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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 is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 22, 2013

From: Canyon Lake, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Sudden death of one side of Mountain Laurel from Canyon Lake TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello! We live in Canyon Lake TX and have a Mountain Laurel that is in distress. It is planted in an irrigated flower bed and has been happily growing for 5 years. It is about 5' tall and has several trunks growing out of the ground. All of a sudden, the entire right half of the tree looks like it is dying. The leaves are turning yellow and are falling off. Nothing has changed other than the fact that we put fresh mulch down about 2 weeks ago. The left half of the tree looks very healthy. I don't see any damage to the 2-3 trunks that represent the right half of the tree. I don't know what's wrong with it! Can you help? P.S. These are no signs of any pests.

ANSWER:

When one part of any plant suddenly goes into sharp decline, you have to assume there has  been some sudden shock or damage to that side. If the fresh mulch you put down is piled up against the trunk of the shrub, that would not be good, but not fatal so fast. And certainly not fatal to just one side. When something appears to begin dying so fast, we usually suspect a mistake made somewhere around the plant. In this case, it sure sounds like some herbicide, maybe meant to kill broad-leaved weeds in nearby grass, has come in contact with the branches of the Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel). Although you say you have detected no pests on the plant, we are going to go back and give you some previous answers on the subject and see if any of them ring a bell:

March 15, 2012

May 12, 2010

June 15. 2009

May 30, 2008

August 31, 2006

This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that the Texas Mountain Laurel is native to Comal County, so we can't blame your problems on planting the tree in the wrong place. Since we are not plant pathologists, we suggest you contact the Texas A&M Extension Education Office for Comal County to inquire if any similar problems have been reported in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

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