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?


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

Sunday - August 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Live oak sprouts in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


How can I control the hundreds of live oak sprouts our lovely trees are throwing off? We recently landscaped with rain gardens and the related drainage ditches; they are filled with these very happy sprouts.


The sprouts coming up could either be suckers off the roots of your existing live oaks, or seedlings from a very good crop of acorns. Either way, they need to be physically removed, by pulling them out. If the terrain permits, you could try mowing very low. If you deny the roots of acorn seedlings the ability to produce leaves long enough, the roots (and the seedling) will starve.

Suckers from the roots are another thing altogether. One of the big problems with live oaks in Central Texas is Oak Wilt. One of the ways live oaks grow is in mottes, or clusters, caused by uncontrolled suckering off the parent tree(s). As these clusters develop, their roots are intertwined; an introduction of the fungus causing Oak Wilt then becomes widespread as it travels through all those roots. Any herbicide you use can easily affect the parent tree, which you certainly don't want to do.

If what you have is mostly seedlings, raking up and removing the acorns in the Fall is the first, best thing to do to prevent more. The next is to be vigilant and pull up any sprout you see-it may be a sucker, it may be a seedling, but either way, pulling out and not permitting it to develop leaves will help eliminate the problem. We realize you probably would like us to recommend a spray you can purchase at the local nursery that will disable the sprouts and harm nothing else. We would love to do that, too, but there isn't one. 


More Problem Plants Questions

Identification of vine with hair-like prickles
January 04, 2013 - Trying to find out what kind of vine I ran into yesterday while climbing a deer stand. While pushing limbs and vines down from around me, I noticed hair-like thorns stuck in my sleeves and hands. This...
view the full question and answer

How to eliminate roadside thistles
May 26, 2015 - When we drive along the highway we see lots of wildflowers and no thistles in the median. How does the Highway Department keep the thistles out? Here in Kerrville, we are overwhelmed by thistles thi...
view the full question and answer

Problem with Pterocaulon pycnostachyum
September 17, 2014 - I have a solitary Pterocaulon pycnostachyum in my wildscape; it invited itself. Some years it does not flower at all (or the bloom is eaten before I see it), and its stalks (usually 4) are not ...
view the full question and answer

Controlling Devil's Bit in Collin County, TX
June 05, 2015 - I live in Collin County and our pasture has a growing section of Devils Bit taking over everything. I've been using 2,4-D on it with some success. What is the best method of control for this ...
view the full question and answer

Controlling Cocculus carolinus vines
August 04, 2015 - I live in Oklahoma City and want to rid my yard and flowerbeds of Cocculus Carolinus vines, I already have a infestation, I cant count the number of vines that were already established before I found ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center