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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - April 28, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Pruning live oak in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, We recently purchased a house in South Austin and there is a huge Live Oak Tree about 6 feet from the back door (so so so love it!) The only real issues I have so far are: 1. Needing to trim a few bigger dead branches (about 24 foor high where they come off a bigger branch directly over where people would be if we had company over) before it just falls off on some one. After reading other post on this site I see it is not good to trim an Oak between Feb and June, so I guess I can wait till July when the real heat is on and do it (and paint seal it) my question is if it just snaps/breaks off on its own should I go paint/seal it as soon as I see that it fell? Might be hard as I have no way of reaching it to do so with out leaning on the rest of the dying branch. Which will probably break as well.. Or (if it breaks) should I just go ahead and trim it since it is already exposed and paint it then so I don't have to do it again in a few months and risk double exposure? 2. There are many Suckers popping up all over, right outside our door, and in between 2 small slabs of concrete, some are already getting over a foot high, If I do not weed-eat them down, at some point my dogs will chew on them and break the bark on them any way, is there a good way of handling this?

ANSWER:

The first thing we would recommend is that you engage a licensed arborist to make these decisions. He will have ladders, proper pruning equipment and pruning paint. We realize that is not free but, compared to the value of your live oak and the expenses of a broken leg, we believe it's the best way to go.

The rule on pruning live oaks is that if the branch is larger around than your thumb, you should paint it with pruning paint. Those suckers in the ground should be nipped off with pruning shears very close to the ground. They will keep coming up, but just persevere. Do not, please, use a weedeater around the tree, ever. Damage to the bark, especially during the times of year when the Nitulidid beetle is active, could quickly cause a sap leakage that would invite the beetle over for a drink. And that beetle might very well already have had a drink at another wounded oak where Oak Wilt was already present, the fungus would stick to the body of the beetle and would infect your tree.

It sounds like your problem mostly is deferred maintenance on the tree (that is, those dead branches). If the arborist you bring in thinks the maintenance can wait until a safer time of year, be sure and do it when the right time comes. After that, taking care of anything like that immediately will keep you from having such a major problem again. It would be a good idea to read the information on Texasoakwilt.org.

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Protecting storm-damaged pecan and black walnut trees in TX
June 29, 2015 - Several trees on our property in northeast Texas were uprooted by a tornado. A pecan tree with a circumference greater than 93 inches was carried to the ground. Although it is completely horizontal,...
view the full question and answer

White fuzz on pine tree bark in Dartmouth MA
July 13, 2010 - We have white fuzz on our pine tree bark?
view the full question and answer

Where to test for Bacterial Leaf Scorch in Austin, Texas
September 26, 2010 - It appears that the American elm trees in my backyard may have Bacterial Leaf scorch. Where can I have this confirmed?
view the full question and answer

Firecracker plants not growing in Ft. Worth
June 09, 2010 - I live in Fort Worth, TX and last fall planted several firecracker plants. It's now June and they're not growing. How can I tell if they are still alive?
view the full question and answer

Burning sulfur over coals in the home for insect control.
July 18, 2008 - Is burning sulfur(over hot coals) in your home a safe way of getting rid of ants and insects?
view the full question and answer

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