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
Not Yet Rated

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

More Trees Questions

Wax myrtles dying in Alexander City AL
October 26, 2010 - I have a difficult problem with my wax myrtle plants dying. I have 36 Wax Myrtle bushes, approximately 10 feet high and they are dying, one at a time. They look fine and then within a week the lea...
view the full question and answer

Will Texas Mountain Laurel roots damage pipes in Tucson AZ?
May 20, 2010 - We have a Texas Laurel tree in our back yard,and it is doing fine, and we are are planning to put another one in the front yard close to the house will the root system attack our pipes ? no septic sys...
view the full question and answer

Information about Lemon Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)
December 16, 2007 - Lately, I've been seeing references to a tree/shrub called a "lemon cypress tree". It looks like a standard Italian cypress, but the foilage is yellow. I cannot find any reference to this plant e...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Arizona Ash from Naco AZ
May 19, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smarty.. Live in southeast corner of Az. My Az. Ash is diseased. Just noticed leaves are curled, (still green) and when I open the leaf it has a zillion little white, what look like mites ...
view the full question and answer

What to do with a sickly American elm in Austin, Texas
September 27, 2010 - I have an American elm that is about 6 feet tall in my yard. It is has not grown quickly this year--as compared to another American Elm that I have in another spot that is about 3 feet tall and has m...
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