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
4 ratings

Thursday - August 31, 2006

From: Helotes, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Possible wilt disease in mountain laurels
Answered by: Joe Marcus


Three of about 24 of my mature mountain laurels died suddenly, the leaves turned brown almost overnight, scratching the bark revealed no green tissue, the small branches practically cracked when bent, the leaves went from green and healthy to dry and brown in about three to four days, the plant seemed to have just dried up. I do not believe they were over or under irrigated as other healthy mountain laurels remain immediatly adjacent to the dead ones. I detected no caterpillar damage. Any ideas what happened?


Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora is famously resistant to most pests and diseases; the one major exception being the Genista caterpillar which attacks the leaves. However, the phenomena you described are pretty classic symptoms of a wilt disease. Wilts are usually caused by fungal pathogens invading and clogging vascular tissue in roots or stems of plants, thus the sudden decline of the plant. Species of fungi within the genera Verticillium and Fusarium would be the most likely cause of the disease, but Texas Mountain Laurel is not known to be particularly susceptible to any of them.

There are other possibilities, but without actually examining the plants, it would be difficult to rule any cause either in or out. You should contact your county agricultural extension agent for information on having samples from your dead plants tested to determine the cause of the problem.

More Trees Questions

Texas persimmon with scorched leaves from Austin
July 11, 2013 - I planted a Texas Persimmon seedling (five gallon) in my yard in early April. It is in a sunny, well-drained spot, and I have watered it regularly since planting. All was fine until the last weekend i...
view the full question and answer

Is mulberry tree inhibiting growth of plants under it in Wilmington DE?
June 21, 2009 - I have a large mulberry tree in my yard and the plants around it are not flowering or growing, some are now dead. Could the mulberry tree be toxic to other plants?
view the full question and answer

Drought affecting native trees from The Woodlands
August 18, 2011 - I've been trying to grow native trees in my yard for the past 3 years and I'm starting to question whether the amount of time required to spend watering them during the long hot season in Texas is r...
view the full question and answer

Will hand pollination of red plum tree result in fruits?
February 24, 2014 - Red Plum is blooming but no bees to pollinate & no associate plum trees near by. Can flowers be pollinated by hand with q-tip?
view the full question and answer

Washingtonia palms need to be skirted?
August 31, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have five Washingtonia palms on my property that have never been skirted and look rather shabby. The interesting thing is that they have thrived (20-30 ft) here to begin with...
view the full question and answer

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