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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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Tuesday - December 08, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live oak trees dropping leaves in clumps
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have several large mature Live Oak trees in our Austin TX neighborhood. Now that the rains have come back and the acorns are falling, two of our four trees are also dropping large amounts of leaves in clumps connected to small twigs. I do not see this happening in our neighbors yards. At first I attributed it to stress, but now I'm a bit worried. Both are near the house built 30 years ago. The oak trees are clear of the house.

ANSWER:

The good news is that what you describe doesn't sound like oak wilt, a serious problem with live oak trees in the Austin area.  You can read about the characteristics of oak wilt from the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership. We assume that you've ruled out squirrels.  Squirrels do sometimes knock off clumps of leaves in their enthusiasm for collecting acorns. Your trees may be showing the stress from the recent drought and sudden weather change or it is possible that they are being attacked by Oncideres cingulata (twig girdler). Here is an image of the insect. In actuality, we can't really diagnose your problem sight unseen.  If your trees are still losing large numbers of leafy clumps, you may want to ask an arborist to take a look at your trees. Here are several links to sites that can help find a qualified arborist in the Austin area:

Evaluating and Choosing an Arborist  

Web Search Tool to find an Arborist 

Site to Learn About and Find a Consulting Arborist

 

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