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
15 ratings

Thursday - August 21, 2008

From: Palo Cedro, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Fungus on trunk of non-native weeping willow in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Palo Cedro, CA and have a weeping willow tree with with what appears to be be some type of fungus growing all over the trunk of the tree. It is a brown color and can be broken off in big chunks. It is not part of the tree or root system. Could you please give me your opinion on what it is and if there is anything I can do about it? It is about 20 feet tall and about the same distance wide. It is a beautiful and healthy tree aside from this problem. Thanks for any help you can give. Don


We found a couple of plant diseases that particularly seem to like members of the genus Salix, or willow. The particular willow you have, of course, is not native to North America, but to China and is Salix x sepulcralis. Willows are weak wood and disease prone, fast-growing but short-lived. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we promote the use and propagation of plants native to North America. In this particular case, it probably doesn't matter if the plant is native or not.

The two diseases that we found that we believe fit the description of symptoms that you gave us are Crown Gall  (University of Maine Pest Management Labs) and Canker (Iowa State University Extension site on Fast Growing Trees).

Images of Canker on willows

Images of Crown Gall

From the description you gave us of the problems your tree was having, we would say the best thing to do is get it down and disposed of before the disease can spread to other plants in the area. If you prefer, you might have a trained arborist look at it, and see if it's worth the effort to try to save it.


More Non-Natives Questions

Care for non-native tropical hibiscus in Houston
April 15, 2010 - How to care for a tropical hibiscus plant? How much water, sun, fertilizer? I am novice gardener in Houston, TX. From much reading, April seems to be the month I cut all blooms and let the plant lie d...
view the full question and answer

Non-native tropicals for Syracuse, NY
August 10, 2009 - I live in upstate New York but am a fanatic about tropical plants, palms and banana trees. They're obviously all in pots that I take indoors, and I lose them from time to time. (Had a coconut palm th...
view the full question and answer

Male or female Jatropha curcas from Brownsville TX
August 16, 2012 - How do know the sex of a young Jatropha C. plant? how many weeks before you can tell a boy/girl plant ?
view the full question and answer

Seeds of agave attenuata from San Diego CA
April 16, 2012 - After the agave attenuata bloom dried up there are seeds like thing hanging on the foxtail; do I leave it until it dies or do I chop that down. Are those seeds for propagation. The leaves of the plan...
view the full question and answer

Non-native bamboo for a privacy fence in Smithville, TX
February 16, 2010 - I am considering planting bamboo along my privacy fence inside my back yard. I like the informality of it and durability. Is it safe for children and pets?
view the full question and answer

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