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
1 rating

Saturday - March 12, 2011

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: What are the grey-green plants on oak trees in San Marcos, TX?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The oak trees in the neighborhood in San Marcos, TX, are covered with clumps, or balls, of gray/green fluffy-looking plants. they remind me of bromeliads. You can pull and knock them off; after wind and rain, they fall to the ground. Right now, there are little or no buds on the trees, especially the limbs that have lots of these 'bromeliads' - the branches look dead. Are these plants parasites? Are they killing the oak trees?

ANSWER:

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we believe that what you are seeing is Tillandsia recurvata (Small ball moss). This is an epiphyte or "air plant," not a parasite. It draws no nutrition from the tree, just uses it as a place to live. They are often seen on oaks, and are native to Texas and a few other states. Sometimes people think they are killing the oaks because they tend to grow on interior, old limbs, where they can get more shade. Here are some pictures and information from the University of Texas Image Archive of Central Texas Plants. They can be unsightly but do no harm. We have heard of people using them to make Christmas decorations.

You were correct in saying they look like bromeliads; they are, in fact, members of the bromeliad family.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Tillandsia recurvata


Tillandsia recurvata

 

 


 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Looking for seeds for Carex texensis and Horse Herb
July 27, 2014 - I am looking for either plants or seeds of Carex texensis and horseherb with no success. I live in the Albuquerque,NM mountain region (at ~6800ft, zone 6). I need something that is very dought resis...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping on South Padre Island
June 07, 2008 - I'm in charge of landscaping at my beachfront condo in South Padre Island and find the wind, salt air, and heat challenging for growing almost anything. We would like to incorporate native plants, b...
view the full question and answer

Effect on taste of honey from pollen gathered by honeybees in Appleton WI
March 09, 2014 - in the flower box.. We are planting perennial or self-planting annuals on our fields and open areas to feed honey bees for our apiary. We found a source and then lost it telling what effect these wil...
view the full question and answer

Brown leaf problem with herbaceous blooming plants from Greenfield MA
May 28, 2014 - I have 3 plants cimicifuga brunette and lots of astile planted near each other. Suddenly the edges of leaves have turned brown and shriveled and spread to entire plant, all of them. It has not been ...
view the full question and answer

Stress on Goldenball leadtrees from Austin
June 07, 2014 - I know of two separate instances where young Goldenball Lead Trees (leucena retusa) have shown symptoms of defoliation and a bleeding of white sap from sores that have developed on the bark. The first...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center