Valley Oak - Problematic Location

Phil3(9)April 16, 2014

I have a potential problem with what I think is a young Valley Oak tree. The softly lobed leaves, the presence of a green gall (wasp) on a limb seem to indicate it is a Valley Oak, but the bark is smooth grey. Unlike what I read about oaks, this tree has grown incredibly rapidly. About 17' in just a few years. The base of the trunk is about 3-1/2" in diameter. The question is what should be done with it.

A fence separates our backyard from our neighbor�s backyard and the oak tree is growing on a slope in the neighbor�s backyard, about 3-1/2 feet from our dividing fence. I really don�t want the tree there. Given the growth rate and size this thing can reach, I am worried it will lift the fence, shade much of our property, and make a mess of our landscaping and should be removed. It will block some of our view. I e-mailed the neighbor saying it should be removed, but no response. I am confident the tree was not planted by the neighbor, as their backyard is a wreck, with no landscaping, a dying pine tree, etc. We have oak tree seedlings popping up everywhere, so no surprise this thing grew.

If the neighbor won�t do anything, I am not sure if I should really cut the tree back on my side or try to make the best of it as it looms over my yard (not yet landscaped, but hoped for some lawn where the tree would shade). Will the root system of this oak cause problems for my foundation which is about 37� feet away? Or landscaping that is inside the drip line?



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I have a neighbor like this. A seedling from our walnut tree had grown up (to 30') on their side of their property, right along our fence. Not surprisingly, it pushed the fence out of the fence post. They were nice enough to cut the tree down, but the stump needs to come out before the fence can be repaired - I don't feel the need to pay for it and, frankly, I don't think that they can afford it. And there are several 5' tall cherry trees growing on their property - all from seedlings, of course. My wife and I sent them letters offering to buy half of their lot (since they're obviously too dysfunctional to take care of it), but they didn't reply.

Unfortunately, I don't think that you can force your neighbor to cut the tree down until it damages your fence. I would try to get a conversation started by knocking on their door. If that doesn't work, you probably have the right to cut down tree limbs that hang over your property (check with your local laws first). I wouldn't think that the roots from a tree almost 40' away would damage your foundation.

Good luck. There is a lot of dysfunctional trash in my town, so I empathize.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:38PM
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Tree lover here. I doubt that the oak poses a problem to your foundation -- we have several oaks much closer to our foundation than that.

Why don't you go knock on your neighbor's door or leave them a note about a good time to speak? I can't imagine they would have a problem with you cutting the tree on your side of the fence. The problem with emails nowadays is not knowing whether or not they've been read. I had a neighbor send me emails to an address that I never use (used it to sign up for a neighborhood bulletin board but then forgot the password, and switched to a different account) -- they thought I was blowing them off but I really just never saw the messages, didn't figure this out until months later when I ran into them in person.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:50PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Legally there is nothing you can do about the tree itself. Legally you can cut any overhanging branches to the property line, but you may not step onto the neighbor's property to do so.

Valley Oak's root system goes straight down looking for the water table. If they can't find it they decline. I would not be worried about the foundation of my house with 37' of space for a couple of hundred years.

I feel your pain! The neighbors planted all their trees (deliberately) right up against the property line. Sooner rather than later the Magnolia's roots will start cracking the retaining wall. I asked the neighbors to move the tree when they planted it, but they refused. They said by the time it was a problem they would move and it would be someone else's problem. I do not irrigate in that area in hopes that the Magnolia root system will crack their driveway before it cracks my retaining wall. I could not access my side to clean without doing this:

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 6:09PM
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Yeah, valley oaks are all about the taproot and don't generally elevate the surrounding ground. I wouldn't worry about the fence if it is really 3 ft away. It could easily be 50 years before it gives the fence any trouble, which is probably longer than the lifetime of most fences anyway.

I personally love them but they do cast a reasonable shadow and drop leaves in the fall. You should still be able to grow a lawn beneath it without much trouble. Valley oaks grow more up and out as a canopy tree. If you trim your side it will just keep growing higher and keep trying to reach over as long as there is direct sunlight available. If you really hate it, bake your neighbor some cookies.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:28AM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

I have the SAME problem with THREE neighbors! Both have valley oak trees that grew from seeds right up against the fence. Luckily, I did speak to one of them and they are willing to remove the trees and we'll split the cost of rebuilding the fence. I haven't had luck with the other two.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:47AM
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Thanks for the replies. I have included a Photobucket link with some photos. Hopefully this works. If not, I will work on it to fix. The tree is hard to see in some pics due to background greenery, but in other photos, against the sky, it is obvious. There is about a 3' branch hanging just over the top of the fence. The yard is a mess as we are killing and removing everything for new landscaping (which may be influenced by the presence of this oak). But, it gives you some idea of the area the oak could shade. The dirt shown is where I had hoped to plant a lawn. Our house is about 37' away from the fence (to the right, when pic is shot down the fence line).

Perhaps the oak may provide some benefit. The oak is somewhat downwind of a much bigger pine tree, which drops debris in our yard. One long branch of the oak has already made contact with the limbs of the pine. Wonder who wins that battle. Oak

I-emailed the owner Monday and no response, but will knock on the door, and even offer to have someone else take it down, and if they want, I will buy another more suitable tree to replace it.

One other thing. I don't think we will be here longer than 8 - 10 years. How big will this oak be in that time? How old does the oak look now. About 17' feet tall, and maybe 15' wide. I can prune the oak on my side, but once it grows tall enough, I won't be able to reach it, and then what?

Thank you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket Pics

This post was edited by Phil3 on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 15:17

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:59PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I think it will nicely screen out the view of your neighbor's house. If you are only going to be there another 10 years, I wouldn't worry about it.

Which way is south? that is the direction in which it will grow the most.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 6:47PM
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I think the oak looks nicer than the pine tree -- if you wanted maybe you could convince the neighbor to take out the pine instead ;-)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 7:46PM
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I would love to have a Valley Oak in my yard. Not sure where i could site it so it's not too close to the road or my cess pool.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 11:02PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

If it were me, I wouldn't worry about that tree. I agree that the problems it might cause will be minimal and won't happen for decades. Look at the bright side, it will provide screening between you and the neighbor and habitat for native critters. As far as trees go I think Valley Oaks provide the best type of shade, not too deep and the leaves drop in winter. I chose to buy my house partially because of the large Valley Oaks in the yard, in the long run that tree could be an advantage.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:16AM
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There is nothing sacred about a tree growing in the wrong place. Think of it as just another weed, only bigger. Like any weed it is much easier and less expensive to remove while still small. Al

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:18AM
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