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

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

What's causing holes in trunk of white oak tree in SouthBend IN?
June 10, 2013 - We have a huge White Oak in our backyard that is approx. 130 years old. This evening I became aware that there are several small holes around the trunk that appear to be oozing a dark sappy liquid. ...
view the full question and answer

Doodlebugs in dead area of Coral Bean from Houston
April 10, 2013 - I have a Firemans coralbean tree about 5 years old. I discovered yesterday in the middle of the tree there is some deadwood where we have pruned out branches. A couple of the branches were filled with...
view the full question and answer

Aluminum foil disorienting insects under plants from Brierfield AL
April 20, 2011 - Does covering the ground under plants frequently attacked by flea beetles with aluminum foil really disorient the insects? But does it also disorient beneficial insects?
view the full question and answer

Insects attacking Gregg's Blue Mistflower from Comfort TX
June 20, 2013 - I have a beautiful stand of Gregg's Blue Mist flower that have been attacked by an unknown insect. The new growth is curled and stunted and it is not flowering. I'm not alone..I've seen the Gregg'...
view the full question and answer

Are non-native hostas causing fly invasion from Eastpointe MI
July 14, 2013 - I live in Michigan with a small backyard. I have 5 large hostas with the purple flower blooms which are located by my patio. I was wondering if they can be causing my large population of unwanted flie...
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