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

Double trunks on bur oaks in Houston
March 15, 2010 - I am involved in a garden club propagation project. One of the trees we have had success propagating is the Bur Oak. Two of these baby Bur Oaks have multi trunks..one has two and the other has three....
view the full question and answer

Mountain laurel with fasciation
July 24, 2014 - My Texas Mountain Laurel bush has developed several "crested branches." What causes this, is it harmful & how do I get rid of them??? Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Can a madrone be used as a house plant from Grand Rapids MI
June 24, 2011 - Can a madrone tree be used as a house plant in Michigan? It is about 10" tall in a gal pot. Can a couple of trees be planted together to become one larger house plant? it's currently in a clay mix.
view the full question and answer

Is a Mexican plum planted last Spring in Houston ready to bloom
April 08, 2011 - I live in Houston, TX. I bought my Mexican Plum last late Spring. It was about 4' tall. It is now about 6' tall, very healthy with lots of beautiful leaves. It gets a lot of sun. It did not blo...
view the full question and answer

Is oak leucanium an invasive species in Texas from Laredo TX
April 02, 2013 - Is Parthenolecanium quercifex considered an invasive species in Texas? Does this insect attach itself to redbuds? I spotted and removed from my small 5ft Texas Redbud last year. It seems that it has ...
view the full question and answer

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