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?


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
2 ratings

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


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.


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

More Pests Questions

Replacements for yuccas from Georgetown TX
August 07, 2013 - I have lost some softleaf and variegated yucca to a beetle grub destroying the root system - like the Agave snout beetle does. I have put an insecticidal drench on my remaining plants, but suspect wi...
view the full question and answer

Possible disease on Eastern Redbud
October 06, 2007 - Our Eastern Redbud appears to be suffering from our recent drought. The leaves are turning brown in July/August on a few branches. A few black spots appear on the leaves before they turn brown. Ot...
view the full question and answer

Pests on American Beautyberry from Austin
June 25, 2012 - Something is eating the leaves of my American Beautyberry shrubs. One is almost stripped of leaves on the upper branches. I have looked and can't see any insects or caterpillars. I have also looke...
view the full question and answer

Yellow jackets on non-native crape myrtles
September 25, 2008 - Hey Mr. Smarty Plants I have only 1 question. I have several Crape Myrtles that have numerous amounts (alarming) of yellow jacket bees on them. who what where when why etc? Should I be concerned? tha...
view the full question and answer

Protection of Mountain Laurel from Pyralid or Genista moth caterpillars
May 28, 2006 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel. Every year it is attacked by caterpillars. They form a bag for lack of a better word on the ends of the branches destroying the blooms for the following year. PLEASE...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center