Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
2 ratings

Wednesday - August 22, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Tiny holes oozing sap from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My ash tree becomes loaded with butterflies on the trunk. At closer inspection, I see they are drinking sap which is coming from small holes in the trunk. Are the butterflies creating the holes? I don't see any other creature besides the usual ants (not many) on the trunk. Are the butterflies boring into my tree? Are they hurting it? I only see activity on the trunk of the ash tree. Thank you.

ANSWER:

This particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team once watched a gentleman downy (or ladderback) woodpecker bring three nestlings to a live oak trunk outside my kitchen window for pecking lessons. The little birds lined up and dutifully watched as Dad did a sample peck; then they would do their lessons. Over the years, other families used the same schoolroom, and there were little lines of pecks all around the (undamaged) live oak. I have since moved away from that tree,  but I wonder if it is still visited by my bird friends. Other birds that leave holes in bark, hunting for insects and sap are sapsuckers. They can actually do a little damage, but a healthy tree should be fine. The ants you see on the trunk are going for the same sap, unless they are on the way up to tend their aphid farms in the leaves. But on the bright side, what a neat way to attract butterflies down to where you can see them closely.

 

More Trees Questions

Reason for tree canopy dieback from Mahopac NY
May 21, 2012 - 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...
view the full question and answer

Effects of concrete patio poured around tulip poplar tree
July 01, 2008 - We have a beautiful tulip poplar tree in our back yard that we wanted to be the focal point of our patio. We had seen pictures of patios with trees incorporated in patios leaving two to three feet of...
view the full question and answer

Shrub that will grow outside in Zone 5 from Millbrook NY
April 21, 2012 - Is there any shrub, tree or other sort of plant that will grow well in zone 5 in a very large container outdoors?
view the full question and answer

Deep Rooted Large Shrub or Small Tree for Driveway Strip
August 21, 2014 - I am in eastern Massachusetts. My condominium Grounds Committee is searching for a small tree suitable to plant in narrow (4'-5') beds which divide two driveways. Can you suggest something whose roo...
view the full question and answer

Need information about pruning Persimmon trees in Buda, TX.
November 29, 2010 - Mr. Smarty, We have many wild persimmon trees in our yard. Some I want prune to bush size. What is the best way to prune these trees and to what extent can they be safely pruned. Thank you for shari...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.