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
4 ratings

Tuesday - September 27, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Trees
Title: New growth on live oaks in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My 2 10yr. old live oaks are putting out new growth (branches?) although, here in Houston, TX we are having such a drought. For the last 3 months, I have conscientiously watered my entire yard via sprinkler system every day, faithfully, to insure a green yard. Although last few wks, of course, I've had to resort to water rationing only 2 days wkly. Even now, each area of yard is watered 30 min/2 times wkly. Are the lives oaks putting out new growth due to stress, or has my daily watering done any good?

ANSWER:

By coincidence, we just answered a question on over-watering. Although it involved a different plant, we suggest you read this previous question. If you have natives to your area, which is what the Wildflower Center is all about, you have been overwatering them. We are thinking in the Houston area you probably have Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak); this USDA Plant Profile map backs up that belief.

Our answer to your question kind of depends on where the new growth is appearing. If you are getting sprouts from the ground, these are sprouts from the roots of the tree. This is a common habit of live oaks, and yes, it is often a sign of stress in the parent plant. As the tree is having difficulty supporting itself in heat and drought, it sends out sprouts from the roots, which are protected in the soil, and are the storehouse for nutrition and water for the whole tree. These sprouts are basically new "branches," creating new leaves, which are the factories for food for the tree. Then, if the upper part of the tree begins to die from the environmental factors (which can also include wounds to the tree by equipment) those tiny branches from the roots will help to sustain the tree and provide it with sustenance to regrow. These sprouts are not desirable, as some of them will survive and grow larger, forming a "motte" of small trees. This is often seen in the wild, but is too large for residential gardens. Worse, those multiple intertwining roots can be a conduit for the dreaded Oak Wilt from one tree to another.

If the branches you are asking about come from the existing upper branches and trunk of the tree, that is probably just what they are-new branches. They are usually light gray and thin. As the live oak grows it is good to pay careful attention to pruning to eliminate weak crotches in new branches to strengthen the whole tree. Remember no pruning except from about November 15 to January 15, when the Oak Wilt fungus-carrying nitiludid beetle is dormant. Pruning of any branch larger around than your thumb should be followed by painting with wound paint.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

More Trees Questions

Need recommendations for privacy screen in Richmond, VA
February 27, 2013 - Hello, I read through the previous posts on privacy screen plantings in the Mid Atlantic region. There was a lot of great information, but I has a specific question that was not answered. I would li...
view the full question and answer

Need help with pruning my Anacacho Orchid tree.
January 04, 2010 - We have an Anacacho Orchid Tree which has done so well in its location that we will need to prune it back. Please advise how much we can prune it and what time of year to do so. Thank you
view the full question and answer

Something dripping from red oak in Austin
July 30, 2012 - There is a large red oak outside my apartment. The leaves are shiny and covered with what appears to be oil. The ground underneath is coated with this also. When I parked under the tree my car beca...
view the full question and answer

Trees with non-invasive roots or tops in Newhall CA
November 07, 2011 - We would like to plant a tree with noninvasive roots near our garden wall and concrete driveway in a grassy area in the front yard facing west. This spot is very sunny in the afternoon with automatic ...
view the full question and answer

Possible reasons for non-fruiting wild plum
March 10, 2007 - My grandfather has land in Lee County with thickets of wild plum, I believe creek plum is another name. However, they never seem to produce plums while thickets nearby on the roadside less than one mi...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center