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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - April 30, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Is it live oak sprouts or parasites from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

You must get tired of questions about "Live Oak sprouts." I just read your recent Q&A about this. But I'm getting mixed info about whether the "sprouts" are actually Live Oak growth of some sort or a parasite. The leaves are very different than Live Oak leaves which seems to support the parasite theory. Can you clarify please? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Trust us, we know what you are saying. We had one question saying they had holly sprouts all around their live oak. Except there were no holly bushes around, but the leaves on the sprouts looked like holly leaves. We can't swear they were oak sprouts because we weren't there, but our strong suspicion is that they were. Even identifying a full grown tree from its leaves is not always easy. They can take different shapes and/or appearances at different stages of their development, under different environmental conditions, at varying times of the year, even depending on the amount of sun or water that is reaching that part of the tree. Other than mistletoe, which exists in the upper branches of trees, we know of no parasitic plant that infests oak trees. If they are under an oak tree, and radiating out from it, you can be pretty sure that they are sprouts of the tree. If you want more concrete proof, dig down around that sprout and pretty soon you will come to a bigger root, from which the sprout grows. Bingo, you have found the origin, which is one of the main roots of the oak.

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants Question:

"Sorry, but the only safe way to get rid of those sprouts is to cut them off. You can dig down and cut them off below ground. They will still return but it will take them a little longer to come back out again than if you cut them off at or above the surface. Any sort of herbicide you might use will affect the growth of the parent tree and I'm sure you don't want that to happen. According to John Begnaud, horticulturist, writing in Go San Angelo:

'To date, there are no repellants, hormones or chemical sprays that reliably suppress or remove these suckers without harming the mother trees. Hand grubbing or deeproot pruning can reduce these suckers for a few years at best and then they will return.'

You can read the answer to a previous question concerning the problem of live oak sprouts."

 

 

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