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?


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


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..


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

Replanting members of Rosaceae family in same spot
May 23, 2007 - HI Mr. Smarty Plants We had two apple (yellow fruit) trees besides out house and they died. Is it ok to replant in the same place with other trees without being afraid something is wrong with the soi...
view the full question and answer

Bark splitting in old tulip tree in Red Creek, NY.
May 18, 2013 - Hello, We have a tulip tree that has some bark splitting I guess I would call it. The tree is older and very tall. On the north side of it starting at the bottom of the trunk to about 8-9 feet up i...
view the full question and answer

Is Douglas maple (Acer glabrum var. douglassii) native
June 02, 2008 - Could you give me some information about Douglas maple? Moslty, I'm trying to find out if this plant is native or introduced to Idaho and/or U.S. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Cupressaceae dying in Suffolk Co.NY
October 20, 2012 - I have noticed that all of my Cupressaceae (& others I see in my area) are dying. They turn yellow, then rust & brown til they are everbrowns. what is going on?
view the full question and answer

Need trees to screen view of parking garage in Houston, TX.
December 29, 2011 - We live in Houston, TX with a beautiful lot except a 4 story parking garage has been built behind us. How can we screen this and the lights out of site. It looks terrible from the second story espec...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center