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

Friday - February 06, 2009

From: Llano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Trimming a bur oak in Llano, TX
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

We have a beautiful, large Burr Oak next to our house. This tree has many large lateral branches. I have trimmed dead branches, but no other trimming. It grows a lot of "suckers" during growing season. Several of the branches droop almost touching the ground. I would like to clean up this tree but don't want to do the wrong thing. The tree appears very healthy. Any trimming tips would be appreciated. Thanks

ANSWER:

In caring for your Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak),  Mr. Smarty Plants sees three options for you. First, do nothing and let it behave in its natural way, suckers and all, with the wind pruning dead limbs. Second, research how to prune and do it yourself. And, third, engage a licensed, certified arborist. The description you have given of your tree makes it clear that you have a very special and valuable feature in your landscape.  You may want to consider the third option, as arborists are specialists in the care of trees. There is no substitute for trained eyes and professional advice regarding the care of such an important tree and when it comes to the potential for tree disease and pruning large trees, they have all the right tools and take all the risks.

However, it sounds like you are interested in learning about trimming oaks, so let's explore that. You are wise to be concerned about doing the right thing as oak wilt disease is common in Texas. Oak wilt disease is a caused by a fungus introduced into the trees by the Nitidulid beetles, which are most active in warm weather from February through May. Cuts or wounds to the tree may allow introduction of the beetles. The best time to prune the tree would be during a cold snap November to January. Branches that are completely dead may be removed at any time; it is only open wounds in living tissue that are attractive to the offending beatles. No matter what time of year you remove living branches of oaks the wounds should be immediately covered with pruning paint. Learn more about Oak Wilt at the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership page "Guidelines for Proper Pruning to Prevent Oak Wilt Infection" and "Studies on Pruning Cuts and Wound Dressings for Oak Wilt Control." Both have excellent information on treating pruning cuts. Alternatively, check out this Texas A&M Extension site "Follow Proper Pruning Techniques" on pruning or this ehow.com site, "How to Trim Your Trees."

In short, you may want to postpone this trimming job, however it is accomplished, for a few months.  


Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus macrocarpa

 

 

More Trees Questions

Is it safe to burn Cedar in a fireplace?
December 04, 2014 - Is it safe to burn Cedar in our fireplace? I'm trying to thin out the population of Ashe Junipers on my property in Spicewood Tx. to give the young Live Oaks a chance to compete for sunlight and w...
view the full question and answer

Cherry laurels next to retaining wall in Austin
September 18, 2010 - My neigbors have 2 cherry laurel trees in their back yard planted within 4 feet of my retaining wall and fence. I am worried the root system will damage my retaining wall. The branches are already pus...
view the full question and answer

Native conifer bearing evergreen for noise reduction
April 01, 2008 - I asked the prior question about noise reduction and you gave me several choices. Thank you for that. Of the plants you suggested, the wax myrtle is the tallest and therefore probably best for my 2-st...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shelter for butterflies
July 04, 2010 - I understand that butterflies need certain plants for food, but are there specific plants that butterflies prefer to use as shelter in central Texas?
view the full question and answer

Blooms on Desert Willow withering quickly in Rockwall TX
July 15, 2010 - Why do the blooms on my Desert Willow dry up and wither away in one or two days?
view the full question and answer

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