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

Monday - October 11, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Removing suckers from Escarpment oak in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a small but mature grove of Escarpment Live Oak in my back yard. Five years ago we removed the St. Augustine grass that grew under these oaks and since then root suckers have begun to grow around the base of the trees. The area of root suckers is gradually expanding and I would like to remove them and plant an understory of other native plants, but I have been told that removing the suckers would harm the mature trees as the suckers are providing oxygen to the roots of the grove. Is this true? Also, can removing the suckers increase the chances of oak wilt? If it is OK to remove these suckers, is there a preferred method or time of year to do this? Thanks for all your help.

ANSWER:

We really have two different areas of concern here-the suckers and the chance of oak wilt. We have had many questions about the root suckers of various trees, including oak, recently and will select a couple of those questions that apply best to where you are. We can at least relieve your mind about the tree getting oxygen from the suckers. If a tree has been injured and is dying, often it will put up suckers to provide some leaves to manufacture food for the still-alive roots beneath the ground. If you have a healthy oak, it is much better to just cut off the sucker. However, you must remember the cardinal rule about protecting oaks from Oak Wilt-don't prune anything from February to June, as that is when the insect vector for oak wilk, the nitulidid beetle, is active. So, get after those suckers now, and quit in mid-January. The first previous question we want to refer you to is discussing oak wilt, and we encourage you to follow all the links and find out all the problems you might face and where to get help.

From another previous answer, also from Austin, here are our recommendations on getting rid of the suckers:

You are probably doing the best thing in just clipping those little suckers off at the ground. They're unattractive and as time goes by, you could have a whole grove of teeny tiny live oak trees, which is probably not what you had in mind. And that could be a problem, too. In a wild, untended situation, this clonal method of reproduction could result in a grove of trees commonly referred to as a motte, with interlocked roots. Oak wilt, one of the biggest attackers of the live oak, can be spread through that root system. Prevent developing an "oak wilt center" by getting rid of those little sprouts.


 

 

More Trees Questions

Pollenless Cedar Elms for Georgetown, Texas
September 28, 2010 - I am considering planting the Cedar Elm tree at my home in Georgetown, Texas. I was under the impression that only the female of the species produces the irritating pollen. Is this true?
view the full question and answer

Killing regrowing shoots of a downed hackberry tree
June 28, 2013 - Hackberry plants won't die. You and others have suggested to cut the suckers or saplings to get rid of them. Over the years I have continued to cut the same saplings and the only thing I have now ar...
view the full question and answer

Xeriscaping in clay on a slope in Fort Worth
April 06, 2006 - Xeriscaping in clay (Fort Worth) on a slope -- Please offer suggestions and publications. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Native Texas Trees from Seed for Fence Line
July 07, 2016 - My parents have an unirrigated fence line on their property that they want to grow evergreen screening plants along. Given the difficulty of establishing nursery grown plants in such an unirrigated a...
view the full question and answer

Baby mountain laurels are ready to move, in Lockhart Texas
October 19, 2011 - I want to harvest the baby mountain laurel plants which are growing under a large bush. What height would be best for the young plants survival? Please recommend a soil mixture for the pots.
view the full question and answer

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