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

Sunday - September 25, 2011

From: Washington, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Swarming insects on non-native willow in Washington PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have had a very large, beautiful pillow willow bush/tree growing next to our garage for about 8 years. Last year at the end of August, it began to attract white-faced hornets and yellow jackets by the hundreds, which I wrote off as a passing swarm once the weather cooled. However, the same thing happened again this year and I feel, with small children and dogs, we have a problem that needs addressed for safety reasons. Right now, there are thousands of both white and yellow "stingers" focused on the base of the tree. I cannot get very close to the tree, but have noticed a layer of small, black, rice-sized bugs covering sections of the far reaching branches. The trunk of the tree also looks like it has been splashed with black stain. Is the tree too far gone? Should I rip it out and start again by rooting some clippings or will the problem transfer? It hangs out over a grape trellis so I have hesitated to use poison.

ANSWER:

Okay, we give up. Our research did not turn up any plant called a "pillow willow." We can pass on to you, if you wish, the websites where you can order a pillow with a picture of a willow on it. So, with your permission, we will address the problem of the generic willow tree.

The thing is, we're not crazy about willows, regardless of their name. There are members of the Salix (willow) family native to North America. They are not, generally speaking, considered landscape plants, but mostly occupy wetlands in their native areas. From the webpage on Salix bebbiana (Bebb willow), which is native to North American, here are the Conditions Comments:

"Short-lived and fast-growing. Susceptible to insect, disease, and wind damage."

This basically sums it up for willows, wherever they come from. Here are links to some previous answers on this subject, so we don't repeat ourselves:

From Cumbola, PA

Disease in non-native willow

We searched the Internet on "hornets and yellow jackets in willows" and found this article A Yellow Jacket Infestation in Willow Trees. Then, we looked at "Pests and Diseases of Willow Trees." From one of our favorite sources for horticulture information, North Dakota State University, we found Questions on Willows.

Now to cut to the chase. We think the tree needs to go. Obviously, you need to wait until the stingers have gone away for the winter, and even then, it would probably be better to have a professional arborist remove it and as much of the roots as possible. Then, during the winter, go to our Native Plant Database, click on Pennsylvania, and search on "tree" under General Appearance. You can also, in the same Combination Search, specify the amount of light the growing space has, how moist the soil, even desired height of the tree. We don't recommend taking cuttings to replace it, but to find a better-adapted healthy tree, native to your area-one that has a long lifespan ahead of it, and is less likely to develop diseases that will cause the sort of problem you are having now. Be happy with a willow pillow and forget the pillow willow-you'll be better off in the long run.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Blueberries and non-native squash in Fort Worth
April 15, 2010 - Blueberries in North Central Texas-Fort Worth In sun or shade? Got only male blossoms on my squash last year why?
view the full question and answer

Problems with beheaded non-native Gerbera daisies in Cooperstown, NY
May 31, 2009 - I planted my gerberas in my perennial bed - as usual. Something is beheading them and leaving the blooms along side the plant. Some of the bloom is eaten but most of it is right there. I have t...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of frost-damaged non-native Sago Palms in Marble Falls TX
April 18, 2010 - I have several large Sago Palms that have partial frost damage, they are part green and part brown fronds. Should I remove the brown leaves? the center of the leaf is green.
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native aloe in Seguin TX
March 17, 2009 - I would love to grow aloe plants; both because I like the look of them and for their medicinal properties. Here in Texas people grow them both indoors and out. For some reason, I have not had any l...
view the full question and answer

Non-native herbs being burned by pool chlorine in St. Petersburg, FL
July 11, 2010 - My herb garden is next to my swimming pool, which is serviced by a company using chlorine. I have found that on the two unsuccessful attempt to establish my herb garden, the herbs burn off after the p...
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