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Monday - April 11, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Can a bur oak fit in a small space in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We recently got a one-gallon pot of Bur Oak. The area around our house has two old live oaks on the NW corner and another large live oak on the SE. There isn't much room on the SW corner for the oak because of some hedge plants and a 3-feet tall loquat. Could I plant the Bur Oak between two houses (its open about 10 feet deep and maybe 60 feet long) on the Northern side? Is the depth enough room for the Bur Oak to grow long term? regards

ANSWER:

A one-gallon Quercus macrocarpa (Bur oak) is a cute, itty-bitty plant. A full grown Bur oak, not so much. To quote from the first paragraph from our webpage on this plant (follow the plant link to read the whole page):

"Bur oak is a large, deciduous tree with a very wide, open crown. Usually wider than tall, the tree can exceed 100 ft. in height and width."

You also need to understand that the roots of an oak will extend up to 3 times the circumference of the upper oak. If an oak can grow to 100 ft. in height and is usually wider than it's tall, what does that tell you about the roots in the 10-ft. depth area? The tree will soon be wider than even the 60-ft.. depth before the tree is fully mature. The branches will interfere with the houses on both sides, and have to be constantly heavily pruned, the roots will quickly be in the foundations of both houses, and the tree will allow very little to grow under it.

Don't get us wrong. We love the Bur oak, especially its gorgeous huge acorns, but you asked us about the possibiliity of planting it in a constricted space, and you can see we don't recommend it. It's all very well to say you will no longer live there when the tree gets that big, but that is not real stewardship of the land, the resources and the tree. It will have to be cut down and the roots ground out at some expense and inconvenience, long before it reaches full size.

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