En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - November 14, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Identity of small objects that look like tiny pecans
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am doing my science fair project on acorns. Last year I measured how many acorns and other nature-y stuff fell into a baby pool from a live oak tree in my backyard every day of October. Last year was a mast year so a lot fell. One day I got 44 acorns! This year I did the same measurements. It was not a mast year so I only got 3 acorns all month. But at the the end of the month some small things fell from the tree. They look like dried up tiny tiny pecans about 3 mm long. Do you know what they are? My project is due December 4, so if you could email me back before then it would be great. Thank you, Isy PS I live near MoPac and 2222 in case that helps. PPS I saved some so if you need to see them I can send a picture.

ANSWER:

From your description I can think of a couple of possibilities.

1) The most likely possibility is that they are plant galls.  Galls are abnormal growths on plants in reaction to insects, mites, fungus or bacteria.  The most common ones are caused by the plants reaction to the deposit of an insect or mite laying an egg on the plant's leaves or stems.  The larva from the egg is encased by the growing tissue in which it feeds.  The insect usually overwinters and emerges as an adult in the spring. Galls can occur on many trees and other plants, but oaks and hackberries have a large number and variety of galls.  Here are links to several descriptions, with photos, of galls:

Gall-Making Insects and Mites from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Oak Gall Insects from Texas A&M Forest Service

The Mealy Oak Gall on Ornamental Live Oak in Texas from Nueces County AgriLife Extension.

Galls on Trees from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Hackberry nipplegall maker. Hackberry blister gall psyllid.

You can determine if the objects you found are galls by cutting them open.   You will find either the larva inside or a hollow where it grew.   If you find the hollow without the insect, you should be able to find the small hole on the surface of the gall where the insect emerged.

2)  The other possibility is that they are fruits from a plant you haven't noticed before.   If you cut the fruit open, you should be able to find a seed inside.

 

More Pests Questions

Problems with Shumard Oaks and Crepe Myrtle in Cooke Co. TX
September 07, 2013 - I have a Shumard Oak Tree that has been in the ground approx. ten years. It has done great, even passing up some of my older Shumards. In August it began to lose its leaves at an alarming rate. They a...
view the full question and answer

What are the webs floating in the air? Are they harmful to plants?
October 03, 2010 - Austin, TX has experienced fall weather for the past week..low humidity, nice temps, sunny skies. But long webs are connecting from trees to our plants to the porch. Not on the trunk of the tree like ...
view the full question and answer

Goat damage to Arizona Cypress from Palmdale CA
June 28, 2012 - My goats stripped the bottom branches of my Arizona Cypress. Will they come back and how can I prevent future damage?
view the full question and answer

Is oak leucanium an invasive species in Texas from Laredo TX
April 02, 2013 - Is Parthenolecanium quercifex considered an invasive species in Texas? Does this insect attach itself to redbuds? I spotted and removed from my small 5ft Texas Redbud last year. It seems that it has ...
view the full question and answer

Treating cuts in tree trunks
November 21, 2009 - We have two young trees that deer made bad cuts in the trunks. What can we put on cuts to keep bugs and disease from getting in them.? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center