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
1 rating

Monday - September 07, 2009

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Decline of mesquite and persimmon trees in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have lived in a house in San Antonio for about 30 years now and in the last 5 years, we have seen the decline of several mesquite and wild persimmon trees. I am wondering what would cause their demise! We water infrequently, and have the back yard planted in Hill Country Natives, as suggested by the landscape class at the Center. Overwatering is the only thing I can imagine, besides possibly that they are just at the end of their lifespan..

ANSWER:

We are as puzzled as you are. Usually, when a plant is showing signs of decline, we look at what has changed in the environment, but if you have had these trees in the same spot getting the same care for 30 years, it doesn't seem that anything has changed in the environment. We are pretty sure we can tell you that neither tree has reached its normal lifespan, even though we couldn't find exact figures for either. Prosopis glandulosa (honey mesquite) has a normal lifespan of from 40 to 110 years, with maximum age from 172 to 217 years. Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) is slow-growing, and ordinarily slow-growing plants have a longer life. Both trees are specified in our Native Plant Database as being drought and neglect tolerant, and with low water use. Both need full sun and good drainage. 

So, about the best we can do is speculate. The mesquite has a long taproot to get deep water suppied, as well as a network of roots near the surface. You mentioned over-watering; are these two trees the only plants in your native plant garden suffering similar problems? We know we keep saying this over and over, but it's true that this extreme two-year drought is even causing problems with desert plants. Possibly the water table has dropped so low that not even the mesquite's long taproot can reach its subterranean sources any longer. We trust you haven't been fertilizing the trees; native trees should not need fertilizer, as they should be able to get their necessary nutrients and trace elements from the soil. Don't fertilize, never fertilize a plant under stress. With water rationing being invoked all over Central Texas, perhaps it would be better to just hang on, don't increase watering, and maybe it will rain again sometime. 

If other gardeners are having similar problems, hopefully your Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Bexar County will have some closer-to-home advice.


Prosopis glandulosa

Prosopis glandulosa

Diospyros texana

Diospyros texana

 

 

More Trees Questions

Live oaks exhibiting white foam spots from Round Rock, TX
June 08, 2014 - We have several native very large Live Oak in our backyard, and this summer we have noticed white foam spots on the branches. We live in Round Rock next to the Williamson County Park. The spots look...
view the full question and answer

Identifying Rhus lanceolata in Texas
April 28, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I think I've identified two small trees, 4 to 5 feet high at the back fence line and two in the front yard flower beds as prairie flameleaf sumac (or at least some kind of s...
view the full question and answer

How many native trees in U.S. from Clarkson MI
May 18, 2011 - Does anybody have any numbers on how many native trees there are in the entire United States?
view the full question and answer

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRANDYWINE MAPLE AND BIGTOOTH MAPLE - GEORGETOWN, TX
October 12, 2010 - We live in the Georgetown area (north of Austin). We have a maple tree, that had a tag that read Brandywine. We wanted a bigtooth maple. What is the difference between what we have and what we want...
view the full question and answer

Affect of poisonous plant roots in soils for vegetables from Rusk TX
May 11, 2013 - I have a huge old flowerbed in front of my house that I want to plant veggies in, but I'm afraid to. It has a catalpa tree there, which I sell the worms from, but the entire tree (bark, leaves, flowe...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center