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

Wednesday - May 30, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: How close can house be built to live oak from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a healthy 21" live oak tree on our lot and are planning to build a home in Circle C subdivision in southwest austin. The home foundation will be within 15' of the large live oak. Need your help assessing the following: 1. Is there a risk of moving/expanding root system causing foundation cracking in future ? What is a safe distance away from the live oak tree to build a home ? 2. Are tannins and other chemicals given out by live oak trees a problem to growing a lawn or other plants under the tree's canopy ?

ANSWER:

This is a question we get over and over, so we are going to refer you to some previous Mr. Smarty Plants Questions for some of the other answers.

No. 7884

No. 7413

No. 7427

No. 6917

No. 6844

No. 4701

Okay, we are sure you get our drift, and please don't shoot the messenger. You will have to make some hard decisions about where on your lot your house can be located, or if the tree is in danger of having to be removed to protect the house. We have given you a lot of information, but we can't make the decision for you.

In reference to Question No. 3, here is an extract from another former Mr. Smarty Plants question:

"Various studies have demonstrated that oaks can have allelopathic affects on surrounding plants. Allelopathy is the production of plant inhibiting chemicals by one plant to regulate the growth of others in its vicinity. One important group of chemicals produced by oaks is tannins. They are produced in leaves and litter and also directly by root systems in soil. Tannins are inhibitory to many organisms. Salicylic acid and other organic acids are also produced by oaks and are toxic to other plants. Allelopathy is species specific for the oak in question and the species that is inhibited."

In other words, it depends on which plant and which oak, and we don't have lists of plants that will grow under specific species of oak."

And then, of course, there is the shade cast by a healthy live oak, which also affects negatively the growth of plants beneath it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Trees Questions

Natural privacy hedge for Kyle Texas
January 06, 2014 - I am looking to make a natural privacy screen in the Kyle Texas area. I am being pointed towards Leyland Cypress by some and told to shy away from this tree by others. I found Green Giant Arborvitae a...
view the full question and answer

Safe branch length of oaks in Clayton NC
November 06, 2011 - I have 2 very large oak trees in my yard and I am concerned about the length of the branches over the house and driveway. Most seem larger than 4" in diameter. What is a safe length for these branc...
view the full question and answer

Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
December 16, 2010 - What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & gre...
view the full question and answer

Need help with a misshapen Monterey Oak in Austin, TX
March 11, 2010 - In the Fall of 2008, I purchased a very tall Monterey Oak from TreeFolks at the Burger Center Sale. Since the wind was so high, all the tall trees were on the ground, and I guess that is why I did no...
view the full question and answer

Florida law on removing orange trees
March 24, 2007 - I live in a co-op mobile home park with a board of directors that tell me that if I have to cut down my orange tree that Florida law says that I have to replace it with another orange tree. I say 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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center