En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - March 17, 2013

From: Grand Prairie, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pollinators, Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Shrubs
Title: Lack of Fruit on Forestiera
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have not been able to get berry production on my elbow bush. I have male and female plants. Is it possible to help with the pollination process? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Elbow bush (Forestiera pubescens) is in the olive family and has fleshy blue fruit looking like individual grapes about ¼ inch in diameter. The fruit have a whitish coating called a bloom that can easily rub off ripens in early summer. One of the other common names for this plant is Spring Herald which is appropriate for its early bloom. This native shrub is an excellent nectar source for bees and butterflies when it is in bloom. Birds and other wildlife are very fond of the fruit.

The unglamorous flowers bloom between January and March on separate male and female bushes (dioecious). They are small, yellow, without petals, highly scented, and are in clusters right close to the twigs. Without a close up examination of the flowers, the male and female plants look the same. The flowers appear before the shrub opens its leaves.  In Central Texas the flowers bloom in February.

The first question that comes to mind is ... do you really have male and female plants? Often nurseries do not label the different sexes and having more than two plants is necessary to be sure you get a male and a female plant. Next year when they are blooming it would be wise to confirm that you do have a male and female plant and if not then you can quickly run to the nursery when they are still in bloom and buy the opposite sex. A website that has good close up pictures of the stamen and pistil is Katie Hansen’s Image Archive of Central Texas Plants. This is a website she maintains for the Native Plants of Central Texas course at the University of Texas at Austin.  

Two additional causes of male and female plants not producing fruit could be that they are not blooming at the same time (but this is not supposed to be the case for Forestiera pubescens). And lastly, fruit will not be formed if there is an excessively late and hard freeze that damages the flower buds or keeps away the pollinators. This should be a very rare occurence since this plant is quite cold tolerant (although flower buds are often not as hardy as leaf buds on a plant). Grand Prairie, Texas,  west of Dallas is USDA hardiness zone 8a (hardy to 10-15 F.) Forestiera pubescens is cold hardy to well below this temperature.


 

 

From the Image Gallery


Stretchberry
Forestiera pubescens

Stretchberry
Forestiera pubescens

More Propagation Questions

Planting Candelilla from Austin
July 12, 2013 - Good Morning and thank you for answering my question!! I am interested in planting a Candelilla plant (it looks like small bamboo plants growing only a 2-3 feet tall. I heard it is supposed to be ver...
view the full question and answer

Volunteer wax myrtles in Tuscaloosa, AL
August 26, 2009 - I have Wax Myrtles growing in my front yard. I have noticed that some shrubs have sprouted in my back yard that have leaves that are exactly like my wax myrtles. Can Wax Myrtles sprout from seed or h...
view the full question and answer

Will potted tulip rebloom next year
May 18, 2008 - We bought tulips that were in bloom in small pots in May, and planted them in the back yard. Now my friend tells me they will not come up and bloom next spring, that you must only plant tulips as bul...
view the full question and answer

Source of Berlandiera pumila seeds from Coral Gables FL
June 07, 2012 - Where can I buy plants or seeds of Berlandiera pumila?
view the full question and answer

Reproducing Echinacea 'Sunbeam' from Powthan VA
August 03, 2011 - I would like to reproduce a flowering plant- Sundown echinacea. I have a plant now. Can you give me info on how to do it? thanks so much.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center