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Mr. Smarty Plants - Aromatic sumac in Travis County

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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. 

 

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