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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 05, 2012

From: Lockhart, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Texas Ash secreting sap in Lockhart, TX
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have what I believe is a Texas Ash in my front yard that is secreting a sap with what looks like some wounds on it with some white stuff and with black and red looking ants as well as it has a lot of butterflies that visits it. Someone told me that it looks like some kind of disease. We have had a few trees taken down in our neighborhood and I thought maybe it was because of this same disease. What should we be doing for this? I have another tree like it beside it and I don't want it getting the same disease. Thanks for your time,

ANSWER:

It's usually not possible to positively diagnose a disease or disorder based on a description.

A common cause of oozing sap during the summer months is the egg-laying activities of some species of cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers and other insects.  The females of these species have sword-shaped appendages called ovipositors used for piercing the bark of trees and shrubs and laying their eggs in the relative safety of those confines.  The piercing of the bark often results in copious secretion of sap through the nearly-invisible slits.  These wounds are usually more of a nuisance than anything, but large numbers of wounds can cause serious harm or death to the tree.

However, we cannot rule out a disease or other cause of the problem you describe.  The ants and butterflies you're seeing on your tree are likely just there to sip at the oozing sap.

Trees are valuable assets and it's usually worth the expense of hiring a certified arborist to consult with to find the exact cause of the problem and to recommend an appropriate course of action.

 

 

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