En Español

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
1 rating

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.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Why are my Junipers turning brown in San Antonio?
May 11, 2009 - My Texas mountain cedars (junipers, I know) are turning brown, limb by limb. What is the problem and how do I save what looks like a dying tree.
view the full question and answer

Tree with blue berries in Los Angeles, CA
March 22, 2016 - There's a tree outside my house with somewhat thin and short spiky leaves with blue berries. The berries Some of the berries have a frost look and some are dark blue.
view the full question and answer

Thornless honeylocust trees for Taylor TX
September 21, 2009 - I live in Taylor, Williamson County, in central Texas and I am interested in selecting trees for my backyard. I can't really explain (it may be my Midwestern roots), but I would like to plant three t...
view the full question and answer

Tree protection during construction
February 18, 2008 - What measures can/should be taken to ensure the health, future of live oaks while building a new home? There are many small to medium oaks on this property, some very close to the house site and the o...
view the full question and answer

Red maple a casualty of Hurricane Ike in Houston
November 21, 2009 - We have a 3 year old Drummond Red Maple, between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house, that fell during Hurricane Ike. We replanted it. I recently noticed that the bark is severely cracke...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center