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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 21, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Wilting American Smoke Tree in Texas
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I planted a young American smoke tree last fall (mid-November) and it put out a good show of tentative new leaves this spring. Then to keep the tree form I clipped some little shrubby start ups at the base, sealing them with Spectracide pruning seal, and we got a hard frost that night. The next morning all the leaves were wilted. I've given it two weeks and it has not recovered. It still has juice in the veins but is not as green as I expected. Did I kill my tree?

ANSWER:

Cotinus obovatus (American smoke tree) are interesting shrubs (or trees if trained this way). The leaves are attractive, but it is the flowers and fruit clusters that look like masses of smoke that really attract attention. I don’t think the pruning and subsequent use of pruning sealant has affected your plant. More likely it wilted because of the freezing temperature that happened the night afterward. Since it is not dropping its leaves, the stems and buds are still fine. The leaves just took a cold temperature hit and perhaps froze on the edges but it doesn't sound like they froze through the entire leaf. Also as a young and relatively newly transplanted tree it will be more susceptible to cold damage than an established tree. Remember that this is a tough plant that thrives on neglect and should not be over-watered or over-fertilized. Patience is the key right now. As long as some portions of the leaves are green and normal looking the tree will continue photosynthesizing and will be producing its own food. If not then the tree may drop its leaves and send out a new set.

Here’s a Mr. Smarty Plants question and answer about cold damage to an olive tree (the principles are the same for your smoke tree).

 

From the Image Gallery


American smoke tree
Cotinus obovatus

American smoke tree
Cotinus obovatus

American smoke tree
Cotinus obovatus

American smoke tree
Cotinus obovatus

More Trees Questions

Plants for clay soil in Leavenworth IN
October 02, 2009 - I live in south central Indiana; the soil is very bad clay, either hard as a rock or mud. I have made several raised beds but am still having problems with plants rotting. What types of plants work he...
view the full question and answer

Relocating native oak trees in compacted soil
September 14, 2008 - Can you replant and relocate small oak trees in compacted soil and will they grow or go into shock?
view the full question and answer

Tree with blue berries in Los Angeles, CA
March 22, 2016 - There's a tree outside my house with somewhat thin and short spiky leaves with blue berries. The berries Some of the berries have a frost look and some are dark blue.
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Colorado blue spruce in Indiana
August 16, 2005 - I live in Indiana. I have a Colorado blue spruce that I would like to transplant to a different part of my yard. What is the best time of year to transplant it? It is only about two foot tall.
view the full question and answer

Small Yard Tree for Washington DC
July 20, 2012 - What do you suggest for a tree or shrub in my front yard? The yard is small; 9 ft x 12 ft. Thank you.
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