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Wednesday - December 07, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Due to drought is pruning live oaks beneficial from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Would it be beneficial (presuming a continued spring drought) to prune live oak trees more severely than usual this winter? I'm thinking that it might help them to have less mass to support.


Everyone, it seems, has a different opinion on this, but we will throw our opinion out, too. We probably need to operate on the premise that our rain totals will go down and our heat levels will go up in the near future, and to plan our gardens accordingly.

We usually advise seeking professional help in pruning, especially when the tree is large. Of course, most arborists are likely to advise that the tree surely needs pruning, but we hope that with our guidelines in your mind that you can avoid being talked into something unnecessary, expensive and/or possibly damaging to the tree. Don't get us wrong, most tree specialists are competent and ethical; it's a big job and requires special training and equipment. Just don't let someone who knocks on your door and says "we were just in the area and saw your trees and...." do anything to your trees, probably the most valuable part of your landscaping.

In your area of southeast Texas, it is likely that you have Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak), although there are a number of oaks growing around there. In Central Texas, where the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is located. we are more likely to have Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak) but, again, good pruning practices are going to apply.

From the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories Plant Health Care Program, we found this article on Live Oaks in Texas. Read it all and we will just throw in our comments in addition.

First, and possibly foremost, you must be aware of precautions to take to prevent the attack of Oak Wilt. Live Oaks are the most threatened of all the oaks by it, and there is no cure. While it is not yet the threat in your area that it is in Central Texas, it's out there and prevention of its spread is vital. Please read this website from the Texas Oak Wilt Partnership, in which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an active partner. Please pay attention to their advice on when to prune (December to early February) and pruning paint (paint the stub from the removal of any branch bigger around than your thumb with pruning paint.) Avoid any wounds to the tree any time of the year. Any sap leaking from a wound will attract the nitulidid beetle, which may be carrying the fungus causing Oak Wilt on his body from the last time he had a bite to eat.


From the Image Gallery

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

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