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?

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

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
1 rating

Saturday - April 19, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Problems with sophora secundiflora
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My mountain laurel is looking bad. It has lost of its leaves, especially on the lower part of the tree (it's about 7 feet tall) and many of the remaining ones don't look good - they are curled up and spotted. The spots could be from insect eggs. This is the second year this has happened. It continues to get healthy new growth, however, and it bloomed some this year. I planted it about 20 years ago. It gets full sun. Several other mountain laurels close to it are perfectly healthy. Is this some kind of insect infestation? What should I do to care for it?

ANSWER:

The first possibility is that the leaves are chlorotic; that is, they don't have enough chlorophyll, which can cause black spotting between veins in the leaves. Plants can become chlorotic because the soil in which they are growing is so alkaline that the plant has difficulty extracting the iron that it needs from the soil. In the Austin area, particularly with other mountain laurels growing nearby, it seems unlikely that too much alkalinity is the problem. However, chlorosis in the Sophora secundiflora can also be caused by overwatering or watering too shallowly. This particular plant requires very good drainage and is accustomed to growing on limestone shelves or in very rocky soil. If your affected mountain laurel is in a low spot, a spot that accumulates moisture from runoff, or is watered by a sprinkler system, but not thoroughly, that could be causing the symptoms you are observing. Check the drainage on that tree; they need only be watered (if there has been no rain) every two to four weeks, but need to be deeply and thoroughly watered then. We think this is probably the most likely culprit.

We found several references to the genista caterpillar, apparently the larval stage of the Genista moth. Read this article on the Sophora Worm from the Maricopa (AZ) County cooperative Extension Home Horticulture site and see if any of the symptoms match the ones you are observing. Apparently, just picking off the caterpillars and/or destroying the webs that are spun by them controls that problem. If, upon close examination, you feel this is your problem, the website says you probably don't need to worry about it, but does give suggestions for control if the problem becomes severe.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Replacement for running bamboo in California
May 20, 2013 - We currently have running bamboo planted next to the side our house facing West, which has provided wonderful shade in front of two large windows. However, because it is running bamboo we are afraid i...
view the full question and answer

Dormancy in Pin Oaks without water in Del Rio, TX
August 02, 2011 - Can Pin Oak trees go dormant without enough water? If so how long can they live that way? Can they be brought back to producing leaves? If yes, then what do I need to do besides giving them water. I d...
view the full question and answer

Arborvitae thinning in Bucks County, PA
April 09, 2010 - My arborvitae trees are about 11 ft. tall. I had them put in about 3 years ago. They were 8 to 10 ft. when planted. After the first year, I have noticed they are thinning to the point where you can se...
view the full question and answer

Effect of unusual wet weather on desert willows
July 23, 2007 - I live in North Central Texas and have 3 beautiful Desert willow trees that are usually in full bloom. I've kept them pruned to form a nice full tree shape but now they are losing leaves and looking ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with tuliptree in North Salem IN
September 02, 2009 - I have a tulip tree and it looks like it is dying. The limbs are starting to turn bright blue. Do I have an insect problem or is it from a lightning strike?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center