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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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Friday - October 02, 2015

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Young huisache trees dying
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have had several young huisache trees suddenly die. These trees are only three or four years old and were apparently healthy when they just died. They are growing by the curb on a city street and we have one healthy older tree about twenty feet from the dead trees. It is doing well. We have speculated that there may be a leaking gas line but the gas company assures me that all is well with their lines. Any thoughts?

ANSWER:

This Mr. Smarty Plants suggests that you look carefully at the trunks of your young Acacia farnesiana (Huisache) trees.  A buck or bucks (male deer) managed to girdle (damage the bark all the way around) the trunk of my young huisache when they were rubbing their heads to remove the velvet from their newly-grown antlers last year.  The girdling caused the phloem (food transport) and perhaps the xylem (water transport) to be destroyed between the area of the tree above the girdling and the roots thus killing the tree.  Many (maybe most) neighborhoods in Austin have resident deer.  If you do, that may explain your dead huisache trees.  In places where deer live it is a good idea to protect the trunks of young trees by surrounding them with some sort of wire protection.  The YouTube video,  Installing deer protection on young trees, shows a simple, inexpensive way to do this yourself using hardware cloth.  There are other methods using a variety of materials.  Check with your local nursery or hardware store for other options.  You can see photos of a young girdled tree on TreeBoss.

As it turned out, my huisache wasn't completely dead since, after it lost all its leaves, it has now sprouted new growth from the roots and the trunk below the girdling.  It looks as if it is now going to be a huisache shrub, not a tree.  If your young trees were girdled, perhaps they will resprout from the roots, also.

 

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