Explore Plants

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
    
 

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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - August 25, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Theory for live oak shoots from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

More on preventing suckers from coming up around live oaks in Austin. I too have been puzzled - why some live oaks have shoots, and not others. Posting here says different varieties have suckers. A friend gave me "an" answer I like, but would like verified by experts. If the "shoulder", "flare", or wider part where the trunk meets the roots is exposed, then few shoots. If the "shoulder" is buried with too much soil, then many shoots. True?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is not the "see-all, knows-all, tells-all" expert on all things plants but we do try to find expert information to pass on to our readers. We are, in short, conduits of information, not sources. Apparently you have already been following our answers on live oak suckers/sprouts/words we don't repeat, so you know our basic response to these questions, but will add a link to previous answers for others. We can't verify the answer you heard about. When we tried, again, by searching the Internet, we got a lot of forums, which feature personal experience or opinion by other gardeners, and often find ourselves there, too. So, rather than go to a forum for personal experience, please consider our theory on this very common problem.

We understand the area of the tree you are referring to; one of our frequently used answers to why a tree puts up suckers is that the tree has been damaged in some way, and the suckers are auxiliary locations for leaves, which manufacture food for the main plant. There is a very good possiblity that dirt too high on the base of the tree can be damaging to that tree. We always recommend that dirt or mulch not be piled up against a tree trunk as it can lead to insects or fungi moving in on the tree. If we had a live oak with that kind of "dirt pile," we would remove it just for the health of the tree. Whether or not that would reduce the production of suckers we simply don't know.

Notice in the illustrations we have provided below that there are several trees growing together, in the wild. These represent a motte, a common way that live oaks grow in the wild. The suckers that come up and survive grow into smaller trees. Often there are very large mottes, which are attractive from a distance but too much for a residential location, and sometimes lead to the spread of Oak Wilt via the proximity of roots from other, infected, roots.

Killing oak sprouts

 

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Trees Questions

Treatment of black mildew on magnolia
April 17, 2008 - I think my magnolia has black mildew. How do I treat it?
view the full question and answer

Native trees as alternatives to Japanese Red Maple
October 24, 2007 - Where can I find some Japanese Red Maples to collect seed?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for Pflugerville, TX in blackland soil
March 21, 2008 - Mr. S-P, I'm perusing the plant sale list for a couple of tall shrubs to plant on the sunny southwest side of my house, in Blackland soil. It is generally dry there because of the sun, but can ge...
view the full question and answer

Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
September 14, 2012 - The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for ov...
view the full question and answer

Oaks at Wildflower Center from Wimberley TX
September 05, 2012 - I know you have numerous Quercus fusiformis examples at the ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. My question is, do you also have Quercus virginiana growing there? Also, is Oak Wilt a disease that ...
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.