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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.

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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.

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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.

 
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Tuesday - July 23, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Problem with unknown tree in Austin, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Have recently moved to Austin, Texas and have a tree in my backyard that has been dropping leaves and one major branch appears to be dead. That branch has hard rust colored sap circles (about penny size) all along the bark. I don't know what kind of tree it is. I've looked on plant identification sites and the closest I can come is it may be some type of Ash tree. The leaves are velvety, about four inches long and sort a of oval shape but pointed at both ends. Wish I could figure out how to post a photo. Should I cut the dead branch off? I plan to try to give it more water despite the Stage 2 restrictions. I don't see any insects on the tree. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

Your best bet to save your tree is to call a certified arborist to assess its problem.  You can find a list of certified arborists for Austin and Central Texas on the web page for Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.  They are specialists in diseases and pests of trees and how best to treat them to save the tree.  We at the Wildflower Center are not specialists in problems (diseases or pests) with trees; moreover, I don't know what your tree is.  Your description doesn't give me enough information to identify it.  If you would like to find out the identity of your tree, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants to identify.  You will need several photos to assure you will get a good identification:  1) a photo of the entire tree—or the best you can do to show the entire tree; 2) closeup of a leaf, both the topside and underneath;  3) photo of how the leaves are arranged on the branch; and 4) photograph of the bark on the trunk.

The extra water you are giving the tree might be helpful, but from your description of the dead limb it sounds as if it is diseased.  Cutting off the dead limb is probably a good idea to keep it from falling on someone or something underneath it, but doing so may or may not contribute to the tree's general health.  Having a certified arborist examine the tree is the best way to determine if the tree can be saved and, if so, how to save it.

 

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