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

Monday - July 11, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Why are small leaf pieces aligned on top of exposed root?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hi. An oak tree in my yard has one of its exposed roots covered in hundreds of small pieces of leaves. The pieces follow exactly the shape of the root above the surface. What insect would do this and why?

ANSWER:

I am going to ask you questions in return.  Were those pieces of leaf of fairly uniform size, of irregular shape, and freshly cut (green)?  Could they have been slowly moving???  What Mr. Smarty Plants is thinking is that they were cut pieces of leaves being transferred to the nest of leaf-cutting ants.  Such ants do occur in the Austin area, but infrequently.  Like other ant species, they sometimes find that moving along an exposed root or fallen branch is a faster way to carry their loads than making their more difficult trails through grass and leaf litter.  See the indicated article abstract for a description of this phenomenon.

If the leaf fragments you observed were not being slowly carried along the root, I don't know why they would have been put down and left.  Give me more information if this explanation does not solve the question.  We may have to propose a different answer.  Root pixies?

 

More Trees Questions

Willow woes in Philadelphia, NY
August 22, 2010 - I have a 2 yr old willow; it is August and it looks like the tree has gone dormant, is this normal?
view the full question and answer

Texas madrone trimmings for a wedding
July 26, 2011 - Looking for Texas madrone tree trimmings needed for a special wedding.
view the full question and answer

Damaged oaks from Hurricane Ike in League City, TX
August 25, 2009 - After hurricane IKE, one of our oak trees (in front yard) was partially uprooted from the ground. We did place it back, and tie it down with supports. Further, we inserted fertilizer spikes, and give ...
view the full question and answer

Fruit-bearing crabapple for Austin, TX
January 07, 2007 - Is there a fruitbearing crabapple that will live in Austin. If so, what soil type is required?
view the full question and answer

Root rot in trees near Lake Wenatchee State Park, WA
June 26, 2011 - Lake Wenatchee State Park, WA has been closed due to root rot for a year. I own a cabin 1 mile from the State Park. I cannot find a single piece of information about whether private property near th...
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