Question of the Week – Number 2: February 28, 2019

“Why are my live oaks losing all their leaves? Is this oak wilt?”

Important things first, this is not oak wilt! Symptoms of that disease are completely different and they’re visible at this website.

The ground beneath live oaks all across Texas looks just about like this at this time. But it’s completely normal.

The rest of this answer is going to be really easy and very relieving. This is normal leaf drop that occurs every late winter about this time. Some years it’s much more pronounced than others.

I remember growing up in College Station and walking home from my junior high. I’d occasionally take the cross-campus route so I could look for golf balls that had bounced off the TAMU course, and this time of year I’d be shuffling through ankle-deep fallen leaves.

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Live oaks are some of Texas’ most picturesque shade trees, being almost evergreen year ‘round. But if they have one time of the year that they’re less-than-exciting, it’s in early spring as they’re changing out leaves. All the old leaves drop at the same time, and it’s usually a week or two until the bright new leaves show up.

Run those old leaves through the mower to shred them. Put them into the compost. Contrary to what others may tell you, if you compost them for a year or two, they make excellent compost. And, once you have them off the soil surface, you can apply an all-nitrogen, lawn-type fertilizer to get your trees off to a good start for this year’s growing season. It’s about to get underway.

And this is how great live oaks will look as they gear up and get growing again.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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