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?

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

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
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

Weed prevention in vegetable gardens
September 26, 2007 - Mr.Smarty Plants - I know this isn't your area, but we have a vegetable garden that has been plagued by summertime weeds. Do you have a recommendation for a control plan we could implement during t...
view the full question and answer

Alternatives to non-native, invasive Pampa grass
August 11, 2006 - Could you please tell me if Cortaderia Selloana is "zone 4" hardy? Also how to start Opuntia Humifusa from cuttings? Do I let them stand upright dry and with no soil until they form the callous? Ple...
view the full question and answer

Is cement leaching into flower beds in Colorado Springs?
May 16, 2009 - I have posed this question to a number of garden centers in our area around Colorado Springs--only to rec. a repeated--"Gee, I don't know." When we moved to our new home there was a rock concrete ...
view the full question and answer

Reference for native critical populations from York, PA
May 25, 2010 - I have recently read a naysayer of native gardening. He states that native garden plants usually do not have the critical population size to be self-perpetuating. He says that one could better help t...
view the full question and answer

When to Move Potted Plants Outside in Texas?
July 07, 2016 - When can I move my potted patio plants back outside? I live in Heath/ Rockwall, Texas. I have Horses tail, Croutens, and Money tree.
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center