Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Monday - April 11, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Can a bur oak fit in a small space in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We recently got a one-gallon pot of Bur Oak. The area around our house has two old live oaks on the NW corner and another large live oak on the SE. There isn't much room on the SW corner for the oak because of some hedge plants and a 3-feet tall loquat. Could I plant the Bur Oak between two houses (its open about 10 feet deep and maybe 60 feet long) on the Northern side? Is the depth enough room for the Bur Oak to grow long term? regards

ANSWER:

A one-gallon Quercus macrocarpa (Bur oak) is a cute, itty-bitty plant. A full grown Bur oak, not so much. To quote from the first paragraph from our webpage on this plant (follow the plant link to read the whole page):

"Bur oak is a large, deciduous tree with a very wide, open crown. Usually wider than tall, the tree can exceed 100 ft. in height and width."

You also need to understand that the roots of an oak will extend up to 3 times the circumference of the upper oak. If an oak can grow to 100 ft. in height and is usually wider than it's tall, what does that tell you about the roots in the 10-ft. depth area? The tree will soon be wider than even the 60-ft.. depth before the tree is fully mature. The branches will interfere with the houses on both sides, and have to be constantly heavily pruned, the roots will quickly be in the foundations of both houses, and the tree will allow very little to grow under it.

Don't get us wrong. We love the Bur oak, especially its gorgeous huge acorns, but you asked us about the possibiliity of planting it in a constricted space, and you can see we don't recommend it. It's all very well to say you will no longer live there when the tree gets that big, but that is not real stewardship of the land, the resources and the tree. It will have to be cut down and the roots ground out at some expense and inconvenience, long before it reaches full size.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa


Quercus macrocarpa

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Living fence of native plants in Central Texas
December 14, 2008 - I would like to plant a living fence around my property in central Texas. What trees/plants will survive the Texas weather best without taking years to provide visual shield?
view the full question and answer

Can poisonous seed of wild plum be safely removed after steaming from Seymour IA
June 20, 2013 - I read on a related questions that you said the pit/seeds of all wild plums are poisonous. My question is this, can I juice the entire fruit for making jelly without removing the pit first? I have a s...
view the full question and answer

Germinating Mexican Persimmon seeds in Austin, TX.
November 15, 2011 - I'm planning to germinate Mexican Persimmon seeds, and plant them this spring. I want a female for fruit. Is there any way to encourage a plant to be female, and if not, is there any way you can iden...
view the full question and answer

Repairing Damage to Oak Tree Bark
February 02, 2016 - I have destructive horses who have torn a lot of the bark off of my oak trees. I've moved the horses from that area, but is there something I can put on the places where the bark is missing so the tr...
view the full question and answer

Should wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) be pruned?
April 26, 2007 - We planted Wax Myrtles in our backyard as a wall for privacy from the lot behind ours. Should we prune or cut back the tops periodically to get more fully developed bushes or let them grow naturally?
view the full question and answer

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