En EspaŅol

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?

Share

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - May 28, 2014

From: Greenfield, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Brown leaf problem with herbaceous blooming plants from Greenfield MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have 3 plants cimicifuga brunette and lots of astile planted near each other. Suddenly the edges of leaves have turned brown and shriveled and spread to entire plant, all of them. It has not been hot yet, they are well watered, has been raining often this spring. They are planted in rich soil. This was sudden and is spreading from plant to plant. The conditions have always been perfect. It is as if there is a blight. Any thoughts on this? Thank you.

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America, but also to the place in which they are being grown; in your case, Franklin County, Massachusetts. We found no plant, native or non-native, with the name of "Astile," so we figured you meant "Astilbe." The genus Astilbe native to North America is Astilbe biternata (Appalachian false goat's beard). If you follow that plant link to our webpage on that plant you will see that it is native to southeastern states. As you can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map, this plant grows natively as near to Massachusetts as Virginia and West Virginia.

With the Cimicifuga brunette, we had a little more trouble, not finding any genus by that name in our Native Plant Database. However, we went to the Internet and discovered from this article from the Missouri Botanical Garden that all members of the Cimicifuga genus have been transferred to the Acteae genus and that it is now a cultivar correctly termed Actaea simplex 'Brunette.' Being a cultivar would mean it would not be in our Native Plant Database, but neither is Actaea simplex. In that same article we learned that this plant is sometimes referred to as "cohosh," or "bugbane" both of which are common names in our database of Actaea racemosa var. racemosa (Black cohosh) .

Botanists move in mysterious ways, and names get changed on plants without notice sometimes; we believe that your Cimicifuga brunette is actually   Actaea racemosa var. racemosa (Black cohosh). According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it does grow natively in Franklin Co., Massachusetts.

We go through all this rigamarole to determine if a problem could be due to the plant being raised somewhere that does not have appropriate soils, climate or rainfall for that plant. However, we believe both your plants should be all right where you are growing them, and since they are different plants with the same (and spreading) symptoms, something else, a blight or disease, must be causing the trouble. Since we are gardeners, and not entomologists or plant pathologists, we need to refer you to some experts in your area who may already know what is going on.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst maintains an Extension Office for Western Massachusetts. On that site, you will find a Plant Problems Diagnostics website. This has contact information and the people there may very well already be familiar with the problem and know what to suggest you do.

 

From the Image Gallery


Appalachian false goat's beard
Astilbe biternata

White baneberry
Actaea pachypoda

Black cohosh
Actaea racemosa var. racemosa

Red baneberry
Actaea rubra

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Plant ID from Woodcreek TX
January 27, 2012 - I would like to attach a photo of a weed in my lawn and have you identify it. How do I send a photo? I have been told it may be ground ivy. Please tell me how to kill it without damaging the lawn.
view the full question and answer

Death of Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy from Austin
April 18, 2013 - I have one small area that there are two plants - Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy withered and died eventually. Same kinds of plants are doing fine close by. It is my front yard close to walk way.I w...
view the full question and answer

Maintenance of milkweed from Austin
September 12, 2013 - I help plant and maintain a Monarch Waystation Garden in San Leanna, Texas (South Austin). Should milkweed plants be cut back during the winter? Last year we cut them back a bit late and some died c...
view the full question and answer

Texas natives that attract butterflies but not deer
December 13, 2012 - I'd like to have some plants in my garden that are butterfly attractors, but that whitetail deer won't like. I can find lists of butterfly plants, and lists of deer-resistant plants -- is there a li...
view the full question and answer

Plants for full-sun landscape
November 20, 2007 - I live in a very rocky area just outside of Fort Worth, TX. It's taken me all spring, summer & now I'm going into the fall, to landscape just 30 feet in front of my house. The front of the house get...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center