Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Wednesday - February 04, 2009

From: Lexington, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants, Pruning, Trees
Title: Storm damage to native sweet bay magnolias in Kentucky
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you please share information on storm damage to sweet bay magnolias; if the top is broken off can the tree maintain its natural shape or will the sides begin to grow more than the top; i.e., growth hormones, etc.

ANSWER:

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay) is a wetlands tree, usually only about 20 feet tall, although it can grow taller and be evergreen in its more southern habitat. Our Native Plant Database does not show it as native to Kentucky, and the USDA Plants Profile does not show it growing in Kentucky, but that is often out of date and inaccurate. 

That having been said, we're not sure we understand your question about growth hormones. Were you referring to natural hormones that the tree might have to repair its own damage, or to hormones applied to the tree in some way?  Apparently, this is one of the trees that suffered the most damage in the 2004 hurricanes in Florida. It seemed to be snapped off and have large limbs broken off much more frequently than any other native tree species.  Are you referring to recent damage? We found out from our own webpage on this tree that it should be pruned after blooming and during growing season because dormant magnolias do not easily heal. Beyond that, we could not learn anything about the possibility of the tree returning to some natural shape after storm damage. This is a lovely, valuable tree and is considered Threatened or Endangered in at least four states, so it is well worth the effort to preserve it.

From this distance, we have no way to determine whether dead limbs should be pruned off now, or some attempt be made at pruning to restore a more natural shape. We would suggest you consult a licensed arborist who can look at the tree and make a diagnosis and recommend solutions. Also, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has a Home and Garden site that should lead you to someone who might have information you need. 


Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia virginiana

 

 

More Trees Questions

Plantings for a slope from New Carrollton MD
June 27, 2012 - My house (Maryland, near DC) sits at the bottom of a south facing slope. The soil is very heavy clay. The grade is about 1:20 for about 100 feet (with a steeper part at the top). Part of the hill is i...
view the full question and answer

Need a drought resistant, maintenance free tree in Thomasville, GA.
April 20, 2012 - I have been through many tree forums and asked several nurseries about a good tree to plant but nobody has provided an adequate answer and I hope you can help. I live in SW Georgia (Zone 8) and need ...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing tree for Houston
January 19, 2009 - Please suggest me fast growing tree like Eucalyptus for Zip 77099 to protect building with its shade. I understand Eucalyptus is not good for our area and is flammable. Any other with similar fast gro...
view the full question and answer

Possible wilt disease in mountain laurels
August 31, 2006 - Three of about 24 of my mature mountain laurels died suddenly, the leaves turned brown almost overnight, scratching the bark revealed no green tissue, the small branches practically cracked when bent,...
view the full question and answer

Plants wilting too quickly in Toledo OH
May 27, 2012 - The garden I have had recent issues with plants wilting all too quickly. I would like to know what types of plants would be hearty for the climate in Toledo, Ohio. I have a partly sunny front yard and...
view the full question and answer

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