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?


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

Tuesday - April 01, 2008

From: Omaha, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Reason for die-back of native Mahonia repens
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have several mahonia repens plants planted on my property. This is the third spring for them and I have noticed that they look like they might be dying out. The leaves have turned brown and are curled. Some of the plants have actually lost their leaves. Are they in fact dying or was it some kind of winter kill?


Mahonia repens (creeping barberry) has medium water use. Overwatering and lack of water can both cause the type of damage you are asking about. According to the USDA Plant Profile on this plant, it is naturally located only in the northwest corner of Nebraska. Since Douglas County is on the eastern edge of Nebraska, there may be a soil issue involved. Mahonia repens does best in rich sandy, chalky or granitic soils, which may not be available in eastern Nebraska.

Mahonia is susceptible to rusts and leaf spots. Chlorosis (lack of iron) can be a problem in acidic soils. Leaf scorch may occur in winter, especially when plants are grown in exposed areas. Occasional insect visitors include aphids, scale and whitefly.

This University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension County Offices website will give you contact information for the Douglas County extension offices, which can probably give you more definite information on the type of problem you are having, and whether it is something that can be fixed.

Mahonia repens

Mahonia repens

Mahonia repens

Mahonia repens



More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Fungus type problem on native blackeyed susans in Ohio
August 20, 2008 - I have black eyed susans that have recently developed a black fungus type problem in the bottom and on the leaves. The flowers are now wilting and dying. What is this and how can I stop it from possib...
view the full question and answer

Why are my lemon Cyprees trees turning Black?
April 01, 2010 - I have 3 lemon Cypress plants - all are about 6 feet tall. One of them has started turning black on one side - like it's been burnt. The inside of the plant is also turning black. I assume something ...
view the full question and answer

Yellow bands around edges of leaves in Whitney TX
July 20, 2009 - How can you tell whether esperanzas are getting too much water or not enough - ours have a small yellow band around the edges of the leaves - crape myrtles - same question
view the full question and answer

Identification of worm feeding on chockecheery
August 03, 2007 - I am looking to find out what sort of worm looking insect, is commonly found on chokecherry trees. It has a turquoise appearance with yellow fingerlike projections on the back. It suctions onto the ...
view the full question and answer

Young pecan trees with leaf and branch problems from Gatesville TX
November 18, 2013 - I have a young pecan tree that had very rapidly browning Leaves. They became brittle and so did the branches with affected leaves. The branches soon fell off. We treated with fungicide during that pro...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center