En Español

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

Yaupons dying back in San Antonio
April 23, 2009 - I have 4 yaupon shrubs in the same area for several years. This past winter one turned brown from inside to outside very quickly. It is dead but the roots are not loose. The others began doing the sam...
view the full question and answer

Browned foliage on Juniperus ashei in Wimberley TX
April 03, 2011 - We are in Central Texas and have native "cedar" juniper trees. One with foliage that looked brown, on close inspection, is covered with white webs. The foliage looks like it is dying. No worms a...
view the full question and answer

Incorrectly planted anacua from San Antonio
November 22, 2013 - I purchased a 12' anacua tree from a local nursery about 18 months ago. It was not planted correctly (root bound, rolled into a hole about 3" larger than the pot) but is still alive with the number...
view the full question and answer

Problems with fruit of Mexican Plum from McKinney TX
May 19, 2013 - MY Mexican plum tree (about 5 years old) has small fruit on it. Some of them are severely deformed, and look rotten almost. They are bumpy and ragged looking. Or they are pasty white,rotten and dried ...
view the full question and answer

Yaupon in bonsai failing to thrive in Lufkin TX
July 16, 2009 - Hi,I have a yaupon that I've turned into a bonsai. It's been producing new vegetation until about a month ago. Then all of a sudden the branches started drooping and the leaf tips started turning bl...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center