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
7 ratings

Thursday - June 11, 2009

From: Huntington Beach, CA
Region: California
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Loss of bloom on Fremontodendron californicum in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The flowers on my Flannel Bush all died at once I have noticed a sappy substance at the base of the trunk. There are still some flowers on bush but most are dead. It has been blooming since Feb. Is this natural as I do not remember it happening last year the tree is 3 years old.

ANSWER:

Fremontodendron californicum (California flannelbush) is native to California and Arizona, but is pretty particular about where it grows, preferring dry, well-drained granitic soil. It has low water needs, can grow in hot sun or part shade, and is fast-growing to 5 ft. In this USDA Profile of the flannel bush, it appears that your area is virtually the only place in Southern California where it is not native. That doesn't necessarily indicate what is wrong with it, as the sappy material at the base sounds more like some kind of disease. This Calfoto website, on the other hand, shows that there is available a Herbarium example from Orange County. We learned that it survives only a short time in clay soils under garden conditions. However, a plant placed where it is not comfortable is more likely to be susceptible to pests and diseases, so we'll try to find out what might be causing your problem. 

From Wikipedia (not necessarily the last word in accuracy) we extracted this quotation on flannel bush:

"The bark bears a gooey sap that was once used as a topical remedy for mucous membrane irritation and for gastrointestinal upset. However, the hairs covering the leaves are easily brushed off and are a skin and eye irritant."

Other things about this plant we discovered by searching on the Internet include that it should not be watered in the middle of the day, as water on hot roots can be fatal. Another piece of information was that flannel bush is subject to sudden collapse and death, even if they have been growing and flowering well.

We realize this doesn't really solve your problem. From the facts collected, we are thinking that perhaps you have a clay soil, as opposed to a well-draining soil; this plant cannot tolerate wet feet. The sappy discharge may very well be a normal feature of the plant's development. We really can't recommend a treatment, since we don't know exactly what is wrong. If you want to try to save the plant, water infrequently, not with a sprinkler system. When it cools off in the fall, try to get some organic matter, like compost, into the soil around it to encourage better drainage. If it dies and you wish to replace it, you should first carefully consider your soil and whether it is appropriate to the plant. And don't fertilize, now or later, it grows best in poor soils. 


Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Recovery from transplant shock for bougainvillea
July 12, 2007 - I live outside of Phoenix. I just bought a bougainvillea in a large pot. It was doing nicely until I brought it home. I placed it in a sunny spot in my front yard inside of a large volcanic rock that ...
view the full question and answer

Recovery of damaged fuchsia plant in hanging basket
July 23, 2007 - I had a beautiful fuchsia plant hanging on my porch. The hanger gave way and the plant fell straight down into another flower bed. The fuchsia seemed ok. I put it back in the pot put up new strong ...
view the full question and answer

Wound in Monterey Oak from Austin
June 20, 2012 - I have a 10 year old Monterey Oak that has developed a wound that is secreting a white bubbly substance that has attracted all the bugs, like butterfly's , pill bugs, ants, and several others I don'...
view the full question and answer

Distressed Red Oak tree in Pflugerville, TX.
July 22, 2012 - I have a large (40 ft) Red Oak tree in my yard that is distressed. It started with yellowing leaves, with darker veins. Then small brown spots appeared, followed by browning arount the leaves edges. N...
view the full question and answer

Need to identify a fungus in a flower garden in Lansinging, MI.
April 25, 2012 - I have a fungus in my flower garden. It is white and ground hugging. It is in a moist area under a large spruce where mulch has been laid down. When I step on it , it expels a green dust. What is it a...
view the full question and answer

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