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
2 ratings

Tuesday - April 05, 2011

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Growth in oak tree in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a very large gorgeous oak tree in our backyard here in San Antonio, Texas. I noticed a thickness high up in the tree. Thinking it was a nest of some sort, I used binoculars and saw a parasitic vine with a woody stem. What is it and how is it growing up there? My husband will try to remove it using a tree trimming tool if he can even reach it. Thank you very much.

ANSWER:

Are you sure it is a vine? If it is a vine, and there are no living vines growing up the tree with roots in the soil, it is remnants of a dead vine and can do no further harm to the tree. We are wondering if perhaps what you are seeing is Tillandsia recurvata (Small ball moss). If you do, indeed, find stems and roots to a vine you will need to cut it off as near to the root as possible and paint the cut edge quickly with a broad range herbicide, being very careful to avoid touching the tree itself with the herbicide. Then, pull down, from the ground, all of the vine you can get loose from the tree. Watch for regrowth from the roots and keep after it.

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 will note they look like bromeliads; they are, in fact, members of the bromeliad family.

 

From the Image Gallery


Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

More Trees Questions

Small flowering tree for Burbank IL
April 14, 2010 - Looking for a semi-dwarf flowering tree resistant to disease and insects. Current flowering crab has fire blight. What would you suggest planting. We live in a Chicago IL suburb.
view the full question and answer

Growing Loblolly Pines Outside Native Range
April 03, 2014 - I would like a stand of pines on my property but do not know if they will grow in my area. Do you know if the soil in Waelder, Texas will support pines?
view the full question and answer

Tree with no invasive roots for Los Angeles
July 24, 2011 - I have a large in ground planter sharing the outside wall (on south/east corner) of my house in east LA 90032. I would like to find a tree that grows quite tall (2 story building), but grows roots ver...
view the full question and answer

Webbing on oak leaves and fuzzy yellow growths on leaf veins
November 09, 2010 - I have a large red oak(?) and live oak that appear to have the same problem. Clumps of leaves all over the trees are covered by fine webbing and the leaves appear to be curling up and dying in the we...
view the full question and answer

Quaking Aspens in Albuquerque
October 25, 2010 - How do quaking aspens fare in north east Albuquerque?
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