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

Saturday - October 05, 2013

From: Laurel, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Soils, Watering, Trees
Title: Problems with water oaks from Laurel MS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The leaves on my mature water oak trees have been falling since the leaves matured. My area has had an abundance of rain this year, 11 inches above normal. All the trees in my area are doing the same. Could this be a sign that a harsh winter may be coming?

ANSWER:

"Water Oak" is another common name for Quercus laurifolia (Laurel oak), according to our Native Plant Database. If you follow the plant link above to our webpage on this plant you will find these growing conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained, sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: This species is closely related to Q. nigra and Q. phellos. It has no pest problems and is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions."

On the same webpage was this information:

"Native Habitat: Moist soils of the southeastern coastal plain and associated with typical mesic hardwoods."

It would appear that your tree and probably the others in your area are accustomed to lots of rain and probably are in sandy soils, so hopefully the amount of rain is not affecting them adversely. We really have no idea if the leaf drop is predicting any kind of winter, but we found a number of articles (most of them classified as "folklore") with lists of indicators of a hard winter. Many of them were the exact same list:

Folklore - Predicting the Winter Ahead - this one actually contained this line: "Leaves drop before giving good  fall colors." Since the Quercus laurifolia (Laurel oak) is semi-evergreen and drops its leaves later in the winter, this might be more noticeable on that tree.

Farmer's Almanac - Twenty Signs of a Hard Winter

About.com - Winter Weather Folklore

20 Signs of a Hard Winter in 2014

The other websites we found either paraphrased, quoted, or repeated the exact same lists. We found no scientific indication that early leaf fall was indicative of winter conditions. So, we abandoned that and tried searching on "early tree leaf fall" and picked the following websites as examples:

Shade tree disorders

What's Happening When Your Leaves are Falling in Summer?

From Ohio State University Mid-Summer Leaf Drop

Bottom line: no good information one way or the other. Pick your theory, your guess is as good as anyone's; we will just have to wait and see.

Pictures of Quercus laurifolia (Laurel oak)


 

More Trees Questions

Will blue eyed grass grow under black walnut trees?
January 18, 2016 - Will blue eyed grass grow under black walnut trees? I know the Siberian Iris is tolerant but the scientific names are not the same yet everything I read indicates that blue eyed grass is not in the g...
view the full question and answer

Life expectancy for Carolina buckthorn (Frangula caroliniana)
February 25, 2008 - Someone recently told me that Carolina buckthorn only lives 4-5 years and I'm wondering if that is true. I had a nice one (on Blackland) that died suddenly in its fourth or fifth year, during the dr...
view the full question and answer

Trees non-toxic for horses in California
May 02, 2011 - I would like to plant next to my pasture. Please send a good variety of nontoxic (for horses) plants for shade. I live in Redding Cal.
view the full question and answer

Tree with stilt roots for Louisiana bog garden
February 07, 2013 - Does Louisiana have any native trees with stilt roots? I would like one to go with my cypress and tupelo bog garden. I have several native plants such as spider lilies and blue flag irises, but I'm...
view the full question and answer

Native plants both deer resistant and good for erosion from North Oaks MN
August 23, 2012 - We have several partially sunny areas on hills that are prone to both deer and erosion. Our goal is to reduce runoff in an effort to preserve the watershed that provides tap water to many citizens of ...
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