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
7 ratings

Sunday - May 11, 2008

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Mountain laurel with new leaves or new seed pods
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Each spring, my Texas Mountain Laurel seems to put new leaves only on selected branches (actually trunks), and put on seed pods on other trunks. It seems to be mutually exclusive: trunks with new seed pods get no new leaves, and visa versa. Is that normal? The tree in question is about 5-6 years old and seems healthy otherwise.


You are very observant! Producing flowers and fruits (seed pods) and producing new leaves are both very energy-costly activities, so Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) does one or the other on a particular branch, but not both. The tip of each branch, the terminal bud, holds the primary growth areas of the plant, the apical meristems. The growth will be new leaves unless the cells of the apical meristem get a signal to form flowers instead. The signals for flowering include the maturity of the plant, the photoperiod, and temperature. Various plant hormones are involved, also—for instance, auxin for plant growth (as well as other plant activities) and florigen for flowering.

Some trees either add new leaves exclusively on all branches or bloom exclusively on all branches, but yours is not abnormal with some branches having new leaves and others bearing flowers and fruit. After I read your question, I did a survey of the mountain laurels in my neighborhood and elsewhere around Austin and saw many with new leaves on some branches and fruits on different branches of the same tree like your tree, as well as some with only seed pods on all branches or only new growth on all branches.

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora






More Trees Questions

My newly planted Mountain Laurel isn\'t doing well.
March 13, 2009 - My mountain laurel was planted from a container in Dec. It is in part sun, clay soil, and its leaves are turning yellow. should I move it or will that kill it?
view the full question and answer

Identification of spiky red berry in Connecticut
September 25, 2011 - I found an odd berry outside of my school, none of the science teachers know what it is though. It kind of looks like a spiked cherry. It has spikes on the outside, a pit on the insde, and has pinkish...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing medium-sized tree for New Jersey
July 06, 2013 - I'm looking for trees to put on a slight slope that will do well in rocky clay soil. I 'm in N.J. zone 6. The spot is full sun and would like a fast grower 50 ft high maximum. I'm replacing white p...
view the full question and answer

Stressed Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana
September 12, 2009 - I planted a 5' Texas Persimmon last May..it is watered by drip irrigation and has done well, putting on lots of new leaves and looking healthy as can be. That is, until several days ago when it began...
view the full question and answer

Native trees with yellow fall leaves
December 10, 2007 - Hello, I want to plant a medium sized tree in my back yard that has yellow foliage in the fall. I've seen Yellow (in the fall) trees in my part of town (south Austin around West William Cannon)th...
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