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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 - August 16, 2011

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Pests, Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Killing oak sprouts from El Paso TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I want to know how to kill oak root sprouts and seedlings. Very dense and out-of-control in huge area of front lawn. I had tree cut down and I still cannot get rid of them. They're only getting worse. I need help asap. They have already lifted my sidewalk, walkway, lawn between 4-12 inches in different areas. I need an immediate solution. I need to find a very powerful herbicide. I want to make a driveway in that area so I don't mind killing all the vegetation in that area.

ANSWER:

First we want to refer you to an all-purpose previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that has links in it to a lot of other answers, all on the subject of oak sprouts and what to do in order to try to control them.

Please don't indiscriminately spray herbicide, any kind. It will drift onto other plants, not only your plants, but your neighbors. It will contaminate your soil and go into the drainage into the water supply. It is pollution on a large scale, and will not do your particular problem any good. The shoots that you have coming up are the attempts by that tree to survive. Each shoot that comes up quickly develops some leaves, which then begin to manufacture nutrition for the tree. As far as those roots are concerned, that tree is still alive. Spraying herbicide might brown some of the shoots (and kill a whole lot of other stuff) but the root is protected by the earth. We would recommend contacting a licensed arborist and having the roots ground out, since you are going to have to level to pour the concrete or whatever you are using for the driveway anyhow.

Even grinding out the roots will not totally eliminate the sprouts or suckers. There will still be enough viable root to get those sprouts going. Frequently the appearance of suckers occurs when the tree sustains some damage, like being cut down. But when you pour the concrete, that will stop the shoots from coming up, right there, anyway. Stay vigilant at pulling out, clipping off or mowing the shoots. Eventually, the roots still alive in the ground will starve to death because by destroying the shoots you have denied those roots the food they need to survive.

 

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