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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 05, 2009

From: Cooper, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Ring of small holes around pecan tree branches
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live outside Cooper, TX and I have a pecan tree about 15 years old, which I just noticed has little round holes (about the size of a pencil) going around the branches. It branches out about 3 feet from the ground and each branch has these holes that are about 5 1/2 to 6 feet off the ground. What are they and how do I treat the tree?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants looked at the article by George Ray McEachern, Evaluating Pecan Problems, from Texas A&M Horticulture in which there is an extensive list called "A Guide for Evaluating Pecan Problems."  One of the entries on the list—"Perfect Ring or Rings of Small Holes Around the Trunk.....No Problem, Sapsucker Woodpecker"—pretty well fits your problem. Here's a little more information about the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Not everyone is as sanguine about the sapsucker's work.  The US Forest Service considers the sapsucker a pest and offers some control measures, although they acknowledge that control can be difficult.  Among their suggestons for control are: 1) wrapping the trunk with burlap or some other material; 2) using tree-wound paint on damaged areas; 3) applying a commercial repellent to the tree; 4) spraying the tree with soapy water and 5) discouraging or removing the offending bird.
 

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