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

Care of lemon cypress from Winter Springs FL
April 14, 2011 - Please send me information on care of lemon cypress plant. I have one in small container on my patio. Should I take it in the house? Send any helpful information on its care. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Privacy Trees for New Jersey
March 02, 2011 - My neighbor elevated a row of white pine between our houses at least 20 feet high leaving me with NO privacy and a row of ugly lollipops. What trees can I plant that will be fast growing and deer resi...
view the full question and answer

Plants for the Shade of a Pine Tree in Pittsburg
June 03, 2013 - I live in Pittsburgh, PA. My neighbor has a huge pine tree. Last year everything I planted on that side near the tree died. That part of the yard only gets morning sun, as the tree overshadows it. Wha...
view the full question and answer

Pecan tree dropping dead leaves
August 02, 2014 - I have a very old, tall pecan tree in my yard that has been dropping dead leaves for the last three weeks. My back yard looks like it is the Fall season. Do you have any insight on this?
view the full question and answer

Selection of trees for new home
June 30, 2008 - We are moving to Roanoke, Texas(Denton County) into a new home. Our home will have 3 trees which we can choose. They are Texas Ash, Live Oak, Sweetgum, Silver Leak maple, Cedar Elm and Bradford Pear...
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
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center