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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - September 20, 2012

From: Torrance, CA
Region: California
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Speed of growth of quercus agrifolia from Torrance CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted a quercus agrifolia in my front yard about 2 years ago without considering its ultimate size (it's about 10 feet from the sidewalk and 10 feet from our house). The tree is growing really fast, which is neat to see, but now I'm wondering if I should remove it before it becomes a problem. I'm 43 so maybe it won't realistically get too huge until I'm long gone anyway? I'm also curious if it's normal that its branches are growing out and crawling along the ground like vines. In about 3 more feet they'll be on the sidewalk and need to be clipped, ugh. Thanks for your help!

ANSWER:

Quercus agrifolia (California live oak) is endemic to California; that is, it grows natively nowhere else. As you can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map, it does grow in Los Angeles County, so that is one consideration. We always try to check if a plant is native to where it is being grown, so we can be fairly confident that the soils and climate are right for that plant.

Follow this plant link, Quercus agrifolia (California live oak), to our webpage on this tree for more information.

You should read all of this article on the California live oak from this USDA Forest Service, which include height and width of the mature tree; especially this paragraph on root size.

"The root system consists of a deep taproot that is usually nonfunctional in large trees . Several deep main roots may tap groundwater if present within approximately 36 feet (11 m) of the soil surface . Coast live oak develops extensive horizontal root branches and surface-feeding roots. Tree roots in southwestern California are associated with mycorrhizae that aid in water uptake during the dry season. A network consisting of roots from 3 coast live oak trees and their and associated mycorrhizae covered a 50- × 13-foot (15- × 4-m) area of the soil profile that reached through weathered granite through to bedrock. Roots in clay soils were not infected with mycorrhizae."

Unfortunately, there is no doubt that 10 feet in either direction is not going to be far enough to prevent interference between the hardscape and the tree roots. It  might be feasible to transplant the tree still, but the question is, do you have someplace to transplant it to? You are still going to need a bigger space for the tree to prosper and to avoid damage to structures. Transplanting any tree is difficult and, in this situation, more so. We found a Mr. Smarty Plants previous answer on transplanting Quercus agrifolia (California live oak). We suggest you read it, and then decide if you want to move it. No matter what, if there is nowhere to put the tree, there is no point in struggling with it.

Oh, yes, and about the sprouts off the roots of your oak. You can tell we answer a lot of this kind of question because here is another previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on that very subject. And, if you remove that oak, sprouts are still going to come up out of roots in the ground. Every plant is agreed on one thing: It must survive.

 

More Trees Questions

Identification of native dogwoods in Williamson Co., TX
March 12, 2007 - Hi Mr/Mrs SmartyPlants What are the small-ish wild trees that are blooming so beautifully now? They are practically covered in pretty white blossoms. I've always called them dogwoods but in the vari...
view the full question and answer

Chilopsis linearis Bubba in Hunt TX
October 18, 2009 - I purchased 3 desert willows (label: chilopsis linearis) to create an oasis area around a fountain which is in the center of my circle drive. But I need one more. Now I can only find the "chilopsis...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in pecan tree in Garner NC
July 19, 2012 - I transplanted a pecan tree about 3 weeks ago & been watering it 3 times a day. The leaves are turning brown & crumbly before I water it. After I water it, the leaves are brown but I can scratch the t...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to my Norfolk Island Pine in Houston, TX
March 18, 2010 - Houston, Texas experienced a rare 3-day snow event this winter that allowed snow to stay on my 20 ft. Norfolk Pine, in the ground for over 10 yrs. Every branch is now brown with all dead foliage. I ha...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen for Sedona AZ
August 02, 2013 - I live In Sedona Az. A builder just built a house next to my house and the new house is ugly to look at. What plant or tree would grow fast and reach 18 foot in height fast. It can be about 5 to 6 foo...
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