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
1 rating

Wednesday - January 11, 2012

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Leaves dropping on evergreen sumac in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a large evergreen sumac in my back yard that started off as a small shrub 10 years ago. This summer the leaves turned red and now have dropped off. Is the plant dead? It sent out two smaller plants which look fine so far, but I don't want to lose them either. Local plant experts can't figure out what may have happened, since I have done nothing different to the plant or my yard in the entire time I have lived here.

ANSWER:

Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac) is, according to this USDA Plant Profile map, native in the area of Bexar County. It is not a true evergreen; like live oaks it drops its leaves in the Spring, which are quickly replaced by new leaves. The two small plants that you are seeing are actually shoots, still part of the original tree, and emerging from the same root. We are guessing, although this tree is drought tolerant, that our unusually hot and dry weather caused it to be drought-deciduous, dropping its leaves early to protect the roots.

You aready know, because of the shoots, that the roots are still alive. Use the thumbnail test to see if any of the stems have died. Beginnning fairly close to the top (or as high as you can reach) scrape off a very thin layer of the bark with your thumbnail. If there is a thin layer of green beneath the bark scraping, that trunk is still alive. You can check other areas or branches and, if you find no green layer, move farther down on the same branch.

We could find no projected age for this plant, but its mature height is usually about 8 to 10 feet. We did find information saying it could tolerate extra watering if it was in a well-drained soil but since, as you say, the care for it has not changed in 10 years, we doubt that could be the problem. At this point, we prescribe patience. If you found the green underskin, it is probably just waiting for better times. Leaves should begin to reappear in the Spring, per schedule.

 

From the Image Gallery


Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Nutrient imbalance in Tecoma stans
October 18, 2007 - I have two Tecoma stans on the north-east side of my yard. They have grown very tall (5') but have not bloomed all summer. Last summer they bloomed profusely. Any idea what the problem might be?
view the full question and answer

Loss of blooms in potted plants in Hawaii
November 11, 2007 - My lanai is in strong afternoon sun and no matter what "full sun" plants I try to grow they quickly stop blooming. Plumeria, Hibiscus, Echinacea, even Bougainvillea...they continue to grow but lose...
view the full question and answer

Is yellow tulip poplar alive from Gilbertsville PA
March 30, 2013 - How can I tell if my yellow tulip poplar is alive? thank you
view the full question and answer

Why is my recently planted Esperanza doing poorly in Texas City, TX?
May 28, 2010 - I have an Esperanza I planted about 2 months ago. It has been doing well, except today all but one stem of the plant is wilting and the leaves are rolling. I see no bugs on the plant. Any idea what...
view the full question and answer

Problems with October Glory maple tree in Evansville IN
June 10, 2010 - We have a 15 yr. old October Glory maple tree. 2 years ago we had a bad ice storm and this tree was covered with 1/2 to 3/4 " of ice. The tree resembled a chicken wishbone with its limbs touching ...
view the full question and answer

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