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
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

Chlorotic leaves on yaupon in Austin
April 04, 2011 - My yaupon holly looks chlorotic, it is 7 years old, I do not feed it, just a little seaweed occasionally. I am a totally organic gardener.
view the full question and answer

Oak tree with browning leaves in Brenham TX
August 16, 2011 - I have a large oak tree in my small back yard. I also have a sprinkler so the tree has been receiving some water. Nevertheless, some of the leaves are turning brown in patches. Would drip watering ...
view the full question and answer

Fasciated Texas mountain laurel
November 05, 2013 - I've noticed some strange things hanging off some of the purple mountain laurels in my area. They hang low, and look almost like large, dangling trumpet flowers, but are flat, and have little bumps o...
view the full question and answer

Fasciation on Texas Mountain Laurel
November 21, 2012 - Do Texas Mountain Laurel normally have a staghorn looking growth hanging on them after blooming in addition to the seed pod clusters or could this be a mutation?
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping on evergreen sumac in San Antonio
January 11, 2012 - I have a large evergreen sumac in my back yard that started off as a small shrub 10 years ago. This summer the leaves turned red and now have dropped off. Is the plant dead? It sent out two smaller pl...
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