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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 10, 2009

From: Bunker Hill, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Best of Smarty, Pests, Edible Plants
Title: Can tulip tree sap be used to make syrup in Bunker Hill IN?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I was just wondering if tulip tree sap could be used to make syrup. I saw the sticky stuff on the leaves and decided to taste test it and it was very sweet, unfortunately I later found out that I was licking Aphid poo. Anyway...just curious how it would taste because the Aphid poo was actually very sweet.

ANSWER:

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree), like all trees, does have sap. It is not, however, one of the trees that are valued for their sap, like the maples. One of its pests is the Tuliptree aphid, as discussed in this USDA Forest Service website Tuliptree. Note this excerpt below:

"Aphids, particularly Tuliptree aphid, can build up
to large numbers, leaving heavy deposits of honeydew
on lower leaves, cars, and other hard surfaces below.
A black, sooty mold may grow on the honeydew.
Although this does little permanent damage to the tree,
the honeydew and sooty mold can be annoying."

The sweetness you encountered was not a product of the tree sap, but of the aphids digestive systems. That "honeydew" also attracts ants. We never recommend "tasting" anything from a plant until you are sure what you are ingesting and know it's safe. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

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