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

Saturday - August 14, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Aromatic sumac in Travis County
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

This is an answer to article in today's, August 14, newspaper. I assume that aromatic sumac is native to Travis county because I have it all over my property. It turns bright red in the fall adding beauty to the landscape. It grows straight out of the rocks in my landscape, and is mostly in the shade..very dry shade. One is under a huge oak tree.

ANSWER:

Thank you for your comments!

We just use the indicators from the USDA Plant Profiles to help us identify if a plant will grow in an area. We really don't need that in this area, because we are pretty well acquainted with it, but when we are working on a plant we have never seen in an area like Utah or British Columbia, we do need to know. As to knowing it's native because it's growing all over your property, again, it probably is native, but people also have things like mimosas and crapemyrtles growing all over their neighborhoods, and are always shocked to find out they are NOT native. 

If you will notice from the article you are referring to, we really didn't know why the sumacs were dying, and were just searching for reasons that might explain it. One was that they were planted very recently and might be suffering from transplant shock.  Another was that, since the sumacs were planted recently, the live oaks overhead were way ahead of them in development. Perhaps yours developed with the tree over time, and managed to acclimate themselves to the conditions. Native plants are very adaptable as long as they are in their own native range, but no plant takes sudden disturbance in its environment well.

The problem is that we are native plant people, not entomologists nor plant pathologists. We are concerned with the environment in which a native plant can prosper or not.  When we are asked why a plant is dying, we have to ask the correspondents to be detectives, give them possibilities and symptoms, and hope they can determine the cause of the problem.  If the problem cannot be identified through that process, and if the plant is important to them, they need to call in a professional arborist or landscaper who can actually survey the area and examine the plants in question. 

For someone who did not see the article referred to in the Austin American-Statesman for August 14, it was taken from a previous answer that you can read in full. 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Leaves turning yellow on Banana Shrub in Eutaw. AL
July 28, 2013 - We have a very large (about 12' tall), very old (probably planted in the early 1900s) Banana Shrub in our front yard. It was very healthy until last year when its leaves began turning yellow and fal...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing of Thuja occidentalis leaves in early Fall in Maryland
September 12, 2006 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I am from Maryland. Please help. I have planted 23 Thuja occidentalis Smaragd in my front yard a few months ago. Height of about 3 feet. Most of the trees have turned golden brown....
view the full question and answer

Moth using Agarita as its larval food in New Braunfels, TX
March 27, 2009 - What moth uses agarita as its larval food? It is a perennial problem that can nearly defoliate the specimen and severely limit its flower production.
view the full question and answer

Why is my Mountain Laurel in distress?
November 26, 2008 - We have planted our 2nd Texas Mountain Laurel in the same spot (after fresh berm built with sandy loam) and it is not looking good in less than 2 weeks. We have an identical berm on the other end of...
view the full question and answer

New Jersey Tea shrub wilting and losing leaves
December 30, 2013 - I have New Jersey Tea shrubs transplanted last spring from nursery stock (18 tall, grown local) I live in SE WI. They are planted in part shade. There has been 6" of snow on the ground for weeks now...
view the full question and answer

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