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
1 rating

Sunday - April 25, 2010

From: Rockport, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Trees
Title: Replacing a Mexican ash with a live oak in Rockport TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in the Texas Coastal Bend (Rockport, TX). I recently lost a huge Mexican Ash, probably 45 years old. The trunk measures 11'6" at ground level, and gets progressively larger from there up. Its canopy shaded the entire back yard . . . I am devastated! Please tell me what steps I need to take to replace this tree with a large live oak. Do I remove the roots from the dead tree? . . . Will my yard sink as the root system decays? Who should I contact for help? Thank you for your help. I loved this tree!

ANSWER:

You are fortunate that your Fraxinus berlandieriana (Mexican ash), which is native to the area of Aransas County on the lower Texas Gulf Coast, lived as long as it did. All members of the Fraxinus (ash) genus are fast growing and short-lived. In fact, from our Conditions Comments on the page for the Mexican Ash in our Native Plant Database:

"This is deemed a weed tree by organizations (e.g., TX Forest and Agriculture Extension Service) because of its short life span, susceptibility to pests and disease, and habit of constantly dropping small, dead branches."

Let's begin with the problem of the roots of the ash. Yes, the roots should be removed; if you don't, they will  continue to try to send up sprouts for years, in an effort by the tree to survive. And, yes, roots left to decay in the soil will cause the earth to sink. Some experts recommend heaping dirt over the old roots to accelerate the decay, but this is going to take a while, and you will have to continue putting in fill dirt over the spot.

From the University of Minnesota Extension, we found this site on Removing Trees and Shrubs. It recommends, as do we, that you get a trained and licensed professional arborist to handle this job, including the stump grinding. And, from personal experience, we can tell you that the wood chips from the grinding make the most wonderful mulch or even can be left in the soil to compost in place.

So, now you want to know how to replace it. To begin with, replacing it with a "large" live oak probably means you are going to have to wait a few years for it to grow into "large." Oaks in general do not transplant well, they have a long taproot, possibly longer than the tree is tall. If that taproot is damaged in transplanting, the tree will eventually die.

Finally, on to the transplanting of a new tree. From Helium.com, read this article Tips for Transplanting Oak Trees. Please note: this author is talking about transplanting small oak trees; the rule of thumb we have seen on transplanting oaks is that they be no more than about 3 ft. tall.  If you really want to try a big live oak, that is, again, a job for professionals, and likely very expensive. This article from Popular Mechanics, Guide to Planting Mature Trees, should give you a good idea of the extent of this kind of project. Not a do-it-yourself project.

Our recommendation? First get rid of the tree roots; if you go with letting it decay in the ground, it will be several years. If you have the stump ground, the area should be ready for the new tree by late Fall, which is when you should transplant trees in South Texas. Make sure that any nursery stock is freshly dug, and that the roots are not wrapping around in the container, if it is in a container. And, then, be patient. 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Planters for wildflower exhibit in Jemez Springs NM
November 28, 2010 - I am planning to have a wildflower/pollinator exhibit at a visitor center located on a high elevation grassland (no trees). I would like advice on the size of the planter boxes.The area is located at...
view the full question and answer

Possible damage by invasive, non-native earthworms in compost
January 03, 2007 - I received a worm bin (vermicomposter) for Christmas. The instructions that came with the bin say to use the red wiggler worm (Eisenia foetida) and that it is okay if some of the worms go into your g...
view the full question and answer

Help with composting in Katy TX
March 19, 2010 - I've gone on line and tried to figure out what I'm doing wrong with my compost pile. What exactly is the proper ratio, and the types of plant matter and layers to achieve the optimum decomposition i...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN
August 17, 2012 - I live in central Memphis and have well-drained clay soil. I have converted much of the front yard from turf grass to beds of native plants, which survive our hot humid without supplemental watering e...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification and advice about moving it
March 10, 2010 - I have a plant (a thick stalk about 4 foot tall with yellow flowers on it) that blooms in the morning and the flowers fall off at night. I have searched for info on this plant and have come up short. ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center