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Live oak too close to house?

gardenbird_la
14 years ago

I hired a designer to develop a plan to replace my front lawn with low-water plantings. I asked for a coast live oak, quercus agrifolia. His design places the tree 8 feet from the front of the house. When I questioned him, he said not to worry, that it would be 100 years before it was a problem.

When I went to a native plant nursey to buy the tree, they were horrified and told me NOT to plant it that close to the house.

What do others think?

Comments (16)

  • gobluedjm 9/18 CA
    14 years ago

    NO way would I plant it that close. Do you really want animals having access to your roof?

  • CA Kate z9
    14 years ago

    We moved into this house 11 years ago. At that time we had a little line of oaks that were about 10' tall and didn't impact our view in any way. The trees are now 30' tall with a spread of 15-20' EACH and are soon going to totally block that area of our mountain view. 8' is way too close for any Oak.

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  • hoovb zone 9 sunset 23
    14 years ago

    8' is way too close for any tree, let alone a Quercus agrifolia. 20' is more like it. At minimum.

  • darrenandre
    14 years ago

    8' in my opinion would be too close the the house for a typical Quercus agrifolia. They (on average) reach 25' in 10 years from a 5 gallon container. (As the poster from Fresno confirmed) (Quicker with better soils and more water) But this is funny as his sounds like a situation that is similar to one of my designs at the moment. Except with that project we had aquired an oak at a plant sale from the Los Angeles Arboretum and it was labeled as a "dwarf". On the tag it cited that the seed was collected from a dwarf population in Cambria California And listed the mature height as reaching only 20' tall. I was aware that usually these oaks are dwarf because of the habitat that they are in (nutrient deficient soils) and or windshearing in coastal areas which stunts the trees vertical growth. But I also know that there can always a genetic component as well. And the tree looked a bit atypical (the leaves looked more prickly like Q. berberidifolia and at the time it lacked the fuzzy tufts that you usually see along the veins on the undersides of the leaves (a good indicator that it is agrifolia) . So I thought perhaps it might be some giant scrub oak or a hybrid of some sort. (Hell-quite a few of the garden friendly cultivars are merely genetic dwarfs or wierd hybrids) I explained all of this to the client and we went ahead anyway and planted it in the only area that made sence in the back yard which was 8-10' away from the side of the house. (Front yard was off limits) Well just for the record it has been in the ground about a year and during the summer it had a major growth spurt --it put on literally 8' making me believe that this was a dwarf because of the environment it was in- so unfortunately we will have to either move it or get rid of it. I only bring this up to share my experience. But my question is this-I know that most(all?) of the scrub oaks are in the White Oak family (Which also has Q. Engelmanii ,Q. Douglasii as members) and Q. Agrifolia is in the Red Oak family. So what (If any) other oak could hybridise with Q. agrifolia? And are there any true genetic dwarfs of Q. agrifolia known?

    Thanks in advance,

    Darren

  • mlevie
    14 years ago

    I've never heard of a dwarf version of Q. agrifolia, which is, as others have pointed out, not really something you could call a "street tree." If you want a smaller oak that can be planted closer to the house, I'd suggest Q. engelmannii--far smaller and native to Southern California. Another good reason to be wary of planting a live oak is the danger that sudden oak death will one day reach your neighborhood. I know some native oaks, like Q. douglasii, are immune. Does anyone know if Q. engelmannii is?

    The root habit of a given plant also governs how close to the house you can put it. Oaks are actually not such a bad idea, because their roots tend to reach deep rather than wide. But 8' is still too close because most trees will get at least as wide as tall. If you want a tall, narrow, native, drought-tolerant (and beautiful, fragrant) tree, try an incense cedar (calocedrus decurrens). It grows slowly at first, but even if it reaches 100' in a few generations, it will still only be 10-15' wide. There's even a variegated variant ("Aureo-variegata,") which will probably stay far smaller than the species, as these sports tend to do.

    Most landscapers probably know how big most shrubs will get, because they reach their maximum size in a few years. But many landscapers probably don't think about the maximum size of a tree, because (a) they won't be around to see it; (b) it might take several lifetimes to achieve; (c) they just don't know. The size of a tree depends a lot on how well it's adapted to the site; in the Southeast a ginkgo may grow three feet a year, in California just one. A redwood may one day reach three hundred feet on the coast but only one hundred inland.

