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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Mahopac, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Reason for tree canopy dieback from Mahopac NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: Not a questions, just sharing, re person in Texas whose Ash Jupiter appeared to be dying "canopy very thin on top". We moved to Putnam Co. NY in 1970. Our house was shaded by 2 beautiful, huge, American Elms. In approx. 1995 we noticed a thinning canopy on each. The canopies of these trees spread over two roads (corner property) and 2 houses (incl. ours). Contacted a NYS who sent a "ranger" to look at them. To make a long story short, he said that the trees had "started dying" when the 2 roads and then houses had been put in, severely damaging the roots. They both had to come down in early 2000s. It broke my heart!

ANSWER:

Often when we are asked about mysterious symptoms in plants, especially trees, we suspect some interference with the roots or crowding by foundation or sidewalks. There is no way to tell if this is going on, especially if you were not present when the tree was planted or the structures built around it.

Still, credit where credit is due. Follow this link Ulmus americana (American elm) to our webpage on the tree. It does speak favorably about the tree but notes that Dutch Elm Disease has decimated the species. It also notes that this is a fast-growing tree, and fast growing trees are usually short-lived. If this tree was already shading your house in 1970 and didn't have to be cut down until 2000, it would appear that it lived a good long life.

We appreciate your offering this example of the difficulty of diagnosing (especially from a distance, as in our case) maladies or deaths of plants without a readily apparent reason.

 

From the Image Gallery


American elm
Ulmus americana

American elm
Ulmus americana

American elm
Ulmus americana

More Trees Questions

Deer Resistant Evergreens for Pennsylvania Woods
March 12, 2015 - We are looking for evergreens that will grow in a partially shaded/wooded area and are ideally deer resistant. Hemlocks are out because of a parasite infestation in our area of Pennsylvania.
view the full question and answer

Native trees for property in Washington State
September 29, 2008 - We bought a piece of property on Lake Wenatchee, Washington. It was cleared more than we would like and want to know what types of trees grow well there and can handle the snow. Should I wait until ...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing, tall taproot tree for El Paso
September 01, 2008 - I live in El Paso Texas and would like to know what would be a good shade tree to plant. I would like this tree to grow fast and tall. I would also like the roots to go straight down.
view the full question and answer

A tree to replace a pin oak in PA
January 25, 2011 - My 120 yr old pin oak has root and butt rot, 5 of 13 roots dead by pressure testing. I am in Pittsburgh PA. I want to plant a root rot resistant tree, either evergreen, fir or deciduous. The tree is 9...
view the full question and answer

Search for Silver Magnolia from Coram NY
July 11, 2012 - Hi, 20+ years ago I purchased a small tree labeled Silver Magnolia from a catalog. It was a sapling about 8 inches high when I first received it but amazing! The bloom the first year was as big as my ...
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