Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Problems with volunteer tree in Joshua TX
February 15, 2012 - I have a 'volunteer' tree which has been in our back yard for about 15 years. It has had the usual traumas, ie. lots of snow, ice, etc. but after last years drought, its bark is coming off and sev...
view the full question and answer

Identification of pines on I35 between Dallas and Denton
May 03, 2011 - I frequently drive I-35E from Dallas up to Denton and I've often wondered if the pine trees that I see near the road and in the surrounding areas, especially between Lewisville and Denton, have been ...
view the full question and answer

Distressed Red Oak tree in Pflugerville, TX.
July 22, 2012 - I have a large (40 ft) Red Oak tree in my yard that is distressed. It started with yellowing leaves, with darker veins. Then small brown spots appeared, followed by browning arount the leaves edges. N...
view the full question and answer

Does Acacia farnesiana (Huisache) have agressive roots?
November 30, 2014 - Hello, Do you know if the Huisache tree has an aggressive root system? I have a few in proximity to my septic draining field and I need to know if I should cut them down to prevent clogging of t...
view the full question and answer

Time to transplant shade tree seedlings from San Antonio
September 28, 2013 - What month do you transplant shade tree seedlings in San Antonio, TX<
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.