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

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

Is the palm tree a true tree?
December 18, 2008 - Hello, There has been constant debate here about the Palm Tree. I'm in Las Vegas and I have heard everything from it not being a true tree but a cacti or a giant thistle?! I've tried to research...
view the full question and answer

Roots in mulch around Live Oak in Austin
March 10, 2011 - I have a 20 yr old Live Oak that has about 6-8 inches of mulch buildup around the base (I had landscaped around it). I went to break up the mulch to remove it from the base of the tree, but found it ...
view the full question and answer

Spring blooming Acacia farnsiana in Austin
April 04, 2007 - I've been seeing a large shrub, possibly tree, around Austin this spring - and it is covered is small ball-like orangish-yellow blooms - very tightly covered in these blooms. From the car, it looks ...
view the full question and answer

What to do with ailing live oak trees
May 04, 2010 - We live in far north San Antonio, TX on a 2 acre lot with many trees.. about 25% oak and 75% cedar. About 15% of our live oak trees have not sprouted leaves yet this spring, or have only sprouted leav...
view the full question and answer

Placement of lemon cypress tree in Miami, FL
May 25, 2008 - Where is the best place to have a lemon cypress tree? indoors or out? Presently in south Miami climate, Scott's potting soil, clay pot, with good drainage.
view the full question and answer

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