Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

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.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Trees non-toxic for horses in California
May 02, 2011 - I would like to plant next to my pasture. Please send a good variety of nontoxic (for horses) plants for shade. I live in Redding Cal.
view the full question and answer

Life expectancy of Desert Willow in Tucson, AZ
April 06, 2013 - What is the life expectancy of a Chilopsis linearis under ideal circumstances.
view the full question and answer

Trees prohibited or regulated in Albuquerque
March 20, 2013 - Are there certain trees that not not allowed to be planted in Albuquerque, New Mexico because of city regulations?
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native citrus trees from Mesa AZ
January 13, 2014 - We have one valencia orange tree and one naval orange tree in our Mesa, AZ yard. Just noticed some oranges on both trees have a 1/4 inch diameter hole through the skin and the orange fruit and skin a...
view the full question and answer

Plants for soil with basalt outcroppings in Idaho
March 30, 2008 - We have basalt (lava) outcropping in part of our back yard and know we'll have to search for pockets of soil in which to plant. Any suggestions about what trees or shrubs would have a chance in thes...
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.