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

Ash tree dying back to lower sprouts in Kempner TX
June 19, 2010 - My 2 year old ash tree leaves dropped, appears dead, branches dying. New growth near base of tree. Do I cut upper trunk or remove entire tree? My other ash is doing well.
view the full question and answer

Planting Mountain Laurel grown from seeds in Argentina
April 09, 2014 - Hello, I was transferred to Cordoba, Argentina 2 years ago from San Antonio, the climate hereis similar to S. TX, anyway I brought some mountain laurel seeds with me and they have been in 2 gallon pot...
view the full question and answer

Trees and shrubs for adobe soil in Penngrove CA
June 19, 2010 - Hi, I'd like to find a list of trees that are native, drought tolerant and suitable to the adobe soil in Penngrove. We will be landscaping a bare .5 acre parcel starting later this fall. Another fea...
view the full question and answer

Trees starting to die in subdivision in Hutto, TX
May 31, 2012 - I live in Hutto Tx, in a subdivision where everyone has the 2 trees planted in the front yard. My trees have started to die, and I want to find out what kind they are to find a solution
view the full question and answer

Sweet cherry tree for New Mexico
January 23, 2013 - What is the best kind of sweet cherry tree to plant in Santa Fe, NM? I have apple, apricot, peach and pear. Would like cherry unless it is a bad idea.
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