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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 25, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Shrubs
Title: Pests on American Beautyberry from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Something is eating the leaves of my American Beautyberry shrubs. One is almost stripped of leaves on the upper branches. I have looked and can't see any insects or caterpillars. I have also looked online and can't find information regarding any particular pests that eat this foliage. I do not have a deer problem. Do you know what this could be?

ANSWER:

When we searched for pests or diseases for this plant, virtually every website on Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) assured us it was without pests or diseases, You might read this very complete article from the USDA NCRS on the plant, which does admit that it is sometimes victim to some wilts. From that article:

"Pests and Potential Problems
Some of the diseases which affect this genus include leaf spots (Atractilina callicarpae) and black mold (Meliola cookeana)"

It's good that you stated you had no deer problem, because that was our first thought, so we will have to dig a little deeper.

About all we can do is make a couple suggestions on maintenance of the area. This sounds like you have a nocturnal visitor, if you are finding holes and bare branches, with no evidence of insect visitation. We have had trouble in the past in Central Texas with slugs and snails, and some of those little beasts can climb a long way and eat a whole bunch of foliage. In the past couple of years, with heat, little rain and water shortages, there were not as many opportunities for the snails to survive, but the situation has changed a little this year. Please read this Integrated Pest Management article on Snails and Slugs.

Since this plant blooms from May to July, if the higher branches that you say have been eaten clean have no blooms on them, we would probably just trim off the leafless branches. Then, you could clean up the floor of the garden bed where the plants are growing to remove any potential lurking places for the snails. Note the instructions on watering in the article above. Another possibility is to make a trip out to the garden with a flashlight and see if you see any of the creepie crawlies on the loose. If you do, again, take the suggestions from the IPM article for prevention.

We are sorry we are coming up with nothing more definite, but it will probably be up to you to be the detective. The beautyberry is well known for attracting birds and butterflies. Your plant may already be sheltering some very small butterfly larvae or caterpillars. If you haven't been checking the plant frequently, one generation of larvae may have already come and gone, after first denuding those easily accessed higher leaves.

We really hate it when all our research tells us that a plant has no significant pests and diseases and something is obviously eating it.

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

More Shrubs Questions

California plants poisonous to dogs from Sacramento
July 01, 2012 - Found dodonea viscosa purple. Is it poisonous to dogs? Also Gold Star Potentilla. Going drought tolerant and need small trees, shrubs and plants not poisonous to dogs for sun and partial sun.
view the full question and answer

Beautyberry Dying Back
August 06, 2015 - I've got an American Beautyberry which I planted in the spring. It's now about 2-3 feet tall and has 3 trunks (or limbs). It's in an area which gets about 5 hours of direct sun per day and I've be...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for heavy clay soil in east Austin
May 02, 2007 - I live in East Austin and have very thick clay soil on my property. I also have a lot of shade and partial sun/shade. Can you suggest some native plant varieties that are well-adapted to these condi...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Shady Woodland in MA
June 09, 2013 - Hello, I am looking for natives to plant in full shade or part shade. My house is in the mountain woodland area of Mt. Washington, MA. I am looking for grasses, flowers and shrubs. Also I am looking f...
view the full question and answer

Hankering for a view-blocking hedge in Hempstead, TX.
July 03, 2013 - Hempstead is 50 miles west of Houston and I am looking for a fast growing native to provide a block of a view for a fairly large area (about half a block). I would prefer something that is also benef...
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