Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
1 rating

Monday - July 08, 2013

From: Cypress, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Trees
Title: Leaf drop from live oaks in mid-summer
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have a live oak that is starting to drop a considerable amount of leaves here in early July in Cypress Texas. Its a mature tree with a base diameter of 12-14" and 25-30' tall. We live in a subdivided neighbor hood and there is a tree its same size less then 10' away (from base to base) and it is not dropping any leaves. The leaves that are dropping appear to be evenly located throughout the tree. Less than 5% of the trees leaves are dropping although its still seems like a considerable amount on the ground considering its July. Do you believe the tree is in distress? We have a sprinkler system but because of the lack of rain the past few years do you believe it may be a result of a drought condition? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

The fact that only one of your oak trees is dropping leaves may mean that the soil around it has been compacted by heavy foot traffic or that soil structure around it is simply different from that under the other tree.  If the tree is on a slope water retention may not be adequate.

I believe you will be able to find some indications of what is causing the leaf drop in an article from Texas A&M.  The article describes symptoms of oak wilt and of other less serious diseases of live oak.  These can often be diagnosed by examining the fallen leaves. A pdf copy of one of the accounts can be downloaded here.  These bacterial and fungal diseases are most commonly seen in seasons of good or heavy rainfall rather than drought.

If the leaves do not show indications of disease, I would recommend that you pay attention to the ground area surrounding the tree in question.   If the soil dries three to four inches deep, it’s time to water.   A sprinkler system generally does not provide enough water for trees.  Give the tree regular deep watering by leaving a garden hose trickling on two or three areas near the drip line for several hours.  This method is better than watering near the tree's base.

If it appears that you may have an oak wilt infection you should contact the Texas A&M office noted in the above web site right away.  Other types of leaf disease are usually not particularly serious and may not harm the tree.  New leaves will not form until next spring.

 

More Trees Questions

Problems with non-native Canary Date Palms from Miami FL
December 06, 2011 - Hi: The fronts of my canary date palm, which I planted about 6 years ago, has been getting brown from the bottom of the tree and working itself towards the top for the past several months now. The b...
view the full question and answer

Planting Anacacho orchid tree in Llano, TX
October 05, 2011 - Re Bauhinia lunarioides: I'm trying to pick a good site in Llano Co for a 5 gal tree I received as a gift. Your plant database says part shade. The arid zone trees publication you reference in a...
view the full question and answer

Further explanation of retaining walls and trees from Washington MO
March 11, 2013 - I had a question previously about putting retaining walls across the root system of a 40' tall bald cypress tree(not like spokes on a wheel, but concentric to tree trunk). How wide can the walls be? ...
view the full question and answer

Large shrub or tree for front door in Houston
January 16, 2013 - I am in search of a shrub or tree to plant next to my front door. I want a showy medium sized shrub or tree (8 to 12 ft), decorative, and a privacy screen since my front door faces my next door neig...
view the full question and answer

Why didn't the mountain laurels bloom this year in Georgetown, TX?
June 19, 2014 - Why are the mountain laurels not blooming this year, I live in Georgetown, TX?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.