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
2 ratings

Wednesday - December 09, 2009

From: Pikeville, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pruning, Seasonal Tasks
Title: Arrows and Hunting Dogs in Kentucky
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants--Is it normal for our arrowwood viburnum to give off a musky odour in the late fall? The smell reminds me of a wet hunting dog.

ANSWER:

In fall, as the leaves change color and begin to fall to the ground, the process of decomposition begins.  There are many micro-organisms that participate in this process and molds make up a large part of them. Before a plant sheds its leaves it withdraws nutrients, carbohydrates and water from them, closes off circulation from the plant to them and they fall to the ground and finish drying out.

When there is a hard frost, leaves that have not been through this process suffer from damage as the water in them freezes and bursts the cell walls in the leaves.  That is why very delicate plants like impatiens turn to mush.  Broad leaved evergreens do not suffer the same fate as they have stonger cell walls and have adapted so that as temperatures fall, the concentration of sugars in their sap is increased.  This prevents the formation of the ice crystals that burst the cell walls.

What is likely happening is that you notice the smell when the temperatures rise after a hard frost and the leaves that have frozen are starting to decompose.

Ahh, the smells of autumn: wood smoke, apple cider and rotting leaves!

 

More Seasonal Tasks Questions

Cutting back salvia greggii in Birmingham, AL
February 23, 2010 - When is a good time to cut back salvia gregii and how much can you cut it back. We will probably still have frost. Will it grow in sun and shade?
view the full question and answer

High mowing equipment for Llano TX
November 03, 2012 - We're trying to follow your wildflower meadow recommendation "if your meadow has tall, warm-season native grasses, wait until late summer or early fall to mow, allowing them to elongate, flower, and...
view the full question and answer

Overwintering Cardinal Flower in Thornwood NY
October 01, 2009 - I have 6 Cardinal Flower plants in planters. They have mulch on top to keep them moist. Can they stay in the planters all winter? Do I cut the stalks before winter comes or leave as is?
view the full question and answer

Overwintering Texas bluebonnets
November 17, 2011 - I planted Texas Bluebonnet and I want to know how to save them through the winter months. I think they are so beautiful. Can I cover them with something?
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of horticultural oils
July 20, 2007 - Is T&S dormant oil spray a toxic product? Our church (Prairie Creek Baptist in Plano, Texas) is transitioning to organic/native landscape. This is the product used by the current lawn service. Also, ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center