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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - August 14, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Aromatic sumac in Travis County
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

This is an answer to article in today's, August 14, newspaper. I assume that aromatic sumac is native to Travis county because I have it all over my property. It turns bright red in the fall adding beauty to the landscape. It grows straight out of the rocks in my landscape, and is mostly in the shade..very dry shade. One is under a huge oak tree.

ANSWER:

Thank you for your comments!

We just use the indicators from the USDA Plant Profiles to help us identify if a plant will grow in an area. We really don't need that in this area, because we are pretty well acquainted with it, but when we are working on a plant we have never seen in an area like Utah or British Columbia, we do need to know. As to knowing it's native because it's growing all over your property, again, it probably is native, but people also have things like mimosas and crapemyrtles growing all over their neighborhoods, and are always shocked to find out they are NOT native. 

If you will notice from the article you are referring to, we really didn't know why the sumacs were dying, and were just searching for reasons that might explain it. One was that they were planted very recently and might be suffering from transplant shock.  Another was that, since the sumacs were planted recently, the live oaks overhead were way ahead of them in development. Perhaps yours developed with the tree over time, and managed to acclimate themselves to the conditions. Native plants are very adaptable as long as they are in their own native range, but no plant takes sudden disturbance in its environment well.

The problem is that we are native plant people, not entomologists nor plant pathologists. We are concerned with the environment in which a native plant can prosper or not.  When we are asked why a plant is dying, we have to ask the correspondents to be detectives, give them possibilities and symptoms, and hope they can determine the cause of the problem.  If the problem cannot be identified through that process, and if the plant is important to them, they need to call in a professional arborist or landscaper who can actually survey the area and examine the plants in question. 

For someone who did not see the article referred to in the Austin American-Statesman for August 14, it was taken from a previous answer that you can read in full. 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Small evergreen shrubs for Fairfax VA
May 13, 2010 - I have a 2' wide 6' long strip between a brick wall and the front walk leading up to the entry way. Lavender has been a pain and I would like to replace it with an attractive evergreen alternate. ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers over roots in Roeland Park KS
June 18, 2013 - Large Hackberry tree (aprox 50+years) roots are popping up above ground making mowing under/around it impossible. Is there a plant, ground cover, something I can plant, or cover the roots with that w...
view the full question and answer

Blue Natives for San Antonio
June 28, 2012 - What are the best flowers or trees to buy since we are always in stage 2 and sometimes in stage 3 water conservation? I love flowers that are blue, preferably year around. THANK YOU
view the full question and answer

Acidity of soil for blueberry plants
May 11, 2007 - We have 8 blueberry plants and we have just taken out several Juniper shrubs. How will this effect the acidity of the soil for the blueberries? Do we need to add more acidity? We heard that the junipe...
view the full question and answer

Hedge shrubs that attract butterflies & birds in Virginia
June 13, 2014 - Hi - I need recommendations for north VA hedge shrubs that attract butterflies and birds. Thanks
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center