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

Wednesday - August 20, 2008

From: Frisco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Planting, Soils, Trees
Title: Damage to native elm in Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had a major landscape renovation done over the winter. One of the trees, an elm about 10 yrs old, remained in the bed although plants around it were removed. The tree has suddenly started turning yellow and dropping leaves in the last week. I had removed some of the over mulching around the trunk, but only about 3 inches. The oaks surrounding it appear fine. Bed drainage is good - if anything, it wasn't getting enough water. I've since watered it. The tree was fertilized last fall with "spikes" and then again in the spring.

ANSWER:

Although there are worse things that can happen to an elm, this sounds more like damage done during the landscaping. Ulmus alata (winged elm), Ulmus americana (American elm) and Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm) all are likely candidates to be the elm in your garden, found as natives in your part of the state.

However, to start with the "worse things", these elms are all susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease, which has decimated elm populations in many parts of the United States. This Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension site on Dutch Elm Disease lists symptoms and treatments. Let's hope that is not what is wrong with your tree, because treatment pretty much involves removing the tree before any others around it are infected. Some trees are susceptible to powdery mildew, causing varying degrees of leaf color changes in Fall, right before leaves drop. Mites can yellow the foliage but usually cause no permanent damage. Scale insects can infest elms along branches.

Roots of trees  are mostly in the upper 6 to 12 inches of the soil. Roots are typically found growing one to three times the height of the tree and may be smothered by adding soil or increasing the grade. It only takes a few inches of added soil to kill a sensitive mature tree. In the process of removing other plantings, your tree may have been exposed to higher levels of sunlight, particularly during this very hot summer in Texas. Your tree could have been stressed by one or more of these situations and could therefore be more prone to disease and pest infestation.

Irrigation and drainage: Improper drainage needs to be repaired. A long soak over the entire root system is preferred. Make sure surface water drains away from the tree. Apply a 2 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch such as compost, shredded bark or pine needles over the root system as far as is practical-not deeper than 4" and not piled against the trunk. Don't fertilize until the tree recovers. This website from the USDA Forest Service on Ulmus alata (winged elm) gives a pretty good summary of the various pests and diseases of the different species of the genus Ulmus. If you still are unable to determine the problem with your elm, contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension office for Collin County.

 

More Planting Questions

Sages in Catasauqua, PA
August 08, 2014 - I want to buy a Texas Sage tree but I live in PA. Can I bring the tree indoors during winter?
view the full question and answer

Live oak wobbling in the ground from Austin
May 02, 2012 - I have a live oak that was not planted firmly in the ground by the subdivision builder's landscapers. The entire tree is wobbly to the touch and it has come close to dying as result of windy condit...
view the full question and answer

Planting and care of Desert Willow in Golden Valley, AZ.
May 17, 2013 - I got a desert willow to plant in yard. Some of the leaves dried out before I could plant. Will that stop the tree from growing into a decent size tree or stay as a shrub?
view the full question and answer

Chile pequin from Spring Plant Sale in Austin
June 08, 2011 - Re: chile pequin purchased at your Spring 2011 sale: it grows, seems to thrive, but sets no flowers and so bears no fruit. It's in terracotta in Ladybug potting soil, on a shady apartment patio. How ...
view the full question and answer

Wildseed Planting in a drought
September 14, 2011 - Due to the extreme drought and no rain in the near future in central Texas would it be prudent to have a wildseed planting in October?
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