Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Sunday - May 18, 2014

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Trees
Title: Trimming of Escarpment Oak from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a 2-year-old quercus fusiformis in our front yard and have been advised by some people that we need to remove the bottom branches and trim the ends of the branches that are hanging far down. While we kind of like the bushy look of the tree, we want to do the right thing for it. How would you recommend we trim it now and in the future? Thanks!

ANSWER:

If you follow this link to our webpage on this plant, Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak), you will find this paragraph:

"Plateau oak or Escarpment live oak is a thicket-forming shrub or large, spreading tree that is nearly identical in appearance to, and considered much hardier than, Q. virginiana."

This we take to mean you can allow it to remain a shrubby plant and train it by judicious pruning but NOT NOW!

"Its magnificent, stately form has endeared it to generations of residents and it remains popular to this day. Also like Q. virginiana, it is susceptible to live oak wilt and live oak decline when stressed by drought, so care must be taken to protect it from injury both aboveground and below ground to prevent infection."

This makes two points; the first being that it is not necessary to try to limit the size and shape of this "magnificent" tree, and the second being that any kind of trimming on this tree this time of year is a very bad idea. Frankly, this sounds like a pitch you would get from someone who just "happened" to notice your tree, rang your doorbell and would be only too happy to cut on it for cash, payable in advance. That person would be nowhere around when the tree began to die of Oak Wilt.

Mr. Smarty Plants always recommends that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be pruned, trimmed and/or transplanted in cooler weather; i.e., December and January in Texas. Between now and then, you can make a decision on what shape tree you want, including trimming up the trailing branches. Trees are the most valuable part of your landscape, and certainly the native oaks are stars that deserve protection. We suggest you read this entire article on Texas Oak Wilt.org .

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Trees Questions

Twig girdlers attacking an Elm tree in Wimberly, TX.
October 27, 2009 - I was looking at my small 6' cedar elm and noticed that four (4) 1/2" limbs have circle cuts a 1/8" wide completely around them and they are dead. Is this some insect or maybe a bigger critter? I h...
view the full question and answer

Identification of Diospyros texana at Enchanted Rock Park
April 07, 2007 - I took pictures last year in April of one particular large shrub in Enchanted Rock Park. The flowers are extremely fragrant, sort of cluster of tiny creamy white bell shaped. We came back this last we...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to Mexican olive in Austin
December 13, 2009 - I have a Mexican Olive tree/bush. It is young - about 8 ft. tall. This last freeze in Austin made many of its leaves turn black. I got this from your database: "Its native range extends no farther...
view the full question and answer

Leaf problems on oaks in North Liberty IA
June 12, 2010 - My oak trees (young and old) are showing leaf problems. Is there a disease or insect causing oak tree disease?
view the full question and answer

Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
July 13, 2013 - Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but ...
view the full question and answer

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