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?


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

Thursday - April 23, 2009

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Yaupons dying back in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have 4 yaupon shrubs in the same area for several years. This past winter one turned brown from inside to outside very quickly. It is dead but the roots are not loose. The others began doing the same thing. Near these plants was a rosemary that got some kind of white stuff on it and parts died back so I cut them off. Any chance that could have been the demise of my mature yaupons?


That is strange,because Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) is ordinarily a most dependable plant, able to adapt to a lot of different conditions.  In terms of the "white stuff" on the Rosemarinus officianlis, that plant is native to the Meditteranean, and outside of our area of expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We did learn that this member of the Lamiaceae (mint) sometimes developed powdery mildew if the plant gets too moist. If you are watering extensively and using overhead sprinklers to do so, that might be the source of the problem with the rosemary. However, if you have had your yaupons for several years, under the same conditions, it hardly seems likely the mildew would have spread from the rosemary and done that kind of damage.

Since we are not plant pathologists, we are at a loss to determine what would cause such a tough plant to die back so severely. About all we can do is ask some questions that might lead you to answers. Are you sure the shrubs are dead? Have you scratched the bark and found no living green material under the bark? If there are signs of life, you could try pruning them back, mulching the roots with compost or shredded hardwood mulch, and sticking the hose into the soil to let a slow dribble soak into the root area, and hope they leaf back out. Beyond that, have you seen any evidence of insect damage? Yaupons can be hosts to scale, leaf miners, mites, and aphids, but none of them are considered a serious threat to the vitality of the plant, and you would have seen some indication that the insects were there-holes or tunnels in leaves, honeydew (excretions from aphids and other insects) on which a black sooty mold can grow, or tiny red specks (spider mites) on the bottom of the leaves.

Once you have eliminated any of these possibilities, you need to consider that something external may have caused the problem. Has there been any spraying or spreading of weed and feed fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides?  Could someone have dumped paint or cleaning products into that area without your knowledge? We suggest you go to the website for Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension for Bexar County, to the Horticulture section, where you will find contact information and, hopefully, someone who can tell you what happened to your yaupons.


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Failure to bloom of Campsis radicans in Elkins WV
June 28, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, We live in a very cool climate of West Virginia, in the mountains, and it seems impossible for our Campsis radicans vines to flower! Perhaps the growing season is too short? W...
view the full question and answer

Pecan tree dropping limbs in Grand Prairie, TX.
September 04, 2012 - Our 15 year old pecan tree is losing it's limbs. The tree and its leaves look healthy with no signs of bugs or mites, but all the limbs are drooping and breaking off. The tree did have a bumper crop ...
view the full question and answer

Bulging trunks on post oak
August 05, 2011 - I have a huge post oak with a codominant trunk that is bulging between the two main trunks. The bulging is causing the trunks to spread apart, so one of the trunks is getting much too close to the ho...
view the full question and answer

Possible transplant shock in recently planted Anacua in San Antonio, TX.
February 10, 2011 - I planted an Anacua tree from a nursery this past November. The tree I purchased was about 6ft tall and was a leftover from the spring. The roots were pretty wound up inside. After shaking the roots l...
view the full question and answer

Problems with yaupon from San Angelo TX
April 08, 2012 - We have a 3-yr-old yaupon holly entering its 3rd summer. We have put store-bought wood-chips under the tree several times since it was planted. A plant has grown under the tree, possibly out of the ...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center