  • darrenandre
    14 years ago

    Regarding SOD and Q Engelmanii

    I found this information:

    Symptoms and Signs

    Oaks (Quercus spp.). To date, only oaks in the red oak group (section Lobatae) have been found to be susceptible to infection by P. ramorum in California (19). These include coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), California black oak (Quercus kelloggii), and ShreveÂs oak (Quercus parvula var. shrevei). The remaining species in the red oak group in California, interior live oak (Q. wislizenii), has been found to be susceptible to infection in greenhouse inoculation trials (D. M. Rizzo, unpublished data). In addition, northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and pinoak (Q. palustris), important species from eastern North America, have been shown to be susceptible in greenhouse inoculation studies (18; Hansen, unpublished data). Canyon live oak (Q. chrysolepsis) in the golden cup group (section Protobalanus) has been found infected by P. ramorum at a single location (16). No species in the white oak group (section Quercus) have been found with the disease in the field in California, Oregon, or Europe.

    So it looks like Q engelmanii would not likely contract SOD.

    Darren

  • calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9
    14 years ago

    It is possible to grow a live oak as a hedge, not easy but possible. Even then 8 to 10 feet would likely be the minimum size. We have live oaks more than 100 feet from the house that require so much cutting back to open up the garden to sunlight I have gotten too old to do it and my son has gotten too old, from here on its my grandson or remove the trees! When I have spoken to landscapers at demonstration gardens about obviously inappropriate tree planting the answer has been "some of the planting is only temporary and will be removed before it becomes a problem". I guess if the home owner knows this "going in" that he will soon have additional expense to remove trees he has just paid dearly for, thats OK. Al

  • buddyben
    14 years ago

    No one has mentioned this, but coast live oak is a protected indigenous tree in many cities. WHich means that once it reaches a certain size (measured by the diameter or circumference of its trunk), the homeowner is required to get a permit in order to prune it. And some cities will not allow the owner to cut it down,or to severely prune it, even if it is on private property. The monetary penalties for getting caught can reach the tens of thousands for a mature tree, according to some cities' laws.

    If you live in one of the cities where the tree is protected, be prepared for the governmental rules and regulations that accompany having a coast live oak.

    Not all species of oak are protected.

  • darrenandre
    14 years ago

    This sort of breaks down the new native tree protection law:

    "In an effort to further slow the decline of native tree habitat, the City amended the two Los Angeles Municipal Code sections in April 2006. The amended Native Tree Protection Ordinance became law on April 23, 2006 .

    The new law:

    Â Protects all native Oak tree species (Quercus spp), California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), California Bay (Umbellularia californica), and California Black Walnut (Juglans californica)

    Â Trees four inches or greater in diameter at 4.5' above ground (DBH)

    Â Multiple trunk trees are calculated by cumulative diameter

    Â Trees on any lot size are protected

    Â Protected tree report shall be submitted by a:

    Â Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA) by the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA), or;

    Â Landscape Architect who is ALSO International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist, or;

    Â Pest Control Advisor who is ALSO ISA Certified Arborist

    Protected tree removal requires a removal permit by the Board of Public Works. Any act that may cause the failure or death of a protected tree requires inspection by the UFD.

    Although the law does not require protected tree pruning be permitted, the UFD encourages residents intending to perform any type of work to a protected tree first consult with a RCA or Certified Arborist. The pruning of protected trees must be performed carefully. Any work above or below ground that will occur within five feet of a protected tree's drip line (link to definition), the root protection zone, should not be performed until after UFD is consulted.

    UFD hopes this webpage supplies you with all of the information needed to understand the Native Tree Protection Ordinance. If you need further information please contact the Division at (213) 485-5675."

    Other jusisdictions have their own laws.

    Hope that helps,

    Darren

  • softmentor
    14 years ago

    +1 more. WAY to close. And if that was his responce, I'd be looking for other bids too. AT LEAST 15 feet but I would not put one closer than 30.

  • calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9
    14 years ago

    The two posts regarding tree laws reinforces my decision to not live in any city, was a good decision indeed. Al

  • CA Kate z9
    14 years ago

    I'm with you. Al. We're lucky to have plenty of room for all the Oaks to grow, even the one that is "close" to the house. Early this Spring we had all those close enough to the house to be a fire hazard pruned the required 10' up and had all the dead stuff removed.... 12 of the BIG ones and about 20 of the smaller ones. Lots of $$$$ to maintain their good looks from catching fire. All those in the outlands will suffer whatever fate Mother Nature brings them.

