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

Wednesday - February 04, 2009

From: Lexington, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants, Pruning, Trees
Title: Storm damage to native sweet bay magnolias in Kentucky
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you please share information on storm damage to sweet bay magnolias; if the top is broken off can the tree maintain its natural shape or will the sides begin to grow more than the top; i.e., growth hormones, etc.

ANSWER:

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay) is a wetlands tree, usually only about 20 feet tall, although it can grow taller and be evergreen in its more southern habitat. Our Native Plant Database does not show it as native to Kentucky, and the USDA Plants Profile does not show it growing in Kentucky, but that is often out of date and inaccurate. 

That having been said, we're not sure we understand your question about growth hormones. Were you referring to natural hormones that the tree might have to repair its own damage, or to hormones applied to the tree in some way?  Apparently, this is one of the trees that suffered the most damage in the 2004 hurricanes in Florida. It seemed to be snapped off and have large limbs broken off much more frequently than any other native tree species.  Are you referring to recent damage? We found out from our own webpage on this tree that it should be pruned after blooming and during growing season because dormant magnolias do not easily heal. Beyond that, we could not learn anything about the possibility of the tree returning to some natural shape after storm damage. This is a lovely, valuable tree and is considered Threatened or Endangered in at least four states, so it is well worth the effort to preserve it.

From this distance, we have no way to determine whether dead limbs should be pruned off now, or some attempt be made at pruning to restore a more natural shape. We would suggest you consult a licensed arborist who can look at the tree and make a diagnosis and recommend solutions. Also, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has a Home and Garden site that should lead you to someone who might have information you need. 


Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Persimmon trunk grown around fence rail in Austin
November 08, 2012 - I have a Texas Persimmon in my backyard that is about 12-15 feet tall. It's been growing next to a chain-link fence and over the years, the top rail of the fence has cut into the bark on the trunk. A...
view the full question and answer

Over-trimmed junipers in Shell Beach CA
May 16, 2010 - Help! My husband decided to "trim" the juniper bushes that are in front of our house that create a great private front yard. I guess he cut back into the dead wood and now nothing is regrowing. It'...
view the full question and answer

When to prune Texas betony (Stachys coccinea)
May 28, 2007 - I bought Texas Betony plants several years ago at Wildflower Days. They are thriving, but a bit leggy. Somewhere I read that they should be cut back several times during the year. Now I can't find...
view the full question and answer

Cutting back achillea in New York
March 18, 2009 - Last summer I planted three gorgeous hearty achillea with flat, yellow tops, about 3 feet high or more each, in my sunny garden. But after they were done flowering, I left those very pretty brown stem...
view the full question and answer

Center of Yucca filamentosa looking rotten in Howell, NJ
May 31, 2009 - I live in central NJ. I planted some Adam's Needle Yucca in my garden around 5 years ago. Since then, they kept growing and ended up developing three trunks off of the main trunk. I noticed recentl...
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