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

Saturday - August 02, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Live oaks dropping brown leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Eric Beckers


We have three live oaks and one of them has been dropping quite a few brown leaves over the past two weeks. I looked at pictures of trees with oak wilt and ours do not look like the pictures. I also bent back a few branches and the insides are whitish green. Any ideas of what could be causing this would be appreciated.


Mr. Smarty Plants contacted Eric Beckers with Texas Forest Service about your problem and this is what he says:

"Live oaks (and most other trees) in the Austin area remain under stress from this extended drought.  One of the reactions to stress is the senescing (dropping) of non-essential leaves, and with live oaks that usually means the older leaves of that year found further back on the stem or twig.  It is important to note that leaves further out on the twig are remaining green and lustrous...and attached!  Again, nothing abnormal for a healthy live oak to loose a small percentage of interior (older) leaves during the peak of summer, and they typically fall in various shades of yellow and brown.  However, if many leaves are shedding from the outer branch tips it might be time to have an arborist take a closer look at your valuable tree."


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Leaves on yaupon holly turning brown/black
July 20, 2011 - Arlington TX Yaupon Holly has leaves on stems closer to the bottom of the plant and moving up that are turning brown/black. Is this a disease, over/under watering? There is black gummy soil, but it ha...
view the full question and answer

Holes in trunk of Monterey Oak in Austin, TX.
May 05, 2013 - My Monterrey Oak (about 4 in diameter) has a problem. It started budding out and had a few leafs, then just quit. It had what I thought was new buds that would develop, but didn't. Then, the exist...
view the full question and answer

Mutation in bluebonnets from Elgin TX
April 16, 2013 - What causes bluebonnets to mutate..grow as if three or four are combined into one flower on one very flat, wide stem. I have these in my yard; they are beautiful! I have taken several pictures.
view the full question and answer

Problem with unknown tree in Austin, Texas
July 23, 2013 - Have recently moved to Austin, Texas and have a tree in my backyard that has been dropping leaves and one major branch appears to be dead. That branch has hard rust colored sap circles (about penny si...
view the full question and answer

Pruning mature cedar elm trees in San Antonio
September 14, 2008 - When is the right time to prune my several mature cedar elm trees? I'm in San Antonio, and they have never been trimmed in the 55 years we have lived in this home. I have several that are at least 7...
view the full question and answer

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