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Mr. Smarty Plants - Adventitious sprouts from Live Oak in Dallas

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Saturday - February 26, 2011

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Trees
Title: Adventitious sprouts from Live Oak in Dallas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do I kill Holly growing in my yard? I have a Live Oak tree growing in my Bermuda grass lawn. The holly grows under the tree from the trunk extending out about 12-15 ft. It grows right in with the Bermuda grass. I have other Live Oaks in my yard with Bermuda underneath but only this one has the problem. I have fought this problem for at least 4 years but I remember when there was only grass under this tree. I have used broadleaf weed killer on it and it turned brown, but new sprouts spring back up.I tried pulling up each stalk last spring but it grew back in within a couple of weeks.I think it is a holly leaf but it looks somewhat like the leaves on the Live Oak tree. I believe that it grows off of runners that are just an inch or two under the turf. I also believe these runners are grafted to the tree. I believe they run underground to the trunk and then run under the bark of the tree. Any information would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Gardener, spare that tree! The sprouts you are seeing are almost surely from the Live Oak. When you sprayed broadleaf herbicide on those sprouts, did you not think that the Live Oak is a broadleaf, too? This is a very common growth habit of live oaks. Out in the wild, you will see them in clusters, called a motte, in which a lot of oaks are growing close together. Those sprouts you see are connected to the main roots of the tree. Trees have a vascular system, by which water is transported up from the roots to the rest of the tree. Herbicides don't have to be sprayed directly onto leaves or the top of a plant to damage that plant, the poisons can be transported by water into the circulation system of the tree. And, using a spray means the particles are drifting in the air, able to go somewhere close and kill something else you didn't want killed.

First, hide that can of spray from yourself. Second, using a long-handled pruning clipper, get the blades down into the soil as far as you can and clip off the sprout. If you find a sprout you can pull out, it is probably the result of an acorn which, being the seed of the oak tree, has sprouted. Third, repeat Steps One and Two.

If a sprout is bigger around than your thumb, you need to paint it with pruning paint. There is a lot of concern about the spread of Oak Wilt in Texas, and there is a Dallas office in the Oak Wilt Information Partnership. Please follow that link and find out about the threat to Live Oaks, and how to protect that tree. Be very careful not to damage the bark of the tree, as with a lawnmower or a string trimmer, and do no pruning except the coldest part of the winter and the warmest part of the summer. Those times are when the nitidulid beetle, the carrier of oak wilt, is not active.

 

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