En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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 Diseases and Disorders Questions

Location of Alamo fungicide kit from Georgetown TX
July 03, 2012 - Where can I buy the Alamo fungicide injection kit shown in the oak wilt video?
view the full question and answer

Problems on Prickly Pear Cactus in Illinois
November 19, 2014 - I have a fungus on my prickly pear cactus that is not a bug. I tested it and my fingers didn't turn red when I squeezed them. So how do I get rid of this as it is spreading to my other cacti?
view the full question and answer

Problems with red oak trees in North Central Texas
July 13, 2013 - What is the disease effecting Red Oak trees in North Central Texas; causing them to lose leafs in Spring/Summer and turning the remaining leaves light yellow/lime green in color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Something eating holes in Texas Betony from Austin
June 06, 2012 - What pest is eating holes in the leaves of my Texas Betonys? They look healthy but almost all leaves have various sizes of round holes in them. What is the best cure for this? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Why is my Ash drooping?
June 22, 2009 - Last spring, I bought a house in Austin, TX with a large Ash tree in the front yard. It looked fine last year, but has been looking funny since it leafed out this spring. It's as if the leaves are we...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center