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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.

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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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Wednesday - October 03, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Webbing on the bark of a hackberry tree.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants. We have a large hackberry tree in our back yard that has what appears to be extensive spider webbing covering large areas of the bark at the trunk . . and extending well up the larger branches of the tree. Is this spider related . . . or could this be a fungus of some sort?

ANSWER:

Your tree is probably playing host to a colony of harmless creatures called bark lice.  Bark lice are in a group of insects called Psocids.  In spite of their name, they pose no threat whatsoever to humans, pets or your trees.  Psocids feed on mold, pollen, lichen, algae and decomposing plant matter.  Much more common in Southern coastal areas, bark lice need high humidity to survive and thrive.  With the arrival of a dry front the bark lice and their webs will disappear within a few days.
 

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