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?

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

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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 11, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Caterpillars on Mountain laurel in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

One of our 18+ year old Texas Mountain Laurels seems to be in distress this year. We treated it for caterpillars this Spring but many of the new leaves had been eaten by then. I recently started watering it when it seemed "droopy" during the 100+ temps we were having here in Austin over the summer. It has not been fertilized in several years, if at all. Do you have any suggestions for helping it recover? Thank you.

ANSWER:

This is the second question in a few days about the caterpillars in Central Texas on the Mountain Laurel. We are going to take the liberty of simply quoting that answer. One extra note on your question, about fertilizing: this is a native plant in its native habitat and should not need fertilizer. It is already adapted to the soils and the climate in this area. Further, your plant is under stress, and no plant that is stressed should be fertilized. Hopefully, the little bit of rain we have had in Austin in the last few days is a forerunner of more to come. We can't say for sure that the severe heat and drought has contributed to the caterpillar infestation of the Mountain Laurels in our area, but it sure hasn't helped. Now, from our previous answer:

"Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) is ordinarily considered pretty pest and disease free. However, it can certainly be attacked by caterpillars, and prompt action helps the tree survive. Read this Landscape Integrated Pest Management article from Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Genista caterpillar on Texas Mountain Laurel. It explains the steps that need to be taken. You must try, since it is kind of late in the season, to get as many of the caterpillars off as you can. The treatment suggested in this article is really only effective early in the "chewing season" when the moth larvae are actively eating the leaves. The tree needs to be given the chance to revive and grow a few more leaves before it goes dormant, because the whole tree, and its roots, are dependent on the leaves to manufacture food for the plant through photosynthesis. In an active growing season, no leaves, no food, and the tree could easily die. And if the tree survives and comes back next Spring, start watching early for the eggs of the moth mother on the leaves. Getting them off before the caterpillars ever hatch is the best prevention, and the most chemical-free."


Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

 

 

 


 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Stressed Ashe juniper is dropping needles
May 07, 2015 - We have a large Ashe juniper tree in our backyard, at least 20 ft tall. This past winter/spring, several limbs have died and it's dropped a ton of leaves (clumps of "needles" really). Is it slowly ...
view the full question and answer

Difference in native and non-native cherry laurel
October 02, 2014 - I have a backyard volunteer that I have identified as a cherry laurel, but how do I tell the Carolina from the non-native? This is still young (2 years or so), and not flowering, at least not now.
view the full question and answer

Huisaches in pots from Houston TX
May 20, 2012 - I have special (and probably weird) affinity to huisaches (acacia farnesiana). As a child I used to admire the three that elegantly guarded our backyard looking almost like fingers reaching for the s...
view the full question and answer

Care for oak acorns after planting from Huntsville TX
April 21, 2012 - I planted oak trees from acorns, how often and how much do I water them?
view the full question and answer

Should I use wound paint when pruning my live oak tree?
February 04, 2010 - When trimming live oak branches, is it best to coat the wound on the tree? I have been doing this but have recently heard that it can actually be bad for the tree.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center