November 14, 2010

Mighty Live Oak Trees

Southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana) have the widest canopy of any tree native to North America. They can reach heights of 80 feet and the canopy spread can be up to twice the height. For an 80 foot tall tree the shaded area under a mature live oak can be 160 feet in diameter. Live oaks can live over 200 years. The reason these oaks are considered “live” is that they are evergreen, only shedding leaves in the spring as new leaf growth begins.

In Texas, live oaks developed and adaptation to Texas soils and environmental conditions that are not conducive for propagation from the acorns. Acorns depend on animals and birds to carry the acorns away from the parent tree. Parent live oaks, to reduce competition from their offspring, encourage a fungus in the soil under the canopy to kill the germination of the acorns. What Texas live oaks do to reproduce, is they send up root sprouts from mature roots. Because the new shoot has access to the mature root system of the parent tree, survival rates are high. Many of these “cloned” sprouts from groves or “motts” as they are call in Texas that can consist of hundreds of trees that all share the same root system. These trees are a subset of live oak called Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis.

A testament to the live oak’s hardwood quality is the War of 1812 Navy vessel U.S.S. Constitution. Its frame was constructed from Southern live oak wood harvested from St. Simons Island, Georgia. The ship survived harsh British war ships' cannon balls that reportedly bounced right off the ship due to the live oak wood’s strength and density – thus the Constitution’s nickname "Old Ironsides" is due to the quality of live oak wood.

As discussed in the last post about soil types on Dogwood, live oaks prefer sandy loam well drained soils, thus they grow best in Dogwood’s sandy loams rather than the clay.

Although the brush under the live oak trees provide good cover for deer and a variety of birds, Dogwood’s mature oaks are to majestic and beautiful up on the hill not clear out underneath them to show case the trees. We have made the decision to clear out oaks and provide other cover and resources to make the deer happy.

Once cleared, these marvelous trees are and will be crowning jewels on the hill at Dogwood. So far, we cleared five live oaks. The process began with our now good friend Remedy mixed with water and a little dish soap in sprayer. In the heat of the summer, I sprayed the yaupon and juniper brush that choked and hid the oak trunks and that were growing up into the oak canopy. Mixed with the yaupon and juniper, green vines sporting vicious sharp thorns grew into the brush creating a nasty tangle. We mostly just call these vines “pokey vines” but when blood is drawn from being poked, scratched or tangled up in one, we use other descriptors not appropriate for post on this site. Taking care not the get the poison on the oak or any of its exposed roots, I sprayed the pokey vines also.

Since summer, the Remedy did its job and killed or severely weakened the yaupon and cedar. Over the course of two weekends this fall, we cleaned out the dead brush and that which was missed with Remedy. Unfortunately, I did not take “before” photos before the Remedy treatment, but I did take before and after shots of the clearing work but these will give you an idea of the diffrerence.  Also, why Blogger makes it so difficult to place photos in the blog, I don't know but it is.

Live Oak 1 - Before


Live Oak by Fence - Before

L:ive Oak by Fence - After

Live Oak Mott - Before

Live Oak Mott - After

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