Contact Us Host an Event 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

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

Possible transplant shock in recently planted Anacua in San Antonio, TX.
February 10, 2011 - I planted an Anacua tree from a nursery this past November. The tree I purchased was about 6ft tall and was a leftover from the spring. The roots were pretty wound up inside. After shaking the roots l...
view the full question and answer

Rust spots on non-native red tip photinia
July 10, 2008 - I live in Oklahoma and my red tips have rust spots on leaves and some plants are losing leaves. This is a clay soil; can you give me any info. on how to solve this problem?
view the full question and answer

Cottony infestation on Turk's Cap in Austin
July 05, 2010 - The Turks Cap in my front planter is well-established and, overall, happy and blooming. However, some of the top leaves, those in the most shaded area, have what looks like a thin, loose layer of cot...
view the full question and answer

Bark of unidentified tree splitting in Merritt Island FL
August 10, 2010 - The bark on this 5 yr. old tree is splitting along its branches, like a sausage link splitting along its sides. Almost as if it is/was over-stuffed. Other than that, there are plenty of leaflets, some...
view the full question and answer

Keeping dogs and cats out of flower gardens
March 02, 2009 - Do you have any suggestions to keep the cats and dogs out of my flower garden? They either just walk through it, and trample everything, or sleep on the soft blooms and squish everything. I am despe...
view the full question and answer

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