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

Thursday - May 29, 2008

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


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.


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

Native trees for horse pasture in eastern Washington
October 15, 2008 - Hi. I live in Washington State (eastern)What type of trees can I grow in a pasture for horses? Best Regards,
view the full question and answer

Thorn bushes for a fence in Puerto Rico
November 17, 2015 - I'm looking for thorn bushes that grow in Puerto Rico. Want to use as fence to keep wild life in. Thanks, at least 5 ft tall so dogs can't get out.
view the full question and answer

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Leaf spot as indicator of Oak Wilt Disease
May 26, 2007 - I live close to the Wilflower Center. I have two trees in my front yard which are just now showing brown spots on the leaves. I fear this may be oak wilt. Would it be possible for me to bring som...
view the full question and answer

Tree species for a small yard
June 29, 2012 - I have a small front yard area. Maybe 10' x 15'. It is also elevated. There is a retaining wall about 4 feet high. The builders planted a live oak! I think it is a nightmare waiting to happen as it ...
view the full question and answer

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