  • buddyben
    14 years ago

    The tree ordinance has caused a little drama in our city. I was watching the city council meeting recently when a citizen got up to speak during oral communications. She told how she spotted a work crew on the vacant lot near her house cutting down some protected oaks. She asked them if they had a permit. They said yes. But they would not show it to her. They were leaving the stumps and covering the stumps up with debris. Evidently the owner of the lot did not want the trees to interfere with the design of his future McMansion.

    She called the urban forester guy who works for the city. He called the police immediately and then went out to the site himself to start the investigation for the city. The woman at the council meeting announced the name of the person who owned the lot and who had ordered the workers to cut the trees and then to cover up the evidence.

    This man is the first person in the city to be referred to the city attorney's office since the city increased the monetary penalties for violating the tree ordinance.

    It was quite amusing to see this man caught in the act, and the public works guy promised to keep the council updated on what happens with the case.

  • socal23
    14 years ago

    I suspect that such policies may work in the short term but will be disastrous in the long term. Mature trees will eventually die and Q. agrifolia in particular isn't an especially long-lived tree (200-300 years).

    What would you do if you saw a jay planted oak seedling anywhere on your property knowing that local ordinances would keep you from removing it if it eventually proved problematic?

    I know what I would do.

    Ryan

  • TheSocalNative
    last year
    last modified: last year

    I think a good compromise is to use Quercus Berberidifolia (scrub oak) instead if you have limited space in smaller residential lot. They have a low root damage potential (see CalPoly's SelectTree for info on the root damage potential for trees and shrubs) and can still reach heights of 10-15 feet. Even though this thread is quite old, I feel like I should point out a few misleading statements in the above comments in case someone finds this thread while looking for info in the future:

    1.) Quercus Agrifolia is a VERY long-lived tree when properly maintained without a lawn underneath or an aggressive summer watering regime. The Pechanga Reservation has a tree with an age estimated between 500-1000 years old. Our beautiful backyard tree (30 feet away from house for those who are interested) is around 300 years old and has a crown of 75 feet and a height of around 60 feet. The tree's natural leaf litter is preserved beneath the dripline of our tree and this ensures the tree's roots are properly oxygenated and helps maintain appropriate moisture levels for the tree. Great resources for those who are interested in maintaining any oaks they currently have or who are looking to install some in the future are the Las Pilitas Nursery website, the Theodore Payne Foundation, and the California Oaks project pdf on on Oak Tree Care.

    2.) I understand why people might be concerned about planting a large tree 10 feet away from their house. It is a serious shame when developers have erected houses so close to old established trees that were no doubt already significantly sized. If your lot is small plant smaller Scrub Oak. If you have the space for a large oak or another large native tree thats wonderful. Large trees and oaks particularly are essential for wildlife, help shade our houses (and thus decrease AC cooling costs), and provide a vast support network that allows other shrubs and trees to grow which would otherwise die due to the intense heat and lack of water. If you enjoy hearing birds sing in the morning, seeing butterflies (monarchs which roost in our tree), or using your backyard on hot summer days, you will understand the value of native oak trees which act as life support systems for many plants, birds, insects, and mammals (some of which rely solely on these trees to survive). Lastly, big trees also act as a windbreak for Santa Ana winds, give us privacy, and decrease road noise for the many Californians who live near loud freeways or streets

    3.) In rural areas oak tree woodlands are often cleared to make way for wineries and agriculture in Ca but one of the greatest threats to the trees (as one commenter above referenced) is development. Building a 5,000 sqft house on a 6,000 sqft lot does not leave room for large trees and often results in large swaths of city being completely stripped of all trees and much hotter as a result of decreased shade and reflected heat from paved surfaces. Around 50 years ago there were hundreds of oaks in our neighborhood. Today there are around 20 left and we see many die each year from improper pruning (we call the unethical "tree trimmers" butchers around here--they will harm a tree for profit) or overwatering to maintain an unused lawn that has been installed underneath the tree. Many cities do not protect oaks or do not enforce the laws they currently have in place because they do not have the necessary resources or because they do not value the trees more than property tax revenue.