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
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 Soils Questions

Planting Mountain Laurel grown from seeds in Argentina
April 09, 2014 - Hello, I was transferred to Cordoba, Argentina 2 years ago from San Antonio, the climate hereis similar to S. TX, anyway I brought some mountain laurel seeds with me and they have been in 2 gallon pot...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen shrubs for Butler PA
August 09, 2013 - Here is what I want in a bush: native to Western Pa.(Southern Butler County), appropriate for a horse pasture,fast growing, not too aggressive (I will mow around it regularly and can prune occasionall...
view the full question and answer

Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
September 06, 2013 - I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the be...
view the full question and answer

Plants for heavy clay in Sonoma County, California
July 10, 2013 - Hi, I live in Northern California, Sonoma County, and would like to transition my front garden into mostly native plants. Trouble is, my soil is clay, yicky, heavy clay, and some of the natives I've ...
view the full question and answer

Need help growing plants in red dirt in Mount Pleasant, NC.
September 17, 2011 - I live in N.C. and I have had the hardest time getting plants to grow;I have red dirt at my house. Can you suggest a few colorful plants that would do real well in red dirt? Thank You So Very Much!!!!...
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