Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?


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

Saturday - June 27, 2015

From: Brenham, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Shrubs
Title: Turk's Cap and Pavonia insect problems
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


My Turk's cap and Pavonia lasiopetala (rock rose) plants both have quite a few leaves that are skeletonized in appearance. I do not see any insects on the underside of the leaves. What could be causing this, and how would I treat it?


Turk's cap and Pavonia lasiopetala are both great plants for full sun sites.

Here's what we have on our website about Turk's cap ...This spreading shrub, often as broad as high, grows 2-3 ft., sometimes reaching 9 ft. Bright-red, pendant, hibiscus-like flowers never fully open, their petals overlapping to form a loose tube with the staminal column protruding, said to resemble a Turkish turban, hence its most common name, Turks cap. Especially useful in shady situations. Red flowers usually are produced in showy profusion during hot weather at the end of summer and early fall. White-flowered cultivars have been produced. Drought tolerant. Prefers partially shady sites. Under cultivation, Turk’s cap will adapt to and thrive in many different sites, including full sun and heavy soil, though unremitting sun will cause its leaves to become rougher, smaller, darker, and puckered. To keep at a desirable height and shape, prune back after a couple years. To keep it waist-high in the Southeast, cut it back to 5 inches after the last frost. Can be kept cut back to give the appearance of a ground cover, though it doesnt spread by either rhizomes or stolons but by layering. Will bloom even when cut short.

Howard Garrett, the dirt doctor states that there are various leaf-chewing insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers that attack Turk's caps but non are serious if the plants are in healthy soil.

And the Wildflower Center website has the following about Pavonia lasiopetala ...

 A small shrub, usually woody at the base only, with stems up to 4 feet tall. Found in shallow soil on limestone, in rocky places in woodlands, and at the edges of thickets. Leaves with petioles sometimes as long as the blade; blade up to 2 1/2 inches long, but mostly shorter, ovate to 3 lobed, with a pointed or blunt tip, flat or slightly lobed base, coarsely toothed or wavy margins, dark green on the upper surface and lighter on the lower. Flowers showy, rose colored, roughly 1 1/2 inches wide with a yellow column formed by the pistil and stamens, appearing from spring to fall. Fruit a 5-lobed capsule with remnants of the flower at its base, separating into 5 units at maturity.Prefers well-drained, limestone soils. Also Medium Loam Rocky, Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type.
Herbaceous stems rise from a woody base. Pink hibiscus-like flowers. Velvety, scalloped leaves. The flowers attract hummingbirds.

I have not found Pavonia to have any serious issues with pest problems. There probably was a larvae (or several) chewing on the leaves earlier but it has probably left to continue the journey to adulthood. Unless you can see what is munching the leaves right now, it is not worth spraying the plants. The culprit is probably long gone. If you want to deter the pest next year, check daily for pests about two weeks previous to this date.


More Pests Questions

Wasps on live oaks from Sinton TX
August 20, 2012 - Wasps on my live oak trees. What is attracting them? Does this hurt the tree?
view the full question and answer

Problem with Live Oaks in Mesa AZ
March 26, 2013 - I have two Evergreen Live Oaks in central Arizona. One is flourishing and getting new spring leaves from top to bottom. Its trunk is rough, has large grooves, and the spots where I've pruned look li...
view the full question and answer

Mites in soil of house plants
June 25, 2008 - Hi there! I recently noticed tiny silver mites in the soil of my plants that I only notice after watering. These plants are indoors in on a window ledge (a dwarf palm, aloe plant and Hawaiian Scheffle...
view the full question and answer

Galls on live oak tree in Austin
December 12, 2013 - I live in Austin, and have a 13 year old live oak in my yard. It has developed little spheres, kind of like green peas, on the underside of the leaves. What is it? Is it harmful? Is there somethin...
view the full question and answer

Sticky stuff dripping from non-native crape myrtle in Austin
August 01, 2012 - There is sticky sap-like stuff dropping from the very large crepe myrtle in my yard. The tree has quit blooming. This didn't happen last year when it was so dry; it started after we had all the rain ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.