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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - July 04, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Tree leaves being chewed in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We planted a Texas Redbud tree, and Monterey Oak (Mexican White Oak) in the front yard this spring and both have had their leaves eaten or chewed by something I cannot find on their leaves. At first I thought the insects might have been moth or butterfly larvae related, but there is no residue or clue left behind to suggest that theory. Also, our non-bearing fruit trees in the backyard have had their new leaves chewed up. Do you know of any insects that have proliferated this spring and summer?; is there a leaf treatment to prevent this constant feeding by these phantom insects?

ANSWER:

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) and Quercus polymorpha (netleaf white oak), also known by the common name Monterrey Oak, are both native to Texas and good choices for Austin. However, insects don't care much about where a tree came from.

This Iowa State University Extension website Sustainable Urban Landscapes gives an excellent analysis of Diagnosing the Problem with pictures of the symptoms a tree might exhibit. Holes or chewed edges on the leaves of outdoor plants are generally caused by grasshoppers, crickets or caterpillars. We realize you have not seen the insects, but crickets and grasshoppers would certainly be candidates for hit and run charges. Another possibility, although we feel you would have noticed this, too, is the leafcutter ant. Please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer which goes into considerable detail on this little creature.

From Top Turf, we found this website Insect Damage with some good pictures of insects and the damage they do to leaves. 

In the final analysis, we are gardeners, not entomologists. We are sure you realize that in the very difficult summer we are having in Austin, with drought and record heat, conditions are probably not normal. Insects that might ordinarily not disturb you could be forced to invade your trees. The trees could themselves be demonstrating stress with the leaf damage. The people at the Travis County Extension Office are more likely to have up to the minute information on what is damaging plants in the area, as well as something to do about it. The website we have linked you to has contact information, and may, indeed, have information on the site itself on what is chewing on trees this season.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Mexican white oak
Quercus polymorpha

More Pests Questions

Plants that donkeys won't eat
August 08, 2012 - What plants/trees do donkeys NOT like? I live in Hawaii on the Big Island and they visit once a week in my yard. I like them but would prefer that they stay just outside. Unfortunately they like my...
view the full question and answer

Identity of small objects that look like tiny pecans
November 14, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am doing my science fair project on acorns. Last year I measured how many acorns and other nature-y stuff fell into a baby pool from a live oak tree in my backyard every ...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating wood roaches from hardwood mulch from San Antonio TX
February 05, 2013 - How can I eliminate the numerous wood roaches in my hardwood mulch that I get for free from the city of San Antonio?
view the full question and answer

Ticks on native grasses in Katy, TX.
July 23, 2012 - Are there native grasses that are less susceptible to tick infestation than others?
view the full question and answer

Problems with rusty blackhaw viburnum in Austin
May 07, 2010 - I have a four foot rusty blackhaw viburnum. Last summer the leaves turned reddish and in the late summer most of them fell off. This February the plant started to leaf out and then bloomed. It has ...
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