En Español

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?


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

Wednesday - May 21, 2014

From: Pipe Creek, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Small tan balls on oak from Pipe Creek TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, our spanish oak is growing tan colored lumpy balls about the size and weight of a marshmallow..sometimes just one at the end of a short stem and sometimes 2-3 clumped together. Inside is filled with a tan tight network of webbing. Though the tree had a particularly productive acorn growth last year, on we have never noticed these balls in the 35 years we've lived here. Could be we just never noticed them, I guess. Do you know what these are? Thanks!


There are four species of the genus Quercus (oak) with an alternate common name of "Spanish Oak" in our Native Plant Database. Although three of them, Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak), Quercus falcata (Southern red oak) and Quercus texana (Nuttall oak), are native to Texas, only Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak) is native to Bandera County. That doesn't necessarily mean that is the tree in your garden, it just gives us one to use as an example.

Here is an article from A Greener View by Jeff Rugg on oak galls. Also, a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on this subject.The information we got from our sources was mostly saying that galls may be unsightly but are not a cause for concern, and no insecticide is going to control the insects that are causing the galls, because the insect is protected by the gall itself.  You might also consider contacting the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office for Bandera County TX.  If this is occurring on your property, it is probably showinng up on other trees in your area, and the Extension Office should be in a better position to identify the problem and/or assure you that it is not a threat to your tree.


From the Image Gallery

Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

Southern red oak
Quercus falcata

Pin oak
Quercus palustris

Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

More Pests Questions

Wasps on live oaks from Sinton TX
August 20, 2012 - Wasps on my live oak trees. What is attracting them? Does this hurt the tree?
view the full question and answer

Sticky film on oak tree leaves from Whitney TX
September 04, 2012 - What is the sticky film that is coating leaves on our oak trees?
view the full question and answer

Mosquito repelling plants from Euless TX
July 24, 2013 - Are there any shade loving plants that repel mosquitoes for North Central Texas? I checked your site and saw nothing on this topic.
view the full question and answer

Problems with beheaded non-native Gerbera daisies in Cooperstown, NY
May 31, 2009 - I planted my gerberas in my perennial bed - as usual. Something is beheading them and leaving the blooms along side the plant. Some of the bloom is eaten but most of it is right there. I have t...
view the full question and answer

Bare spot in Prairie Phlox in Austin
February 25, 2009 - I have Prairie Phlox in my garden that I have had for about 4 to 6 years. I got the original plant from the NPSOT at their booth one year at the Wildflower center. It is really lovely in the spring wh...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center