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?

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 - May 29, 2008

From: Kyle, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Bark problems on Platanus occidentalis (American Sycamore)
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I got home today, after two hot sunny days, and found that one of the sycamores (street tree) planted last year (3-4" caliper) has vertically split and peeling bark on the south side of the trunk (large chunks are sheeting off - maybe this is normal for Sycamores). Another one has what looks like sunburn all along the south side of the trunk up to about 7 or 8 feet high; the bark on this one is darkened and dull where it is sunburned and the bark is beginning to split too and it looks like there might be some small insect beginning to chew in the exposed trunk.

ANSWER:

First, the good news. It's perfectly normal for bark to peel off a Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore).

On the other hand, this tree has several liabilities. Some of those that might apply in this case are:

Anthracnose: This Colorado State University Extension website has a good description of this fungal disease; however, it appears symptoms are more likely to appear in leaves than bark.

Canker stain: First, see this Texas A&M website on Trees, scroll down to "Sycamore," reading especially the paragraphs on anthracnose and cankers. This Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences site has more diagnostic information. Finally, take a look at these pictures of canker stain, and compare them with the symptoms on your trees.

American plum borers: A description of this pest of fruit and ornamental trees is found in this Cornell University Integrated Pest Management site on the American Plum Borer. And, again, pictures of the beastie.

Sycamore lacewings: This Ohio State University Extension website on Lace Bugs details their appearance and treatment, but says they are seldom a serious threat. Again, the symptoms of this would show up more in the leaves than the bark of the sycamore.

Okay, more bad news than good news, sorry. Because we are more experienced in the care and propagation of native plants than we are in pests and diseases, we suggest you contact the Hays County Extension Office for information and perhaps a better diagnosis of how serious the problem is. The contact information is at the bottom of the webpage.

 

More Trees Questions

Oak bark problems from Stillwater OK
May 14, 2012 - In my clients large oak tree there is bark stripped from the limbs in small pieces. No piece is larger than 1 inch by 1 inch and occurs on limbs high in the canopy. It does not look like squirrel doin...
view the full question and answer

Fruit trees for Kempner, Texas
November 29, 2013 - I just moved to Kempner , TX and would like to plant a couple of fruit trees in my 1 1/4 ac yard. I would like to plant a species that will do well and produce edible fruit. Any assistance will be app...
view the full question and answer

Watering Native Trees in Georgetown, TX
July 19, 2012 - I installed a native/adapted plantscape in early March including several small trees. They were planted in the rocky soil west of I-35 in Georgetown with plenty of added compost and mulch. Other than ...
view the full question and answer

Thorn bushes for a fence in Puerto Rico
November 17, 2015 - I'm looking for thorn bushes that grow in Puerto Rico. Want to use as fence to keep wild life in. Thanks, at least 5 ft tall so dogs can't get out.
view the full question and answer

I need a tall tree with kind roots for a narrow space
March 11, 2009 - We have a space in the yard where a building is within 3 to 6 feet of where we would like a tall tree. What tree could achieve two stories in height, while not messing with the foundation of the bu...
view the full question and answer

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