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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.

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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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Thursday - December 16, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Eric Beckers

QUESTION:

What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & green with plenty of new growth. One day I found it had snapped in two at the bottom of the trunk and there were many white larvae worms inside!! I always thought of them as pretty pest resistant. Thoughts? What could it be and how do I treat it? Also, I planted another one in the front yard on the same date. How do I know if it's infested?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants consulted Eric Beckers with the Texas Forest Service about the problem with your Quercus polymorpha (Mexican white oak).  We don't know for sure what insects the "many white larvae worms" were; but we do believe that whatever they were (borers, ants, etc.) that they were acting on a previously damaged tree. Newly planted nursery stock are often afflicted with mechanical injuries or sun scald and these minor problems can turn bad when a borer or other insect sets up shop.  Rough handling, bruises, tight wraps/ties, etc., are locations where borers seek entry.  Newly planted trees are all too often damaged by weed whips and mowers and insects take over the nice cavities left behind.  Anyway, the problem is probably restricted to the one tree, unless the other was similarly damaged.  You should carefully inspect the other tree and if you do see damage, you might want to contact a professional arborist.

 

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