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

Tuesday - April 05, 2011

From: Flatonia, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Want to identify caterpillar that is stripping prickly ash in Flatonia, Tx.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

What is the 5/16ths long 1/8th inch long pale opaque green caterpillar that strips prickly ash? It has tiny black dots down its spine and along each side. It has stripped two large trees? Will the prickly ash leaf out again?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants isn't very familiar with caterpillars, but from your measurements I'd say that it is too short to be an inch worm.

But lets get to the plant part of the question and see where that leads. The common name Prickly Ash is applied to at least three plants found in Texas: Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick), Zanthoxylum hirsutum (Texas hercules' club), and Zanthoxylum fagara (Lime prickly ash). I don't know which one you have, but Z. hirsutum is a larval host for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly Papillio cresphontes. Check to see if the images match the caterpillar that is chomping on your tree. (more info and images)

Zanthoxylum fagara is the larval host of Eantis tamenund the Sickle Wing Skipper. The caterpillar is light green, but it lacks the dots that you mentioned. 

So we have two possible suspects, but no positive ID. You might want to contact the folks at the Fayette County Office of Texas AgriLife Extension for some help closer to home.

The caterpillars should pupate before too long which will halt the onslaught on the tree. Will the tree leaf out again? This depends on the extent of the damage. One word of caution however; when people see a tree in distress, the tendency is to give it lots of water. Please refrain from doing this. The leaves on a tree help to move water from the roots up to the stems. When the leaves are missing, there is a possibility of the roots becoming waterloged through overwatering.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Trees for shade in Austin
May 20, 2012 - I live in Austin and I am looking for a good tree to plant under a large live oak I have in my backyard. Something slow-growing of course and, the garden only gets late day sun for about an hour. Filt...
view the full question and answer

Trees for cutout in driveway in Houston
November 12, 2010 - I live in central Houston. I have a new driveway with a cutout of 4' x 8'. I would like to plant a shade tree that will not break up the concrete. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

Problem with unknown tree in Austin, Texas
July 23, 2013 - Have recently moved to Austin, Texas and have a tree in my backyard that has been dropping leaves and one major branch appears to be dead. That branch has hard rust colored sap circles (about penny si...
view the full question and answer

Need trees to screen view of parking garage in Houston, TX.
December 29, 2011 - We live in Houston, TX with a beautiful lot except a 4 story parking garage has been built behind us. How can we screen this and the lights out of site. It looks terrible from the second story espec...
view the full question and answer

Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
July 13, 2013 - Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but ...
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