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

Saturday - August 16, 2008

From: Redding, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Damaged non-native weeping willow in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a weeping willow that has no leaves and branches seems to have turned brittle. I don't see any bugs or burrows on the tree. The type of willow I have is very common in this area, although I'm not sure of the exact type, although I know its not a curly leave. We have had a lot of smoke up here this summer and I'm wondering if this is a reaction to the bad air/lack of ultra violet rays and if I should prune it back in winter. In years past, this tree grew very quickly and was very green. I'm not sure if it has died or what? My friends who have other tree types, redwood/oaks, also have mentioned that their trees are doing strange things, like dropping excessive cones and leaves turning yellow. Any suggestions would be helpful.

ANSWER:

If it's not No. 1, "What's wrong with my weeping willow?" is right up there close to the top of most frequently asked questions to Mr. Smarty Plants. If you search on "weeping willow" in the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants section, you get thirteen possibilities. The problem is, the question is the wrong question asked at the wrong time. We wish that gardeners would ask "Should I plant a weeping willow?" BEFORE they purchase and plant it. Non-native to the United States, Salix x sepulcralis is a hybrid of a Chinese species (Peking willow) and a European species (white willow), and is said to grow in Zones 5 to 8 in the United States. It is weak-wooded, fast-growing and, therefore, short-lived. It has aggressive roots, can lift sidewalks and interfere with sewer lines, often growing on soil surface, making a problem with mowing. It is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, and notorious for littering the ground beneath it. See this University of Florida Extension website on Weeping Willows for more information. Also, in case you think we're exaggerating, see this Q&A from North Dakota State University Extension on weeping willows.

We tend to agree with you that terrible fires in California recently could very well be causing the problems on your tree. The Salix x sepulcralis is considered a poor urban street tree, precisely because of pollution issues. Your location in north central California would certainly add credence to your idea. Not only would your trees and those of your neighbors have been dealing with wood smoke, but also with all the other possible pollutants from man-made structures that burned. Sadly, there is probably not much that can be done. You might try the thumbnail test, scraping away a thin bit of bark from some of the tree branches. If there is green underneath, the tree is still alive. If you want to retain the tree, we certainly wouldn't recommend doing any pruning on it until cooler weather, when it should be more dormant. In the meantime, giving it some extra water and watching for any possible diseases attacking the weakened tree might help it pull through. Then, you could try pruning away any branches that are obviously dead, and taking off some tops to take some of the strain off the roots in getting water and nutrients up to the top.

Because this is apparently a widespread problem, we would suggest you contact your University of California Shasta County Extension office. They should be aware this is going on, and if there are any cures, should be able to advise you.

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Planting iris rhizomes in Wisconsin
October 10, 2008 - I live in central WI and was given some iris bulbs (think they are called Rhizomes) and have no idea how to go about planting them. I am very new to planting so step by step instructions with good de...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of non-native Selenicereus Antonyanus from Warwick RI
March 24, 2012 - I just purchased a Selenicereus Anthonyanus, Rick Rack Cactus unrooted. I have searched on the web of the proper way to root the plant and have had no luck except it says easy rooting but not how to r...
view the full question and answer

Apples, pears and geraniums in Kipling, Saskatchewan
March 30, 2013 - My geranium's leaves became yellow - Why? Where can I buy a good nice apple tree? Will apples and pears grow in south Saskatchewan?
view the full question and answer

When (and whether) to plant non-native red-tip photinia in Austin
October 30, 2011 - With the current and forecast drought I'm wondering if the usual rules about when to plant might change. I'd like to plant red-tip photinia.
view the full question and answer

Propagation on bamboo in Washington State
August 30, 2008 - I have been trying for some time to grow bamboo in my garden. They rooted very well in the house but as soon as I put them in a large planter under the fir trees they turned yellow.They have a large h...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center