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
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

Trees poisonous to horses from Landrum SC
April 15, 2012 - Please tell me if the following trees are poisonous to horses: hickory, beech, poplar, and redbud. Thank you very much.
view the full question and answer

Native alternatives for Japanese maple
September 05, 2007 - Hi, I am a landscaper trying to create a landscape in a shaded area with no sun. The person likes a Acer palmatum, but I am not sure it will grow there. We live in South Lake Tahoe. So I know of some ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting a native Texas Persimmon in Austin
October 18, 2008 - I have a Texas Persimmon, approx. 2.5 feet tall, growing in a 5 gal. pot. When should it be transplanted and where? How much sun? Could it grow in a larger pot for a time> Do deer like it? Thank ...
view the full question and answer

Decorative small evergreen tree for Las Vegas NV
January 06, 2013 - I need a small decorative tree to be planted among a pine tree background; would prefer evergreen.
view the full question and answer

Leaf drop from live oaks in mid-summer
July 08, 2013 - We have a live oak that is starting to drop a considerable amount of leaves here in early July in Cypress Texas. Its a mature tree with a base diameter of 12-14" and 25-30' tall. We live in a subd...
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