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

Privacy hedge for South Dakota
August 08, 2008 - Hi, I'm looking for something to use as a hedge. 8 foot or so tall offering semi privacy all year. I like dogwoods but loss of leaves in the winter makes me skeptical. Boxwood would be interesting...
view the full question and answer

Need to know how to plant trees to create a windbreak in Ashburn, VA.
May 06, 2010 - I want to know how to plant trees to create windbreaks. I live on a slope of a hill, the front of the house is steep and the back of the house has neighbors in a cul de sac. I swear I live in a wind...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of one Desert Willow in Phoenix AZ
September 06, 2013 - We planted 4 desert willow trees in the summer and 3 of the 4 are doing excellent, however the last one is not not doing so well, it was the smallest of all and it started out fine but its leaves bega...
view the full question and answer

Ecosysystem with pecan at center from Austin
February 21, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would like to create a native tree guild around a mature pecan. It shares its space with native shrubs and ephemerals but I would like to add a nitrogen fixing plant. I am...
view the full question and answer

Need help identifying a tree with wintergreen-flavored bark that grew in my backyard during my youth in Cumberland, RI.
March 24, 2010 - Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island (a town in the northern part of the state) there was a tree in our backyard with thin, brown peel-able bark. The bark itself had white stripes. Under the layer o...
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