Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 27, 2011

From: Trophy Club, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Problem with baldcypress tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Eric Beckers

QUESTION:

Two of my three 20 year old Bald Cypress trees appear to have leafed out but are now brown in parts of the tree. The brown area is at the tops of the trees which are probably 40 ft. high. They were planted where the natural drainage flows for the purpose of keeping that area from being swampy. Much to my chagrin, my neighbor has severely pruned branches that overhung on her property. I don't know if that would affect the health of these trees.

ANSWER:

I consulted with Eric Beckers of the Texas Forest Service about the problem with your Taxodium distichum (Bald cypress).  He doubts that the neighbor's activities had little to do with it, unless they're spraying weeds along a fenceline with a herbicide.  One good possibility, however, is the current drought.  Eric says that the drought has been known to cause dieback in all sorts of tree species, including the usually tough-as-nails baldcypress.  This is especially true of those baldcypress that aren't growing very close to nearly permanent sources of water.  If the trees aren't near permanent water sources, natural drainage routes during exceptional droughts can be extraordinarily dry.  Additionally, the stress of the drought can make the tree susceptible to attack by pests.  It is pretty difficult to get close to the branches that are 30-40 feet up to see what might be causing the damage, but here are some possibilities that Eric suggested that you might be able to determine from the ground:

  • If the whole branch is dying, it could possibly be squirrels.
  • If the leaves are discolored over a large area and grading back to green, it could be spider mites.
  • Clustered areas of thin and brown foliage, could indicate that there are bag worms

You can read about some of the "Damaging Agents" that do occur on the bald cypress from the US Forest Service.

 

More Trees Questions

How close can I plant Mountain Laurels to my house in Austin, TX?
December 08, 2010 - Hello, I'm interested in planting 2 or 3 Texas Mountain Laurels on the side of my house and I'm wondering just how close is safe. I've been told that planting trees too close can damage the slab f...
view the full question and answer

Why so many acorns in Houston?
November 16, 2009 - My son's home in Houston has a Live Oak. This year it has dropped MILLIONs of the seed pods. This hasn't happened in the nine years of living there. Is anything wrong with it? It looks OK but he ...
view the full question and answer

Understory trees for large trees in Austin
October 18, 2010 - I'm blessed with some beautiful large live oaks, burr oaks, and cedar elms in my front yard in southwest Austin. I'd like to plant some understory trees among them. The trees would get dappled lig...
view the full question and answer

Rocky Mountain Juniper Grazed by Deer
April 29, 2013 - I have four Colorado red cedar (Juniperus scopulorum). The deer have eaten from their height down. Now these narrow top to bottom evergreens have only tops left. Will the bottom fill in if I protect t...
view the full question and answer

Bark splitting in old tulip tree in Red Creek, NY.
May 18, 2013 - Hello, We have a tulip tree that has some bark splitting I guess I would call it. The tree is older and very tall. On the north side of it starting at the bottom of the trunk to about 8-9 feet up i...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.