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

Sunday - June 06, 2010

From: Raymond, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Death of mature tulip tree in Raymond IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a mature tulip tree that leafed out and looked very healthy then all of the leaves turned brown and fell off. I think the tree is now dead. We live in the country and have a corn field behind us, could herbicide applied to this crop have done this? It happened very quickly. Thanks.

ANSWER:

We can't think of anything else that would have caused such a quick death of a large tree like that. However, it is still surprising that it would happen so fast. The scary thing is that much poison is being applied to a crop right next to you; there are other things that herbicide can kill. Still, if there were that much herbicide sprayed in the area, other things should have died. Herbicides do not pick and choose what they kill.

We did, however, find one other clue, on our webpage on Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree):

"Conditions Comments: Tulip tree is insect and disease free. It is intolerant of compacted soil and should not be placed in confined beds or planters near pavement. It grows very rapidly in deep, rich well-drained soils with uniform rainfall. Dry summer weather causes physiological problems. Tulip tree drops its foliage in response to drought and is somewhat weak-wooded." 

Have you been in a drought situation in your area? If so, perhaps the tree was only reacting to the environment, in which case it may still be alive, just in dormancy until the water situation improves. Try our thumbnail test, scratching a thin layer of bark off various places on the tree. If you find a thin green layer underneath, the tree is still alive, but probably needs help. Try pushing a hose down in the soil around the tree and letting water drip slowly, then move it to other locations around the tree, depending on how large the tree is. We don't know what "mature" is in this case, because this tree can grow to be 150 ft. tall. If you do find some green under the bark, and can reach the upper part of the tree, you might also trim up to 1/3 of third of that upper part, to make less of a load on the roots trying to get water up to its leaves.  And don't fertilize-the last thing a tree in trouble needs is fertilizer stimulating it to put on new growth, when the roots are just trying to stay alive.

Still hunting for clues to this mystery, we looked at the USDA Plant Profile for tuliptre and learned that it does grow natively around Montgomery County, IL, so severe weather should not have caused the sudden leaf drop. Just in case there is some other problem not obvious to us, we suggest you contact the University of Illinois Extension Office for Montgomery County. They are closer to the situation and may have heard of other examples of this problem in your area.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Care of Live Oaks
July 11, 2012 - We have Two Young Live Oaks in the front of Our home. We had them treated for insects, ect. Now what can we do to make them Full Green and Happy Happy Happy again.Thank You
view the full question and answer

Oak Wilt in Georgetown, TX
November 17, 2014 - We have lost several live oaks to oak wilt. Another couple are dying but still have some green leaves. Is it OK to cut down these trees now or should we wait until they are entirely dead? I've heard ...
view the full question and answer

Spots on just-emerging Zexmenia in Austin
April 02, 2010 - My zexmenia is just coming up from the ground after a cold winter in Austin. The leaves are all spotted with tiny holes as if something is munching on them before they even leave the ground or just as...
view the full question and answer

Firecracker plants not growing in Ft. Worth
June 09, 2010 - I live in Fort Worth, TX and last fall planted several firecracker plants. It's now June and they're not growing. How can I tell if they are still alive?
view the full question and answer

Long-legged bugs eating roses in Richmond VA
May 22, 2011 - There are bugs eating my roses. What can I do? They look like long bugs with a lot of legs.
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center