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

Winter pruning for yucca in Adrian, Michigan
October 11, 2010 - Can I cut yucca plants down for winter months.
view the full question and answer

Time to cut back Turk's Cap in Austin
January 27, 2011 - I did not find my question answered in the database. My question is: When is the best time to cut back Red Turks Cap? I live in Central Austin.
view the full question and answer

Preventing weeds in kinnikinnick in Richland WA
May 29, 2011 - We planted our kinnickinick last Nov. and we live in Richland, WA, where it gets hot in the summer. We planted almost 500 of them on a hillside. Weeding is taking over our lives, to say the least. ...
view the full question and answer

Drought affecting native trees from The Woodlands
August 18, 2011 - I've been trying to grow native trees in my yard for the past 3 years and I'm starting to question whether the amount of time required to spend watering them during the long hot season in Texas is r...
view the full question and answer

Planning garden tasks in advance from Austin
January 03, 2012 - My yard was a disaster last year-grass and trees browning, early leaf fall on flowering plants, and water bills sky high, even with the limited watering days. What can I do this year to prevent this s...
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