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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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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!

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Monday - September 07, 2009

From: Alburtis, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Failure of smoke tree to bloom in Alburtis PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

For whatever reason, my smoke tree did not bloom during its second season. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) is native no farther north than Kentucky, and is hardy from USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.  There is another tree with the common name "smoketree," Cotinus coggygria (smoketree) which is native to Southern Europe, Central China and the Himalayas,  This USDA Plant Profile shows this tree growing in Pennsylvania and as far north as some provinces of Canada.  The expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is limited to the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. 

To help you answer your own question, did this tree bloom previously, or are you saying you have had the tree two years and it hasn't bloomed yet. Many trees do not bloom until they have several years of maturity. Blooming takes a great deal of energy from the plant, and they need to devote that energy to leaves and roots the first few years. If it has bloomed previously for you, what has changed in the environment of the tree during the past year? Too much fertilizer, especially too much high nitrogen fertilizer like you put on lawns, will produce lush leaves and few or no blooms. Perhaps this website from Floridata, Cotinus coggygria, will give you the answers you need. 

 

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