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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - March 26, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Problems with Monterrey Oak in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had a local tree service plant two Monterrey Oak trees on 4/2/2012. At the time we noticed that woodpeckers had had a field day on the trunk bark of both trees with the most damage being on the largest of the two. The largest tree's diameter about 3 feet above the ground is approximately 4 inches. We asked the tree service representative about the woodpecker damage and were told that it wasn't a problem; the trees would recover when planted, watered and established. The trees did survive (today is 3/18/2013) but the larger one has lost about 3/4 of its bark around the trunk with bare wood visible from almost the ground to the first branches (about 4-5 feet). There is a redish powder in some areas where the bark was but no sign of any bugs or bores. AND, of course, the woodpeckers are attacking the remaining bark on the other side of the trunk. I do have digital photos I can send. The question is will the tree survive ?

ANSWER:

We are sorry, we can no longer accept photos, so we will do some research to see if we can figure out what is going on. As it happens, according to this USDA Plant  Profile Map Quercus polymorpha (Mexican white oak), also known as Monterrey Oak,  is not native to Travis County but, in Texas, only to Val Verde County. That means that it is already acclimated to high heat and drought, so we don't think that is the problem.

Frankly, we think your tree service should come and look at it. It should have had some sort of warranty on it, and if you bought in April of last year, you should get it looked at quickly, in case it was a one-year warranty. Even if you don't have a warranty, a reputable tree service should be willing to take responsibility for the fix or replacement.

In this article, Woodpecker and Sapsucker Problems, it appears sapsuckers are the most dangerous to trees. Here is an article on Sapsuckers. We think it most likely that if you have them in the Austin area, they would be the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. The link we just gave you should help identify them.

Since your problem sounds more severe, let's talk about the damage to the bark. If the loss of bark results in the complete girdling of the tree, the tree will die. Read this article "Loss of tree bark around state might be linked to drought" by Bruce Keitler.

 

From the Image Gallery


Mexican white oak
Quercus polymorpha

Mexican white oak
Quercus polymorpha

Mexican white oak
Quercus polymorpha

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