Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Non-native Sago palm roots damaging house foundation from Keystone Heights FL
July 03, 2013 - Will sago palms roots hurt a house's foundation if too close?
view the full question and answer

Foundation plants unlikely to provide good shade for rattlesnakes in TX
August 28, 2011 - I would like to plant native grass around my new home in the country near Mason, TX. My concerns are the rattlesnakes that are common here, and if they could "hide" in the native grasses since they ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Ash in Cibolo TX
May 14, 2010 - I have a Texas Ash tree I planted two years ago. The tree was 10 feet high with thick foliage. This spring the leaves started falling off after I spread fertilizer on my yard. The end of the branches ...
view the full question and answer

Differences between smooth bark and rough bark Arizona cypress
March 12, 2008 - What is the difference between smooth bark Arizona Cypress and rough bark Arizona Cypress in terms of tree growth, form, foliage, etc.? Will one grow better than the other in the Waco area?
view the full question and answer

Conditions for growing Prunus mexicana
March 23, 2007 - Will a native Wild Plum do well in the Cat Spring area west of Houston. The soil is quite sandy. I was told that the plum trees attract deer.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.