En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Tree leaves being chewed in Austin

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

Getting rid of Aphids on Asclepias plants in Brea, CA.
July 23, 2012 - I grow asclepsias or MILKWEED for the benefit of Monarchs. At times I have aphids consuming the leaves. How can I destroy the aphids without harming the Monarch eggs? Thank you very much.
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

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Problems with Shumard Oaks and Crepe Myrtle in Cooke Co. TX
September 07, 2013 - I have a Shumard Oak Tree that has been in the ground approx. ten years. It has done great, even passing up some of my older Shumards. In August it began to lose its leaves at an alarming rate. They a...
view the full question and answer

Wasps on live oaks from Sinton TX
August 20, 2012 - Wasps on my live oak trees. What is attracting them? Does this hurt the tree?
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