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 - August 10, 2006

From: Tinley Park, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Bark damage to Tulip Tree
Answered by: Joe Marcus


I have a tulip tree planted. It is about 9-10 years old. Two years ago the tree looked as though the trunk was cracked. Maybe hit by lightning after a storm. This year the bark on the side of tree that was cracked has peeled off to bare wood. The tree flowered and is very green. Will the tree survive? Does it maybe have a disease? Is there anything I can do to help the trunk become healthy again?


There is a good possibility that your tree will survive and live to a ripe old age. It is not uncommon for trees to sustain damage to their trunks which results in loss of bark. In most cases the damage done is permanent and a visible scar remains on the side of the tree throughout its life. If the damage is slight the wound sometimes grows over and the dead wood beneath is hidden.

Whether or not your tree survives depends on the severity of the wound and how successful the tree is in creating healthy scar tissue around the wound. Open wounds on the side of trees sometimes become entry points for pathogenic diseases and damaging insects. Very often the negative consequences do not develop for years or even decades.

One serious consideration though, is the possibility of the tree falling and causing harm to people, homes or other property. Trees with damaged trunks will sometimes break during windstorms and fall in the direction of the trunk damage. If your tree's trunk is scarred on the side facing your home and is near enough to cause damage if it falls, you might want to consider having the tree removed. If it's in a location where it is unlikely to damage anything by falling, you have little to worry about.


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Is post oak resistant to oak wilt from Dallas TX
November 22, 2013 - I am confused. The NPIN website says that Post Oak IS susceptible to oak wilt, but all the other information I have been able to find says that it is resistant to oak wilt and rarely gets the diesase....
view the full question and answer

Mice eating seeds put out for birds
June 02, 2008 - I love feeding the wild birds and put out seed in our backyard. Now, I have a family of mice eating the seed and they are living in the trunk of our elm tree! How can I get rid of them without killi...
view the full question and answer

School project on acid rain effects on plants from Austin
October 18, 2013 - Hi I go to an Austin high school and I am doing a project on how acid rain affects plant growth. I am wondering if you know any plants that would be more or less susceptible to acid rain for this proj...
view the full question and answer

Small oak tree with powdery mildew in San Antonio, TX.
May 09, 2012 - I have a small oak tree with powdery mildew. Is there anything I can do about? Will it kill the tree?
view the full question and answer

Something killing evergreens on Long Island from Baldwin NY
June 06, 2011 - What seems to be killing so many of the evergreens on Long Island - see more and more dying each day - doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason - can it be helped? Many thanks.
view the full question and answer

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