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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 22, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Vascular wilt in Rhus virens
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hi Smarty: Our evergreen sumac grew beautifully this spring (it is about 2 years old -- we got it at the LBJ Wildflower Center plant sale). Then its leaves suddenly drooped last month (May) and turned purplish or brown and it basically died very quickly. We have had lots of rain, including one rain event that sort of flooded the sumac because the gutter overflowed. Still, I can't believe it would up and die from too much rain (we did not water it). I asked you the wax myrtle question a couple weeks ago. The sumac was near the wax myrtle. Maybe it got that fungus too? I saw very little powder on it. Sincerely: Color Me Confused in Austin

ANSWER:

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac) is susceptible to vascular fungal disease, also called vascular wilt; but given your recent problem with your wax myrtle, we suspect something else could be going on here. Is it possible that you or one of your neighbors has recently used herbicides that could have accidentally made their way through the runoff from the rain to your plants? It might be a good idea to contact the Travis County Extension Office about having your soil tested or testing the affected plants for pathogens.

 

 

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