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

Bug repelling plants from Rochester NY
July 23, 2013 - I live in Western NY (zone 6?) and have a shady area where I hang my swing, but it's so buggy under the tree I can't use it! The soil is very dry, rocky. Is there a plant/shrub that I can grow the...
view the full question and answer

Danger of lichens damaging trees
September 26, 2007 - My mom lives east of Buda, Texas where she has planted many different kinds of trees, which are all over 10 years old. Now, they all have a moss or lichen growing on the bark of the trees. She is worr...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of Lantanas
August 06, 2008 - Here at work we have 4 beautiful yellow Santanas(should I say had), the leaves have started to turn brown and no longer blooming. Appears to have a fungus or disease. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Flying insects eating leaves of non-native Brugmansia in Aline CA
October 17, 2013 - I have an Angel Trumpet tree. We live in Aline, California 30 miles east of San Diego. Little yellow and black flying bugs eat the leaves. Do you have a remedy for this problem.
view the full question and answer

Possible webbing bark lice on oak tree
August 08, 2008 - We live near the Center and have a large live oak tree in our yard. Recently the lower trunk has been covered with thin, white weblike material (not sure if spider web). What could this be and is it d...
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