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?

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
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

Thursday - April 08, 2010

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Transplants
Title: Peeling bark on red oak in Plano, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a red oak that was planted 2 years ago. The trunk is approx. 5 in around. The bark around the bottom of the trunk is peeling off. At first we thought it was rabbits so we put some rabbit guard around the tree. The bark is turning a blackish color in that area and seems to be getting deeper the more the bark falls off. It sets in a lower part of the yard which will hold water when it rains a lot. Could this be water rot?

ANSWER:

First, let's figure out which "red oak" we are talking about. Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak) is the only one actually called "red," but it is not native to Texas. There are six oaks listed in our Native Plant Database as being native to Texas and having "red oak" as one of their common names: Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak), Quercus falcata (southern red oak), Quercus gravesii (Chisos red oak), Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak),  Quercus texana. (Texas red oak) and Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak). Of these, Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak), Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak), Quercus texana (Texas red oak) and Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak) are the four "red oaks" considered by the Texas Oak Wilt  Information Partnership to be most susceptible to Oak Wilt. This is not to say we think that's your problem, we just want to narrow down the choices. A retailer can call a tree anything he wants to, so we will just pick one and use it as an example. Since this USDA Plant Profile shows it growing squarely in Plano, Collin County, we will use Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak) as our example. 

From the Dirt Doctor (Howard Garrett) we extracted this information from a site on the Shumard Oak: "Red oaks can’t stand wet feet. Poorly drained soil causes root disease, illness or death. Red oak are highly susceptible to oak wilt. Occasionally red oaks are bothered by scale, borers and other insect pests but that is always a symptom and related to a bigger problem of an environmental nature.  Another cause of problems is mistakenly buying pin oaks or crossbred trees."

It looks like that is the best guess on what is causing the problems on the bottom of your tree. You planted it during a very dry period in Texas, and it is now a very wet period, especially in North Central Texas. An innocuous low spot before is now a puddle. As pointed out above, this problem in the tree's environment can make it that much more susceptible to other diseases and insect problems, most particularly fungi.

If you want to spend the time and effort, you might try transplanting the tree to a better spot. If you are going to do this, you need to do so right away, before it gets any hotter. We ordinarily recommend transplanting woody plants, shrubs and trees, in Fall or late Winter when they are more or less dormant. You can't very well wait that long. We found an excellent website from About.com: Landscaping on Transplanting Trees and Shrubs.  Pay particular attention to their instructions about selecting the spot-a sunny area and, of course, not low where water will stand. Also, as recommended, get the new hole dug and ready for the tree before you dig it out of the ground or disturb it, and get it back in the ground in its new home right away. 

We do not guarantee that the tree will have been worth the effort. It may die, no matter what happens. Or, it might get well and do fine if you don't do a thing, but we don't think so. We suggest that you contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office for Collin County, and see if they have any other suggestions. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus buckleyi

Quercus shumardii

Quercus texana

Quercus marilandica

 

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Spots on just-emerging Zexmenia in Austin
April 02, 2010 - My zexmenia is just coming up from the ground after a cold winter in Austin. The leaves are all spotted with tiny holes as if something is munching on them before they even leave the ground or just as...
view the full question and answer

Cause of yellowing buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
June 07, 2008 - We are getting large yellow areas in our buffalo grass lawn and think this is probably due to grub worms. Are grub worms the likely culprit and if so, what is the best way to get rid of them? We don...
view the full question and answer

Vascular wilt in Rhus virens
June 22, 2007 - Hi Smarty: Our evergreen sumac grew beautifully this spring (it is about 2 years old -- we got it at the LBJ Wildflower Center plant sale). Then its leaves suddenly drooped last month (May) and turn...
view the full question and answer

Wilting stems on beautyberry in Georgetown, TX
August 16, 2009 - Last summer I discovered that a 4-year old beautyberry had one (of many) stems that died. Leaves on this single stem wilted and dried up. This year the same happened to two or three stems. The rest of...
view the full question and answer

Suffering Yaupon in Austin
July 14, 2012 - I am in the Austin area and I planted a Pride of Houston Yaupon in my back yard in March. It is in full sun. Lately the leaves have been turning pale green and now they fall off the tree upon touchi...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center