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

Watering practices for live oaks in drought from New Braunfels TX
September 04, 2011 - We have conflicting info about watering live oaks. An arborist says to water now using soaker hoses or small sprinklers and a landscaper who spoke to our garden club said that after August is too late...
view the full question and answer

Changing colors on Mexican Plum trees from Bellaire TX
June 20, 2013 - The leaves on my Mexican Plum tree have recently started turning yellow/brown and the veins in leaves are red. Is this a watering issue or disease issue? Mites are on the leaves. This has been a ra...
view the full question and answer

Need advice for planting Bur Oak saplings in Comal County
October 09, 2012 - We will be planting several bur oak saplings this fall in deeper soils in Comal County. How close should we plant them? What mortality should we expect? Thanks in advance for your assistance.
view the full question and answer

Cultivar of Cercis Canadensis from Haskell OK
May 16, 2012 - We have a Hearts of Gold Redbud that first had dark edges to many of its leaves (about 2 weeks after planting). It now has multiple leaves w/ medium-dark brown spots on them. Are we looking at some ...
view the full question and answer

Tree that successfully treats psoriasis
January 31, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty plants,I have a rather unusual question. Do you know of a tree/plant that you can grow in a container, looks like a conifer/evergreen, is green, has wispy looking branches, but when t...
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