree-wound dressing.  However, research showed that painting tree wounds inhibited healing and sometimes actually promoted the growth of tree pathogens by providing them with a protected place and ideal conditions to grow beneath the paint.

Today, the general consensus among arborists is to forego the use of tree-wound sealant and allow fresh wounds to remain exposed to the fresh air where they can heal naturally.

However, live oaks and many other species in the genus, Quercus are exceptions to the rule.  The freshly-cut stumps of oak limbs should always be immediately painted with tree-wound dressing as a prophylactic measure against the spread of Oak Wilt Disease.  Oak Wilt is spread by tiny wood-boring beetles that are attracted to the sap of oak trees.  Fresh wounds on oak trees draw these beetles like porch lights draw moths.  The adult beetles carry on their bodies the fungus that causes Oak Wilt Disease wherever they go and in that way spread the disease.  Be sure and use tree-wound dressing especially made for that purpose.  Regular paint often contains ingredients harmful to trees.

Timing is also important in preventing Oak Wilt Disease spread.  The disease-vectoring beetles are active only when the weather is not too hot nor too cold.  So pruning live oaks only in mid-winter and mid-summer is advised.

Please visit the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership website more information on Oak Wilt Disease, how you can protect your trees and help prevent its spread.

Finally, proper pruning technique is every bit as important to your trees' health as whether or not you use tree paint.  The US Forest Service has published an excellent on-line article called, How to Prune Trees, that you will benefit from reading.

 

More Pruning Questions

Trimming native salvias in January
January 17, 2008 - I have heard you can trim Hot Lips, Raspberry and other salvias back severely in January, to about six inches from the ground. Is this correct?
view the full question and answer

Maintenance of Bicolor Sage in Austin
February 05, 2009 - I had quite a bit of Bicolor Sage planted when my yard was landscaped. I am now wondering on the proper plant maintenance. Do I prune back and if so, how much and when do I prune?
view the full question and answer

Cutting back salvia greggii in Birmingham, AL
February 23, 2010 - When is a good time to cut back salvia gregii and how much can you cut it back. We will probably still have frost. Will it grow in sun and shade?
view the full question and answer

Fragrant foundation plants for sunny, dry area in Illinois
August 26, 2009 - We need suggestions of what to plant on the south side of our house heave sun and rather dry soil. We just took out old dead bushes. Would prefer something that flowers and smells nice that would gr...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of Grape Kool Aid Plant in California
August 03, 2008 - I have a Grape Kool Aid plant and was told it would grow to 6 or 7 feet tall, but it is well over that and I need to know if I can prune it and if so how?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center