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Mr. Smarty Plants - Oak Selection in Austin

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Saturday - September 11, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Oak Selection in Austin
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

The City of Austin is offering me two free trees to plant in my front yard. I live on the limestone shelf that is Northwest Austin, with only a few inches of topsoil that was brought in by the home builder way back when. I have some Live Oak growing on the back of my lot so I am confident these would grow. However, my husband likes the look of the Chinquapin Oak so my question is, would the Chinquapin Oak have a likelihood of success given my growing conditions or should I stick with the Live Oak? Thank you for your advice.

ANSWER:

You have the lucky opportunity to choose between two outstanding trees. Both Quercus muehlenbergii (Chinkapin oak) and Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak) are native to central Texas and do well in the Austin area.

However, anyone considering planting oak trees should know the facts about oak wilt. Oak wilt is one of the most destructive tree diseases in the United States. It is killing oak trees in central Texas at epidemic proportions. Oak wilt is an infectious disease caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum, which invades and disables the water-conducting system in susceptible trees. Much more information can be found at this link:  Texas oak wilt information partnership.

Generally speaking, the red oaks, including Spanish oaks, Texas red oaks, Shumard oaks and blackjack oaks, are most susceptible to oak wilt. The white oaks, including Q. muehlenbergii are resistant to the fungus and rarely die from oak wilt. The live oaks are intermediate in susceptibility to oak wilt, but are most seriously affected due to their tendency to grow from root sprouts and form vast interconnected root systems that allow movement (or spread) of the fungus between adjacent trees.

Considering the relative susceptibilty between live oaks and Chinquapin oaks and, considering that you already have live oaks growing on your property, it would seem that planting the Chinquapin oak would be the best choice. Hopefully, you'll never have an oak wilt problem, but if you do, the Chinquapin will give you a better chance of at least having one survivor.

Besides, it's just a beautiful tree.

 


Quercus muehlenbergii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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