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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 06, 2010

From: Lockhart, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Why has my Kidneywood tree not put out leaves this year in Lockhart, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I have a native Kidneywood which I planted in 2003. It has grown enthusiastically since that time. It has always leafed late in the Spring, late April - mid - May. It bloomed several times in 2009. This year, it has not put on leaves. I believe it is alive because when I bend the branches, they continue to bend and do not break. This Kidneywood is the only one on my property. It is in a well-established native garden. When I talk to the tree, I'm told its alive and well. =) Since my house is up for sale, my realtor has questioned the tree remaining in its current location, since it looks dead. Thus far I have refused to do more than prune it back a little. Do you have any suggestions? Is it normal for a live tree (which successfully survive our 2009 unusually hot summer and unusually cold winter) to take a year off from producing leaves? Please advise. Thank you for your time and energy.

ANSWER:

No, it is not normal for a live tree to take a year off from producing leaves. It is the leaves that manufacture the food that keeps the plant alive.

Another way to test your hypothesis that the plant is  alive  is to do the "scratch test". Select an upper branch and remove some of the bark with your thumbnail. You are looking for green tissue beneath the bark. If you find none at the first site, continue testing further down the stem. If you get to the bottom of the plant without finding any green tissue, I'm afraid you have experienced Kidneywood failure.

 

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