En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - August 02, 2011

From: Del Rio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Dormancy in Pin Oaks without water in Del Rio, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Can Pin Oak trees go dormant without enough water? If so how long can they live that way? Can they be brought back to producing leaves? If yes, then what do I need to do besides giving them water. I don't wont to cut them down if they have a chance of coming back. Thank you for your help! :)

ANSWER:

The short answer is yes, but they can also die without enough water.

But first, lets learn more about Pin Oaks Quercus palustris (Pin oak) . Clicking on this link takes us to its NPIN page, where we find that it is  a handsome lawn tree with shallow fibrous roots and high water use. Next, scroll down the page to the Additional Resources Box and click on the plant name beside USDA. This brings up the USDA Plants Profile page with a Distribution Map that indicates that Pin Oaks do not occur naturally in Texas. So we seem to have a tree in the wrong place, and perhaps, running out of time.

Plant dormancy is a survival strategy (see link)  that allows plants to live through unfavorable conditions. We most often think of it in the Fall where a series of programed processes take place that get the plant  ready for the freezing weather of winter. The most obvious results are the change of color of the leaves before they fall from the tree. The changing of the length of days and nights seems to be the environmental cue that triggers these changes.

Drought can also trigger dormancy as a result of stress on the plant due to a lack of water. One of the important processes that is going on in the leaves of the plant is photosynthesis which absolutely requires water. When water is scarce, the plant attempts to conserve water, and this can happen in at least three ways: the leaves can wilt, they can turn brown, or they can fall off. All of these shut down photosynthesis which reduces the demand on the roots for water.

What is the situation with your Pin Oaks? Are the leaves brown, or have they fallen off?  Before you proceed, you need to determine if the trees are still alive by applying what I call the “thumb nail test”. Locate a young thin  branch on the outer part of the tree, and scratch some of the bark off using your thumb nail. What you are looking for is green tissue. If you find some, that’s good news. If you don’t  move further down the stem and try again. Continue this until some green tissue is found. You’ll of course reach a point where the bark is too thick to scratch off with your thumb nail. If you haven’t found green tissue by this time, the prognosis is not good.

But let’s be optimistic! I’m including links to articles explaining dormancy, caring for trees in a drought situation, and watering tips to help you nurse your trees back to health.

Dormancy

   University of Alabama Extension

Tree Care

   centraltexastreecare.com

   Colorado State University

Watering

   University of Illinois





 

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Plants for a Narrow, Dry, Shaded Site in Georgia
April 03, 2014 - I am writing from Valdosta, GA. Could you please suggest three perennial shrubs and/or plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer? Also ones that can be planted in a 2 ft. wide s...
view the full question and answer

Specifications for a property in Corning CA
March 29, 2012 - Drought resistant, deer resistant, low growing (ground cover), and shade tolerant request: I am looking for a variety of species that not only fit the above preferences, but also a few other things. ...
view the full question and answer

Environmentally friendly and drought resistant alternatives to St. Augustine grass
September 28, 2006 - As a member of the planning committee of our property owners association in Wimberley TX, we are researching ways to make our landscape environmentally friendly and drought resistant. We have 60,000 ...
view the full question and answer

Drought-resistant plants for Grand Prairie, TX
March 24, 2006 - Can you tell me where I may obtain a list of drought-resistant plants for landscaping?
view the full question and answer

Native Plant for a Sunny South-facing House Wall in Tucson
March 01, 2014 - I have a problematic block wall on the south side of the house and I what a plant to soften the look of the wall. I tried butterfly bush which I'm told died from of bounce-back heat from the wall. I ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center