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Monday - April 26, 2010

From: Albany, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Failure to bud out of nuttall oak in Albany GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We planted a nutall oak in the fall of 09. It seemed to fare well during the winter. It is now spring and all of our other trees are budding out. The limbs are flexible. Not breaking off easily like the tree is alive. Yet not budding out. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

First, let's establish the Latin name for your oak. This once was Quercus nuttalli, but we discovered that is a no-longer used synonym for Quercus texana (Texas red oak). Ever so often, botanists in their infinite wisdom decide to change the names of lots of plants. Some retailers are obviously still using the name "Nuttall,' which was named "nuttalli"  in 1927 for Thomas Nuttall, a British-American botanist. So, we'll call the Nuttall oak, Quercus Texana. In spite of its new name, this USDA Plant Profile shows that it does grow in or near Dougherty County in southwest Georgia. Having established that it does belong where it is growing, we will need to look for some other reason for your tree not budding out, yet.

You didn't say what size your tree was when it was planted. Sometimes a newly planted tree will have a certain amount of transplant shock. It is working very hard to get its roots established to get nutrients and water up to the part of the tree which should be budding out. Also, southern Georgia, with most of the rest of the country, had a pretty severe winter, with surprise freezes. Again, for a newly planted tree, this could be retarding its development. Do the thumbnail test, scratching a very thin bit of the outer skin off, beginning at the top and working down. At some point, you should find a thin layer of green beneath that outer skin; if you do not, going clear down to where it emerges from the soil, the tree is probably dead. 

What do we suggest? Patience; if is still alive it will get its leaves out soon, they are needed to manufacture food through photosynthesis for the whole tree. Do not fertilize!  Native plants ordinarily don't need any fertilizer at all, and certainly don't need it shocking the roots and trying to encourage bloom from a tree still trying to keep its roots alive.

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