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
3 ratings

Tuesday - May 18, 2010

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Problems with Shumard oak in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello. I live in San Antonio and Have a question about a Shumard Red Oak. It's growing at an average pace, seems a little more vigorous this year. It's a nice tree with great fall colors. HOWEVER, when winter comes around the leaves that are supposed to drop never do until Mid February. It looks like the tree is dead in December through February but the leaves are firmly on the tree. When one is removed you see sap. Again, it keeps the brown leaves until February, Drops the leaves and within two weeks begins budding - with twice the amount of foliage. I notice another tree down the street from me does the same. Is this normal? I have three Texas red oaks that don't do this.

ANSWER:

We understand that there is some confusion about the classification of the Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak), in that it is sometimes another species of the genus Quercus sold as a Shumard Oak, a hybrid or just mistaken identification. What you are seeing is ordinarily what a live oak would do, except that the live oaks' leaves usually remain green until they drop, all at once, in early Spring. 

From our Native Plant Database webpage on the Shumard Oak:

"Shumard oak is what can only be called a botanists species, usually unrecognized by lumberman and layman, but an object of triumphant discovery to the botanical fraternity."

This USDA Plant Profile shows the Shumard Oak as being native to near Bexar County.  We think this may be a problem of mistaken identity. Very broadly speaking, an acorn of this tree gathered from east of I-35 needs acidic soil to thrive. An acorn from west of I-35 needs alkaline soil.  One writer even recommended that you know whether the seed for a Shumard Oak was gathered from acidic or alkaline soil. If it was gathered from acid soil but grown in alkaline soil, it would tend to be chlorotic with pale and/or discolored leaves. 

So, the plot thickens. This tree very easily hybridizes with other oak species, mostly native to acidic soils, such as East Texas. These trees include Quercus palustris (pin oak), Quercus falcata (southern red oak), Quercus phellos (willow oak), Quercus nigra (water oak) and Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak). And where does San Antonio sit? Right on top of I-35, so this is definitely a tree with a confused background. The Shumard Oak is considered a red oak, and is susceptible to Oak Wilt. When you look at the leaves and the growth habit of the trees this one likes to pair up with, it is no surprise that the tree you have does not act like you would expect it to.

Many tree retailers sell plants they have taken from wholesalers, and have no idea of the origin or even the true name of the tree. "Shumard Oak" could just as easily be a trade name, attractive to buyers, as a true species name. We can't see that it makes a whole lot of difference at this point. If your tree is growing well and doing what you want it to do, we would suggest you not worry about exactly what part of its mixed parentage has contributed that late deciduousness of the Shumard. We are going to try to find you close-up pictures of the leaves from each of these trees.

Quercus palustris (pin oak) - pictures from Google

Quercus nigra (water oak) - pictures from Google

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus shumardii

Quercus falcata

Quercus phellos

Quercus marilandica

 

 

 

More Propagation Questions

Student wants pointers to increase germination rate of Salvia farinacea in Lubbock, Texas
October 06, 2010 - I am a student at Texas Tech, studying environmental horticulture. I have been doing research on Salvia farinacea as well as a number of other natives. I've just been assigned a project to increase t...
view the full question and answer

Edibility of non-native garlic sprouts from Brancburg, NJ
March 12, 2013 - I have regular garlic in my refrigerator. It had sprouts growing out of it so I put it in a cup of water. Now that the stems are large enough to put in food, my question is.. Is that part of the garl...
view the full question and answer

Cultivation of Gossypium hirsutum, Upland Cotton
February 08, 2006 - I got a cotton boll (seeds and all) at a spinning workshop. I spun the cotton and the lady who brought the cotton boles said the seeds could be planted and the plant could be grown in a container on ...
view the full question and answer

Planting yucca seeds in Illinois
August 17, 2008 - My neighbor gave me a few pods (5) off of her Yucca plant which have lost its bloom for the year, how do I transplant them, in the ground or root them in water first?
view the full question and answer

Growing native trees from seeds
March 25, 2011 - I'm trying to let large empty sections of my property revert back to woods by means of natural seeding. I have existing White Oaks, Water Oaks, Yaupon Hollies, Sweet Gums, Loblolly Pines, American E...
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