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?


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 - May 14, 2010

From: Cibolo, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Problems with Texas Ash in Cibolo TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a Texas Ash tree I planted two years ago. The tree was 10 feet high with thick foliage. This spring the leaves started falling off after I spread fertilizer on my yard. The end of the branches have grown about two feet but no leaves from the end of the old branch to the end of the new branch. Is there something I need to do or have you heard of this before?


Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) shows on this USDA Plant Profile as growing natively, if not in Guadalupe County, at least very close, so we are assuming you have the right climatic conditions and soils for this tree. No, we can't say we have heard of this before, but you seem to link it with the fertilizer. What kind of fertilizer were you spreading? Was it "weed and feed" fertilizer for your lawn? That would be a high nitrogen fertilizer to encourage lots of green blades of grass, with a herbicide designed to kill broadleaf, that is, non-grass weeds in the lawn. The tree is also a broadleaf plant, and it is possible that the damage was done by that material being spread around, either getting down to the trees roots, or being distributed in the air by wind or the method of applying it. 

What to do about it? Well, to begin with-don't do that again. For one thing, many of the "weeds" you want to kill are other grasses than the lawn grass; they won't be killed by that particular herbicide. The second reason is what you may have already experienced, leaf loss on your broadleaf ash tree.  You also no doubt have broadleaf shrubs and garden plants that will not be happy to receive a dose of that broadleaf herbicide.

Ash trees are generally weak trees, growing fast but not living very long and are very susceptible to pests and diseases. At this point, about your best option is to wait and see. Make sure the ash has plenty of water and don't fertilize it. Plants native to the area in which they are being grown usually need no fertilizer and it could shock an already stressed tree into trying to put on new growth when it needs to be concentrating on staying alive. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Fraxinus texensis

Fraxinus texensis

Fraxinus texensis

Fraxinus texensis




More Trees Questions

Are leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis toothed from Austin
December 22, 2013 - Are the leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, smooth or toothed? The NPIN descrip says willow-like. Most willows have toothed leaf margins. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Removing Texas cedar Juniperus ashei from Blanco River banks
February 26, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Should cedar trees be removed from our Blanco River banks to prevent them from sucking too much of our precious water before it makes it into the river system? If so, what s...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants for a bird/small wildlife refuge in Wichita Co, TX.
August 26, 2011 - With our continuing drought in North Texas, I'm planning to transform my small backyard into a bird/small wildlife "refuge". What types of native plants and grasses can I plant in dry, hot Wichita ...
view the full question and answer

Distinguish between Huisache and Goldenball Leadtree
March 23, 2008 - How do you distinguish between Huisache (Acacia farnesiana) and Goldenball Leadtree (Leucaena retusa)? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Dog-safe Privacy Screen for Ocala, FL
June 25, 2015 - Am desperately searching for fast growing privacy that would be non toxic to dogs in Ocala, Florida (zone 9 I think). Wanted Leland cypress but due to toxicity it won't work.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center