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

Monday - November 15, 2010

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Problems for Texas Madrones from Dripping Springs TX
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

Dear neighbor: I'm blessed with a property with many Texas Madrone on it. I've been trying for a few years to determine what causes apparently healthy trees to suddenly blacken and die. I've contacted numerous authorities w/o success. Often a tree will have several blackened limbs which, if pruned, seem to staunch the die off. Other times the blackened area extends up the trunk or limb in a stripe. This is always is eventually fatal to the plant. When such a trunk is cut, it shows a dead region from the blackened bark inwards. This seem similar to the Pacific Madrone Decline mentioned in the literature of the Northwest, but I haven't found any definitive answer as to the cause be it it viral, bacteriological, fungal, etc. Can you help answer this, or steer me to someone that can? I'm willing to fund some research and/or testing if useful. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Arbutus xalapensis (Texas madrone) is a fussy tree and lately the issue you are speaking of is becoming alarmingly common.

Madrone does have predators: The European Bark Beetle, Porcupines, deer antler rubbings, even black bears can all harm the bark. It is now thought that the limbs going black are fungus based. Some speculate that our Texas Madrone trees are stressed out from our years of drought. Although they can go without a lot of water, years of drought followed by unusual amounts of rain may be causing the rotting of the limbs.

According to this USDA Plant Profile, the tree does grow natively in this part of Central Texas, but there are very experienced gardeners that have struggled to keep them going. We found one interesting comment from someone on the Dave's Garden forum which might be a clue.

"When we bought our property, the "Naked Indian", or Madrone, was growing on it. We found out that the tree must grow close to a cedar, which is a nursetree. It also does not need much water, is great for dry areas. It also does not like to be moved. The red bark is just beautiful, and stands out among the the green cedars."

We also found a scholarly paper on the Arbutus xalapensis (Texas madrone) from the USDA Forestry Service; under "Management Considerations" we found several comments that sounded very much like what you were describing in your own situation. Unfortunately, it makes no suggestions for a fix on this situation. Since we are neither entomologists nor plant pathologists, we suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Hays County. These trees are native to this area and hopefully some research on keeping the increasingingly rare tree growing has been or is being done.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Arbutus xalapensis


Arbutus xalapensis


Arbutus xalapensis


Arbutus xalapensis

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Round growths on Mexican buckeye
April 28, 2008 - I have two pink buckeyes next to each other in my yard. The branches on one are completely covered in brown, round growths about the size of a pill bug. The other tree has none. Can you tell me what t...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to Mexican olive in Austin
December 13, 2009 - I have a Mexican Olive tree/bush. It is young - about 8 ft. tall. This last freeze in Austin made many of its leaves turn black. I got this from your database: "Its native range extends no farther...
view the full question and answer

Small tan balls on oak from Pipe Creek TX
May 21, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, our spanish oak is growing tan colored lumpy balls about the size and weight of a marshmallow..sometimes just one at the end of a short stem and sometimes 2-3 clumped together....
view the full question and answer

How to correct Anacacho leaves that are turning brown and curling in Driftwood, TX?
May 11, 2012 - Anacacho lunarioides leaves are turning brown and curling,how do I correct?
view the full question and answer

Iris Changing Color?
April 03, 2015 - I have some iris planted under a very tall tree and they bloom nicely every February. The original bulbs were given to me when I moved here to Arizona 30 years ago. They have always bloomed white. I h...
view the full question and answer

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