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 Trees Questions

Problems with fruit of Mexican Plum from McKinney TX
May 19, 2013 - MY Mexican plum tree (about 5 years old) has small fruit on it. Some of them are severely deformed, and look rotten almost. They are bumpy and ragged looking. Or they are pasty white,rotten and dried ...
view the full question and answer

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

Climbing options for a Coral honeysuckle in Austin Texas
April 16, 2013 - Regarding Coral honeysuckle, what is the best support to encourage continued spread, chicken-wire/fencing? Currently the plants and vines are on fencing and beginning to fold over. I'd like to add...
view the full question and answer

Probably non-native crapemyrtle trees damaged by hurricane
January 15, 2009 - I have 5 crape myrtle trees. I live in Galveston, Tx and when Hurricane Ike came through in September the salt water I think killed them. They have not come back since then and are brown with no leave...
view the full question and answer

Will the sea water from Hurricane Ike residually affect Galveston's soil
December 06, 2009 - Most of the trees on Galveston Island died following Hurricane Ike, apparently as a result of the sea water that covered the island. Will the sea water that soaked the soil have a residual effect on...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center