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

Friday - July 30, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Dying Bigelow oaks in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have several stands of Bigelow Oak (Q.sinuata var. breviloba) in NW Austin mixed with Yaupon and Cedar Elms. Several have died each year for the past 8 years. Two now have brown, dry leaves which is the first sign I notice of a problem. How do I stop more from dying and find out the cause?

ANSWER:

There is no doubt you have, and have had, serious ongoing problems with your Quercus sinuata var. breviloba (bastard oak). We have looked at your question several times, wondering exactly how to approach it. We are not plant pathologists, and even if we could see the trees and had an exact history of when they died and all the symptoms around their deaths, we would not be able to give you a diagnosis or treatment, if there is one.

The first thing we think of when someone mentions problems with oak is Oak Wilt Disease, which has been the scourge of red oaks and live oaks in Central Texas for some time. Please go to this site from the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership, of which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an active partner. A specific section of that site is on identifying oak wilt

The problem for us in trying to decide what your problem might be is that the Bigelow Oak is a white oak; while they can contract oak wilt disease, they are not very susceptible to it and seldom die from it.  However, like live oaks, which are very susceptible, your oaks grow in clumps, which makes transmission of disease via connected roots a large problem.

Another possibility is what is called "oak wilt decline." From the University of Tennessee Extension we found this article on Oak Wilt Decline.  We suggest you read it also, although both diseases have many similar symptoms. 

Obviously, we cannot give you a definitive answer. You need a certified arborist to actually look at your trees, try to diagnose the problem, and suggest what you might be able to do to alleviate it. You are in an area where oak wilt is definitely a problem, so the best thing you can do is contact the Texas Forest Service. You are in the Austin District for that, and your contact would be:

Austin
Jim Houser
Oak Wilt Coordinator
8317 Cross Park Drive, Suite 425
Austin, TX 78754
512-339-4589
jhouser@tfs.tamu.edu

They might be able to send someone to look at your trees, or recommend an arborist who is trained in the diagnosis of diseased oak trees. We urge you to take some action right away, before you lose all your oaks, and/or see the disease transmitted to other oaks in your vicinity. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus sinuata var. breviloba

Quercus sinuata var. breviloba

Quercus sinuata var. breviloba

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Is it live oak sprouts or parasites from Austin
April 30, 2011 - You must get tired of questions about "Live Oak sprouts." I just read your recent Q&A about this. But I'm getting mixed info about whether the "sprouts" are actually Live Oak growth of some sort ...
view the full question and answer

What are the grey-green plants on oak trees in San Marcos, TX?
March 12, 2011 - The oak trees in the neighborhood in San Marcos, TX, are covered with clumps, or balls, of gray/green fluffy-looking plants. they remind me of bromeliads. You can pull and knock them off; after wind ...
view the full question and answer

Would mountain ash (Sorbus sp.) grow in Michigan?
June 01, 2009 - I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan between Cedarville (Lake Huron) and Sault Ste. Marie (Lake Superior.) We would like to plant a Mountian Ash because we love birds and they love the berries an...
view the full question and answer

Live oak trees buzzing in Taylor TX
October 20, 2012 - Is it possible for live oak trees to make a buzzing sound? We have heard this sound under our live oak and were worried it was bees but we don't seem to see any. I also heard the buzzing under my mot...
view the full question and answer

Small tree for container near pool in Houston
June 24, 2010 - Can you recommend a small tree that I can grow in a pot for shade? Looking for minimal mess because it will be near the pool. How big should the pot be?
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