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
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

Offer to send Bumelia to Kansas from Central Texas.
April 02, 2010 - If you send my email to the person who wanted the Bumelia lanuginosa (synonym: Sideroxylon langinosum), I will dig some for him/her.
view the full question and answer

Oak roots damaged by ax from Austin
July 03, 2013 - Hello. I am attempting to create my own tiny copy of the Wildflower Center within my yard. I'm using all native, drought tolerant plants. My front yard is full of live oaks. I used a sod cutter la...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of fern-like tree in Tennessee/North Carolina
June 17, 2011 - Was on my way to Hilton Head and noticed near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, there was a tree standing about 4 feet tall. Thin straight trunk and at the very top was fern looking foliage...
view the full question and answer

Viability of Desert Willow in clay soil in Fredericksburg, TX
November 25, 2005 - I have recently purchased a house in a new subdivision in Fredericksburg, TX. The lot was not landscaped. I have a small lot (85 X 135), my back yard is about 50 X 85. The soil is a heavy clay. I am c...
view the full question and answer

Stressed live oaks from Lakeway TX
August 19, 2013 - I have some Live Oaks who appear to be stressed (Ball Moss is becoming very prevalent on some of them) during the drought in Central TX. How often and how long should I water them? Thank you very much...
view the full question and answer

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