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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - September 19, 2007

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Control of live oak root sprouts, or suckers, under tree
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Have live oak trees in clusters with circular beds surrounding in frontyard. Have been invaded by some type weed that looks a bit like holly. Woody stem a few inches high with several serrated leaves, 1 to 1 1/2 long. Serrations are pointed. Roots abt 3 in underground and run all over. Hard to pull up. Hundreds of sprouts.

ANSWER:

What you describe sounds exactly like live oak root sprouts, aka suckers. The leaves of live oak root sprouts look remarkably like holly leaves. The reason they're hard to pull is because they're attached to the tree's roots. The reason some oak trees produce prodigious numbers of suckers while others don't produce any is still a mystery. Unfortunately, controlling root sprouts will be an ongoing, but ultimately futile task. Grubbing them is a short-term solution, but the sprouts will come back. Most people simply mow them regularly to keep them under control. In beds, mowing may not be an option and grubbing may be your only choice. Herbicides that will kill the root sprouts will greatly harm and likely kill the "mother" tree as well.

 

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