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
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


Elbow bush
Forestiera pubescens

Elbow bush
Forestiera pubescens

More Propagation Questions

Growing Magnolia from Seed in Dallas
October 20, 2010 - I recently visited the property that had once been my grandmother's. Lots of memories. The house burned down years ago, but the magnolia tree that she loved still stood. I gathered several dried seed...
view the full question and answer

Will horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) survive planting in July
July 14, 2008 - I live in Southwest Austin and I am planting horseherb groundcover in my back yard that is part-shade. Can I plant this right now (July) or is it too hot to plant?
view the full question and answer

Plants for elementary school grow lab in New York
March 14, 2007 - What can we grow in a grow lab in our elementary school library from seed now that will bloom by June or what interesting looking established plants can we put in this grow lab that will have meaning ...
view the full question and answer

Different colors of Argemone spp. from McAllen TX
March 16, 2014 - I took pictures of at least 5 colors of pricklepoppy today. Is this common to have so many colors in one area? How do I harvest the seedpods and when is the best time to do so?
view the full question and answer

Information about moist stratification
September 07, 2010 - I have some seeds of scarlet leatherflower I'd like to try and I read the instructions under 'Propagation' in your Native Plant Database that say "Moist stratify at 41 degrees".. What does "...
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