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
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 Drought Tolerant Questions

Drought-tolerant plants for deep shade in Florida
June 23, 2012 - I am looking for indigenous, drought tolerant, leafy dense plants (kind of hosta like) that will grow in deep shade (under a tree that gets little sun) in Jacksonville, Florida.
view the full question and answer

Need plants to grow between flagstones in Vista, CA.
February 06, 2012 - Hi, I have put in a flagstone patio set in DG. The DG is creating a very sandy messy surface on the flagstone, so want to plant a low ground cover between the joints. Its a fairly large area, in sun...
view the full question and answer

Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX
October 19, 2011 - 3 days ago I had professional landscaping done in an area with plants that tolerate heat & sun well. We planted 7 healthy, large lambs ear & mulched. Everything planted is doing well except the lambs ...
view the full question and answer

Cenizo for border of school garden from Cedar Park TX
January 27, 2014 - Hi. We're starting a school garden in Central Texas, and instead of building a fence along one side, we'd like to plant a hedge. Ideally, it would grow tall enough to deter deer from jumping over, b...
view the full question and answer

Replacing St. Augustine with native grass in Austin
February 24, 2012 - We are renting a house our Sister-in-law owns- the St Augustine is in tough shape, drought and lack of care over the years. Could we plant a native grass or do we have to pull up the remaining St. Aug...
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