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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - March 11, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Need help with a misshapen Monterey Oak in Austin, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


In the Fall of 2008, I purchased a very tall Monterey Oak from TreeFolks at the Burger Center Sale. Since the wind was so high, all the tall trees were on the ground, and I guess that is why I did not notice the long bare trunk between the first set of branches and the top set. After I had it planted, I became aware of a bare area of about 3-4 feet. I decided to see what it developed after becoming establish, hoping it might put out new branches on the bare part. It has not and the new growth this year is another very long whipping stem. Although I have never believed in topping a tree, I feel this one really needs to be cut back to about 12-18 inches above the lowest branches. These branches will need to be cut off anyway and once you do, you will have a twelve foot tree bole with no branches!!! I have attached pictures so you can see what I am talking about. Please let me know what you think should be done with this tree. Thank you.


Mr. Smarty Plants is having some difficulty in visualizing your oak, so please go to the Plant Identification Page and follow the directions for submitting photos to us. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Tree topping is really low on our list of tree care techniques. I'm including these two links that will hopefully convince you that topping is not a good idea.

Plant Amnesty

Trees are Good

Another approach to your tree problem is to consult a certified arborist. These three links can help you in your search.

Evaluating and Choosing an Arborist

Web Search Tool to FInd an Arborist

Site to Learn About and FInd a Consulting Arborist



More Trees Questions

Problems with dogwood borers in TN
April 20, 2011 - What is the best way to treat native dogwoods infested with Dogwood borer insects? I have cut and removed the dead ones and the ones with large patches of bark missing but would like to save the remai...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs and trees to protect beehives in Godley TX
April 06, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Is there a (relatively) fast growing native small tree or large shrub (NOT cedar) that tolerates Johnson County clay, full sun, sometimes damp and sometimes dry soil with no...
view the full question and answer

Southern Live Oak Authority for Jackson MS
June 23, 2016 - Who are the foremost authorities on Southern Live Oaks? May need expert testimony to oppose cutting of 50 year-old live oaks in boulevard of Riverside Drive in Jackson, MS
view the full question and answer

Need help with a fungal disease in oak trees in Austin, TX
April 26, 2012 - Two adjacent oak trees in my yard are showing distinct symptoms of Sudden Oak Death. Most notably, the lowest ten feet of their trunks have several bleeding cankers with thick, tarry ooze and no accom...
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of catalpa wood?
June 05, 2012 - Is the sawdust from cutting up a catalpa tree or the smoke from burning the wood toxic? Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center