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
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

Can poisonous seed of wild plum be safely removed after steaming from Seymour IA
June 20, 2013 - I read on a related questions that you said the pit/seeds of all wild plums are poisonous. My question is this, can I juice the entire fruit for making jelly without removing the pit first? I have a s...
view the full question and answer

Can I move my Dwarf Orange tree from California to Florida?
April 12, 2012 - I am moving from California to Florida and have a small dwarf orange tree. Can I bring it with me to Florida? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Native Trees for Pflugerville TX
September 28, 2013 - I'm looking for suggestions on native, drought tolerant conifers that can be located in a Pflugerville landscape under overhead electric lines. Open to Arizona Cypress, but concerned about the height...
view the full question and answer

Trees for property in Nevada
April 06, 2013 - Mr. Smarty Plants: I would like to plant trees in between Crepe Myrtles than put up a fence along the paved road. The temperature ranges from 27'F to 130'F. It is a full sun all day and I will i...
view the full question and answer

Need help with a misshapen Monterey Oak in Austin, TX
March 11, 2010 - In the Fall of 2008, I purchased a very tall Monterey Oak from TreeFolks at the Burger Center Sale. Since the wind was so high, all the tall trees were on the ground, and I guess that is why I did no...
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