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
5 ratings

Monday - May 12, 2008

From: The Colony, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Natural lifespan of wild plum trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have a small border of Wild Plum Trees in our yard. Every year it seem that one or two of the biggest trees die. Do they have a specific life span? We transplanted the trees/bushes from the panhandle area. They have been growing for about 15 years.


First, we needed to establish which wild plum you have, so we looked at the members of the Prunus genus that are found native in Texas.

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum) is found in the Panhandle of Texas. It is a straggly, thicket-forming shrub that may reach 6' in height, but is not usually that tall.

Prunus havardii (Havard's plum) is found only in one or two spots in far West Texas. It is another thicket-forming shrub. Image

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) is native to a small section of the Panhandle and North Central Texas. It is actually a tree in shape, can grow from 12' to 35' tall.

Prunus rivularis (creek plum) is found in Central and North Central Texas; yet another thicket-forming shrub.

Prunus texana (peachbush) is found only in far South Texas, endemic to the Edwards Plateau and the Rio Grande Plains.

Since we don't know which one of these you have or if, indeed, you have a hybrid that we wouldn't even have in our Native Plant Database, we tried to find out what the average age of plum trees, whether actual trees or shrubs, might be. The best we could find out was that 10 to 15 years in the landscape was about the best you could hope for. Some orchards got as old as 30 years old, but that was not the usual thing.

We found this article from the Texas Gardener Magazine by Dr. Larry Stein "So what do we do with old fruit trees?" It has a great deal of excellent information about deciding when it's time to give up on a fruit tree. His main point is that they will live and produce longer if they are properly cared for when they are first planted, in terms of water, keeping weeds away, etc. If your trees are at least 15 years old, show no insect damage or root disturbance, they are probably dying at about the expected age. If you would like to continue your hedge with the same plants, see this article from the University of Florida Extension Propagation of Woody Ornamentals by Cuttings.

Prunus gracilis

Prunus mexicana

Prunus rivularis

Prunus texana



More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Mildew on phlox paniculata from Morrisville PA
May 30, 2014 - My Phlox paniculata, all 7, have powdery mildew. I read about using NEEM to combat the mildew. NEEM is organic but the bottle says it is also an insecticide. The phlox are near my milkweed and gold...
view the full question and answer

Cause of yellowing buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
June 07, 2008 - We are getting large yellow areas in our buffalo grass lawn and think this is probably due to grub worms. Are grub worms the likely culprit and if so, what is the best way to get rid of them? We don...
view the full question and answer

Care of Styphnolobium affine, Eves necklace
October 05, 2007 - I have an 18 yr old Eve's Necklace tree that is dying from the "bottom up". It has only a few leaves at the very top of the tree. I have, connected to the gutter, a rain barrel from which the exc...
view the full question and answer

Need help with a 50 ft Tulip Tree with storm damage in Brownsburg, IN.
June 30, 2010 - I have a 50 ft Tulip tree that suffered storm damage. One for the main branches split at the top fork and fell. It has left about 6 ft of exposed wood but there are still a couple of main branches in...
view the full question and answer

Will damage to live oak root make it more susceptible to oak wilt
December 24, 2012 - Hi. I knicked the root of a live oak when digging. Will this hurt the tree and make it more succeptible to wilt? Is there something I can use to protect the exposed part of the root and make it les...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center