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?

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

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
2 ratings

Monday - July 05, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Cottony infestation on Turk's Cap in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The Turks Cap in my front planter is well-established and, overall, happy and blooming. However, some of the top leaves, those in the most shaded area, have what looks like a thin, loose layer of cotton. These leaves are also a bit puckered. Any suggestions as to what this is (a mold, perhaps?) and what, if anything, needs to be done to remedy the situation? The planter also contains a couple of medium size(>two story) live oaks, wedelia, Tx. mountain laurel, purple oxalis, cedar sage, rock daisies, flame acanthus, dwarf ruellia, winecup, and evening primrose. Your help is greatly appreciated

ANSWER:

Generally, the Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) is a pretty tough, well-adapted plant for our area, and not much bothered by pests and diseases. There are three insect pests that can disturb it, creating various symptoms of the presence of the pest, one of which might be the "cotton" you are seeing on the leaves. Go to the websites indicated to see the symptoms, matching them up with your observations, and find a treatment that seems reasonable to you in the situation. Given the area where you are seeing this cotton, we would suggest that you trim back the area of the Turk's Cap that seems most affected. Since you have already observed that it is worse in the most-shaded area, and since you can prune Turk's Cap nearly all year long and not damage it, we would certainly suggest that you trim that out of the shady area, and dispose of it so whatever bug is causing the problem will not get an opportunity to spread somewhere else. 

Aphids: these will definitely cause leaf curl, and the honeydew they excrete begins as a whitish area, although it can develop a black fungus that will change the color and is really ugly. University of California Integrated Pest Management Aphids

Spider mites: this is probably the best suspect in your case, as the spider mite is a member of the Arachnid (spider) family and has web-spinning abilities. Again, from the UC IPM program Spider Mites

Mealy bugs: these individual bugs can also have a cottony appearance, and you can find some easy control methods in this eHow site How to Control Mealybugs.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Problems with Juniperus ashei in San Antonio
May 27, 2011 - I live in San Antonio and have many juniper trees. On inspection I do not see insects or any other form of damage, but my trees are turning brown and dying. I have already had to cut one down. When...
view the full question and answer

Prickly pear doing poorly on Long Island NY
December 27, 2012 - First, thanks for your reply on 11-3-12, re.Can a prickly pear cutting from Harker Heights, TX find happiness in Long Island, NY. The plants were set before a southern window in the attic, temp. ra...
view the full question and answer

Effect of heavy rains on Lindheimer Muhly
May 04, 2015 - It is April 2015, in San Antonio we've had very heavy rains recently. My Lindheimer muhly, which was looking beautiful, has now turned brown all over. Is this normal or is this a problem?
view the full question and answer

Cause of yellowing buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
June 07, 2008 - We are getting large yellow areas in our buffalo grass lawn and think this is probably due to grub worms. Are grub worms the likely culprit and if so, what is the best way to get rid of them? We don...
view the full question and answer

Dying trees in San Marcos, Texas
September 24, 2011 - I live on 11 acres in San Marcos and cannot water at all during this drought. All of my oaks and mountain laurels are turning brown. Does this mean they are all dying? Will they come back in the sp...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center