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?


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

Thursday - July 31, 2008

From: Jackson , MI
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Tulip tree with white spots on leaves in Mississippi
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a tulip tree in my yard that blooms in the spring that is about 10-15 years old. However just this past week or so we have noticed that there is lots of white spots on the leaves and the branches. And many of the leaves are also turned blackish and a sticky syrup is leaking out of them all over our sidewalk. What is happening. This is our tree right in the front of our house that we love, can it be saved?


Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) is an excellent hardwood tree and native to Mississippi, so it should be able to do well there. Some sources tell us it suffers from no significant pests or diseases, but what do they know? Read this USDA Forest Service website Liriodendron tulipfera which lists some pests and diseases. Aphids, particularly tuliptree aphids, can build up to large numbers, leaving heavy deposits of honeydew on lower leaves, cars and other hard surfaces. A black sooty mold may grow on the honeydew. Although this does little permanent damage to the tree, the honeydew and sooty mold can be annoying. Powdery mildew causes a white coating on the leaves and is not usually harmful. Another possibility for the spots on the leaves is found in this Ohio Floriculture website on mealy bugs.

Some of the problems are more or less seasonal. The bugs and the mildew tend to flourish in hot, humid weather. Poor air circulation around the tree can be a contributing cause to mildew, so you might consider thinning the tree a little bit this winter. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center neither recommends for nor against the use of pesticides, but you might consult with your Mississippi State University extension office for Hinds County. They should know both whether there is an outbreak of problems with the tuliptree and be able to make recommendations for treatment.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera




More Pests Questions

Caterpillars ate my Sophora in La Mesa, CA.
July 06, 2011 - Before I noticed what was happening, my newly-planted 1 foot tall Sophora secundiflora was eaten by caterpillars. It now has no foliage. Do you think it will leaf out again?
view the full question and answer

Snails in the ice plants in California
May 31, 2011 - Ice plants and snails. Every morning when I go outside I see at least 20 or more snails. Is there a certain way that I should have planted them that would have prevented them from destroying my plant?...
view the full question and answer

Discouraging rattlesnakes in northern California
July 12, 2011 - Searching for information re: managing your garden to discourage snakes, especially rattlesnakes. I live in northern California and we have many. I found one of your articles, but the link to an U. of...
view the full question and answer

Tulip trees losing bark in OH
July 11, 2011 - We have two tulip trees in our yard that are losing their bark at the base of the trunk. I am careful with the mower keeping away from the tree when I mow. What could the problem be and what can I d...
view the full question and answer

Help for Collapsing Tradescantia
August 14, 2013 - My tradescantia has completely collapsed at the crown. The stems are yellowish. This happened once before when I had it planted in full sun and I just had to discard it. This time I have one plante...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center