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
8 ratings

Sunday - August 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: More on preventing suckers on live oaks in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just received an oak sprout answer id=6021. I have a followup question. Our sprouts are caused by the motte we live in - 12 live oaks on 1/4 acre. I understand we will have to hand dig 1000s of them :( Once we've gotten the current crop removed what we can do to stop or at least reduce it recurring? The answer is unclear whether preventing the leaves will work for motte (vs acorn) sprouts.

ANSWER:

Sigh. That's the problem with answering questions with "no, it can't be done." They come right back wanting a different answer. So, we went back to the Internet and searched on "preventing suckers on live oaks" and guess what we got? One of our own previous answers from 3 years ago, saying basically the same thing we did on this one.

So, we continued to search the Internet for the magic potion that solves this problem without work, and found an article from the Bryan-College Station Eagle, written by Neil Sperry. To quote the relevant portion of that article:

"Use sharpshooter spade to battle live oak suckers

Dear Neil: What can I do to get rid of live oak suckers that are coming up by the hundreds beneath my tree?

A: That's a fault of probably 10 or 15 percent of our live oaks. They vary genetically, and those sprouts are tethered to "mama." Your best bet is to use a sharpshooter spade and angle your cut so that you remove the sprout and as much of its small trunk as you can. You might consider laying a solid vinyl root barrier such as pond liner down over the area after you have removed them, then putting some type of decorative river rock or other heavy mulch to conceal it. Try it on a small area to see how well it works for you. Short of replacing the tree, there just isn't much more you can do."

Frankly, we wouldn't be too thrilled with putting a pond liner over the roots of your trees, because those roots need oxygen and water, too, but maybe it's worth a try. According to Mr. Sperry, it is apparently the variety of live oak that you have that is to blame, which we hadn't heard before, but it makes sense. As we said in the first reply, you can rake up and remove acorns as soon as they fall to avoid the seedlings, but we know of nothing and could find nothing in our research that will inhibit the suckers without harming the tree. As for preventing the leaves, if you remove the sucker so it doesn't create leaves to nourish itself, new suckers will have to continue to depend on the original tree root (which is the sucker's root, too) for nourishment. 

Moral: Having live oaks in Texas is wonderful, but not without price.

 

 

More Trees Questions

What plants grow well in Athens, TX?
January 18, 2011 - Athens, Texas, we have very sandy soil mixed with clay, what plants grow well here?
view the full question and answer

Small flowering tree for cemetery in TX
November 07, 2010 - I am looking for a native large shrub or small tree to plant at a cemetery in Pflugerville, TX, preferable something with flowers. I need something that won't have a large root system that would dis...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestion for a tree with a tap root in Oklahoma City, OK.
October 27, 2012 - I would like to know the best tree to plant in my area that does well. Would like a tap root tree and also a tree that will not mess with my septic lines. Thank you
view the full question and answer

Non-native Japanese maple for East Northport NY
August 20, 2013 - I live in NY and I am looking to plant a Japanese maple in front of my house. It would be in front of a window so I'm thinking should I get a dwarf? Or a semi dwarf? I know I want a red color but un...
view the full question and answer

What is causing leaf drop on oak in Morgan Hill CA?
June 23, 2010 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants: We have a large, young Valley Oak (about 20 yrs) which is dropping leaves even now in early summer. I have a feeling that the problem might be an invasive weed that is flourishi...
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