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?

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
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

Thursday - May 29, 2008

From: Kyle, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Bark problems on Platanus occidentalis (American Sycamore)
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I got home today, after two hot sunny days, and found that one of the sycamores (street tree) planted last year (3-4" caliper) has vertically split and peeling bark on the south side of the trunk (large chunks are sheeting off - maybe this is normal for Sycamores). Another one has what looks like sunburn all along the south side of the trunk up to about 7 or 8 feet high; the bark on this one is darkened and dull where it is sunburned and the bark is beginning to split too and it looks like there might be some small insect beginning to chew in the exposed trunk.

ANSWER:

First, the good news. It's perfectly normal for bark to peel off a Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore).

On the other hand, this tree has several liabilities. Some of those that might apply in this case are:

Anthracnose: This Colorado State University Extension website has a good description of this fungal disease; however, it appears symptoms are more likely to appear in leaves than bark.

Canker stain: First, see this Texas A&M website on Trees, scroll down to "Sycamore," reading especially the paragraphs on anthracnose and cankers. This Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences site has more diagnostic information. Finally, take a look at these pictures of canker stain, and compare them with the symptoms on your trees.

American plum borers: A description of this pest of fruit and ornamental trees is found in this Cornell University Integrated Pest Management site on the American Plum Borer. And, again, pictures of the beastie.

Sycamore lacewings: This Ohio State University Extension website on Lace Bugs details their appearance and treatment, but says they are seldom a serious threat. Again, the symptoms of this would show up more in the leaves than the bark of the sycamore.

Okay, more bad news than good news, sorry. Because we are more experienced in the care and propagation of native plants than we are in pests and diseases, we suggest you contact the Hays County Extension Office for information and perhaps a better diagnosis of how serious the problem is. The contact information is at the bottom of the webpage.

 

More Trees Questions

Alleotrophic effects of caffeine found in Ilex species
January 24, 2007 - I'm doing research for my biology class on the alleotrophic effects of caffeine. I'm planning to use Ilex vomitoria as the caffeine-producing plant. As the control I want to use another non-c...
view the full question and answer

Native alternative for Japanese Red Maple in Oklahoma
October 12, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I am looking for a native alternative to a Japanese Red Maple. I would like a small tree that I can put in my front garden that will not pose a security risk my being overgrown and ...
view the full question and answer

Alternatives to tuliptree and red maple in Central Texas
August 03, 2007 - I live in southwest Austin, TX, nearby a creek. The soil is very heavy with clay. I've been perusing web sites for trees, and we like the "Summer Red Maple" and "Tulip Poplar" trees very much, m...
view the full question and answer

Freeze-damaged Texas Mountain Laurel in Austin, TX.
May 05, 2011 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) that is several years old. During this past winter, one of the freezes we had split one of the largest trunk right below the soil line. T...
view the full question and answer

Plants for soil with basalt outcroppings in Idaho
March 30, 2008 - We have basalt (lava) outcropping in part of our back yard and know we'll have to search for pockets of soil in which to plant. Any suggestions about what trees or shrubs would have a chance in thes...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center