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
3 ratings

Thursday - September 25, 2008

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Pruning, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Survival of native yaupon in The Woodlands, TX after hurricane
Answered by: Barbara Medford


One of my large native yaupons trees (8ft) fell away from a group during the hurricane. I have uprighted and tied it off for stability. Now the leaves are all brown and falling. Is the tree dead or dormant? Any suggestions?


We are so sorry to hear about the damage in The Woodlands. In reference to your Ilex vomitoria (yaupon), determining if it's dead or alive at a distance is difficult. First of all, how exactly did the tree go down? Did the trunk crack or break, or did roots get pulled out of the ground? Often, yaupon is multi-trunked. Could the fallen portion have been a trunk that was only part of one plant? If the main trunk of the plant is damaged, cracked or broken, even if it was fairly deep beneath the surface of the soil, it probably needs to be removed. The trunk is the carrier of moisture and nutrients to the rest of the tree, and the likelihood of recovery is pretty small. Not only will it probably not recover, but various diseases and molds could attack the damaged area and then move into the healthy part of the tree.

If it appears to have been a separate tree and the roots were pulled out of the ground, you probably gave it the best chance you could by putting them back in the ground. Start by giving it the thumbnail test. Scratch the outer bark of the fallen plant in several places. If there is still green beneath the outer bark, there is some hope for the tree.  It has been subjected to super transplant shock. An eight-foot yaupon could be considered to be pretty mature and to be forcibly transplanted by having its roots yanked out of the ground is obviously cause for concern. The main damage in a case like that is to the tiny hair-like rootlets on the root that have direct interaction with the soil around them. A large proportion of those have probably been destroyed, and will take some time growing back. First, as we always recommend in transplant shock, trim off the upper 1/4 to 1/3 of the tree, to cut down on the load on the roots which are trying to get nutrients and moisture from the soil up to the top. Don't fertilize, plants in shock can't assimilate fertilizer. One bright spot, as we move into Fall, woody plants tend to go into semi-dormancy. Make sure moisture is getting down to the roots, and mulch the root area to protect them from the sun and to help retain moisture. If, by Spring, you're not getting any new leaf buds, it's probably a lost cause. 

Ilex vomitoria



More Planting Questions

Trees for cutout in driveway in Houston
November 12, 2010 - I live in central Houston. I have a new driveway with a cutout of 4' x 8'. I would like to plant a shade tree that will not break up the concrete. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

How close can house be built to live oak from Austin
May 30, 2012 - We have a healthy 21" live oak tree on our lot and are planning to build a home in Circle C subdivision in southwest austin. The home foundation will be within 15' of the large live oak. Need your h...
view the full question and answer

Maintenance of milkweed from Austin
September 12, 2013 - I help plant and maintain a Monarch Waystation Garden in San Leanna, Texas (South Austin). Should milkweed plants be cut back during the winter? Last year we cut them back a bit late and some died c...
view the full question and answer

Sumacs under live oaks dying in Austin
August 08, 2010 - Converted my yard to native plants last fall. All of the fragrant and evergreen sumacs are dying off one by one - they have never thrived. I ensure they get a good soaking at least once a week. I w...
view the full question and answer

Overwatering Texas Mountain Laurel from Rosanky TX
June 06, 2012 - I just read your article in the Statesman about over watering Mt.Laurel. Now I know why my lovely 15 year old tree is dying. We put in new grass this winter and I watered too much. Is there any hop...
view the full question and answer

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