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?


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

Thursday - March 15, 2012

From: Driftwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Moths around Sophora secundiflora from Driftwood TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Sophora secundiflora Our Mountain Laurel has a lot of large moths flying around it. Should we be concerned? Will they hurt the tree? thank you


We thought we were looking for moths as pollinators of Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), but we found a USDA Forest Service site on the plant, which included this statement:

"Pests: Plants are primarily pest-free, except for infestations by caterpillars of a moth in the family Pyralidae. Caterpillar infestations of mescalbean sophora have been controlled biologically with a strain of bacteria (Bacillus thuringensis), which causes the caterpillars to sicken and die. Insecticide sprays such as Sevin ordiazinon may also be useful."

Then, we found a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on the Genista moth:

"Bottom Line: We learned that the Genista is a web producing caterpillar that attacks Texas laurel, crape myrtle, honeysuckle, and Laburnum. Larvae defoliate as well as spin webs. We would appeal to you not to employ pesticides, as they can do much more harm than good to the surrounding vegetation, butterflies, soil and water supply. Whatever is eating your plant, if you would rather not have a chewed-on plant, we suggest you pull it out. There is no point in wasting scarce resources on a plant that is not satisfactory to you."

Our take on this is that if you begin to see caterpillars on your Texas mountain laurel, and you feel they are damaging the plant, then you might consider trying the  Bacillus thuringensis treatment as suggested by the USDA Forest Service. Remember that moths are often important pollinators of various plants, so don't spray pesticides on them, but treat only the caterpillars.


From the Image Gallery

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

More Trees Questions

Plants beneath native bald cypress trees in Thibodaux LA
September 14, 2009 - I have a bed that needs to be revamped and it has two beautiful 18 year old Bald cypress trees. I would like to work the soil and plant some appropriate shade tolerant plants. How do I work the soil...
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Magnolia in Webster FL
May 24, 2009 - Do all Magnolias Bloom? I live in Central Florida - transplanted a Magnolia 7 1/2 years ago. It is a beautiful tree - very healthy - at least 10-12 ft. It has never had a bloom!! I have another li...
view the full question and answer

Looking for a Privacy Barrier Plant for NC
August 21, 2014 - I am trying to determine the best plant for a privacy barrier for my area in NC that has clay soil. I have a 6 foot high fence but need something 12 feet or taller. It has to be something that does no...
view the full question and answer

Water requirements for fruit trees in California
January 15, 2013 - Dear Sir; In which of these options (fruit trees) the need for watering in irrigation process is higher than the others: -Olive tree -Nectarines and peaches trees -Hazelnut trees -Pistachios and ...
view the full question and answer

Redbud leaves turning yellow in mid-summer
July 13, 2012 - The leaves on our redbud trees are turning yellow. The yellow leaves are pale with no other spots and no dark veins. I don't know for sure which variety of redbud they are or how old they are (more t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center