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?

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
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
1 rating

Sunday - May 31, 2009

From: Uhland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Split trunk in Bald Cypress in Uhland, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live just south of Austin, and near the pond (stock tank) is a bald cypress, young, about 12-15 yrs., and after this past year, drought and all, I was dismayed to find it not leafing out. When I investigated I found that there was a split in its trunk, running up the southwest side. It is not split to the heart wood but it is a deep wound. The tree is about 25-30 ft. tall. It is planted on the bank, low. The tank is real low, hasn't dried up yet because it is deep and is normally fed by a seeping spring which appears to have dried up. Could the drought have caused this wound, lightning, fire ants, disease, or what? I searched the net for answers on disease and could not find anything similar.I am at a loss.

ANSWER:

We are so sorry to hear about your Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). It is one of our favorite trees, with its neat little cones and attractive foliage. On our webpage on the tree it is referred to as an "aquatic" plant, and the soil description for it is:  "Wet, acidic mucks, sands & loams. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay."  You are probably correct in suspecting drought damage as the previously damp soil the tree was enjoying has disappeared. 

However, in this Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council website Trunk Cracks by Marianne C. Ophardt, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, we learned that the crack is probably not the disease but a symptom. "Cracks apparently start from a wound that happened much earlier in the tree's life. The real causes of the cracks are death of major roots at planting time; physical injury to roots from construction or soil compaction; wounds created by flush cut pruning; dead limbs resulting from topping cuts; physical injury to the tree" and, of course, drought. We suggest you read the whole article to see if you can get any more clues on what happened. 

It may be that you are going to lose your tree. It needs to leaf out in order to manufacture food by photosynthesis; it can't go on sick leave. Don't fertilize it, that would only make it worse, never fertilize a tree under stress. If it can be done, you might try getting some water on its roots, deep down, if possible, and see if there is a chance it can be resuscitated. Before you waste the time and water, though, you should give the bark the "thumbnail test," scratching bark off in a few places to see if there is a layer of green tissue beneath it. If there isn't, the tree should probably be removed before it becomes a candidate for falling in a windstorm. 


Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

 

 

More Trees Questions

Existing live oak taking over in Monahans TX
March 22, 2011 - I have just purchased a home with a huge Live Oak tree in the front yard. The previous owners have over the years allowed the sucker roots to grow unchecked. The tree is shading most of the lawn (di...
view the full question and answer

Norway Pine vs. Norway Spruce
April 28, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Is a Norway Pine the same species of tree as a Norway Spruce?
view the full question and answer

Soapberry Transplant shock symptoms
July 21, 2006 - Please suggest a cause & cure for general yellowing of the leaves of Western Soapberry when planted in the ground 20 miles NW of Austin (thin, poor clay over limestone). Trees still in containers are...
view the full question and answer

A tree for fall color in VA
September 05, 2011 - I need a small to medium-sized tree for enclosure/privacy screening. I'm looking for a fast-growing, deciduous tap-rooted tree for a lawn area about 30-40' away from an existing mature Linden, and ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Magnolia grandiflora
June 11, 2007 - We just moved to Plano TX and there's a magnolia tree planted between our house and the driveway. (The tree is 7ft tall and it's about 7ft from the side of house and 4ft from the driveway) I alway...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center