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

Wednesday - June 29, 2011

From: Beverly Hills, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Smoketree not flowering in Beverly Hills CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Why is my Smoke tree not flowering? It is big and the leaves are beautiful but no blooms.

ANSWER:

There are two plants in our Native Plant Database that have the common name "smoke tree." One is Cotinus obovatus (American smoke tree), which this USDA Plant Profile map shows does not grow natively west of Texas. You can follow the plant link to our webpage on this tree, read the description and see if that is what you are growing. Also, here are some pictures from Google.

The other "smoke tree" in our database is Psorothamnus spinosus (Smoketree). Again, here are pictures from Google to help you identify your plant. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, this tree grows in the southwestern border states of California, not actually in Los Angeles County, but close enough that the plant would probably be fine there. We are going to go with that particular tree, in hopes that is the one you have in your garden.

Smokethorn or smoke tree is a spiny, intricately branched, nearly leafless shrub or small tree with an overall gray appearance except when covered with a profusion of violet or indigo-blue flower spikes. It grows to 10 to 20 ft. tall, blooms blue and purple in June and July, requires full sun and sandy soils. According to our website on this plant:  Native Habitat: Desert washes below 1500 ft. Somehow, this doesn't sound like Beverly Hills, California.

So, we are going to Scenario No. 3. We think you may have a non-native smoketree, Cotinus coggygria, native from southern Europe to central China. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow natively. We have no personal experience with this plant and, of course, it will not appear in our Native Plant Database. We will go to the Internet and see if we can find information there that might help you.

This USDA Plant Profile map shows that this plant has been introduced only to northeastern states and eastern Canada, as well as Utah. We realize this tree was probably bought locally, but you need to understand that because a plant is purchased locally doesn't mean it will thrive locally, or even survive.

The most complete discussion of this plant that we found was on Floridata. One line of particular interest in that article is: "The actual flowers are inconspicuous little yellowish green blossoms that appear in early summer, but the long pinkish filaments on the stems of the bloom clusters create a striking cloudlike effect through the summer."

 

More Trees Questions

How to deal with suckers on Flame-leaf Sumac
May 20, 2013 - Hi! It seems you can have too much of a good thing! Our flameleaf sumac is taking over our yard. There are multiple shoots appearing in our flower beds and in the lawn. How do I get rid of the unwante...
view the full question and answer

How can I control underground runners from from Pride of Houston Yaupons in Austin, TX?
July 16, 2010 - How can I control the underground runners from the Pride of Houston Yaupons?
view the full question and answer

Planting trees to use carbon dioxide
September 06, 2007 - How many trees must we plant to use carbon dioxide produced by the average American in a year?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen tree for privacy screen in Granbury Texas
December 21, 2014 - We need to put an evergreen privacy screen between our barn and our neighbor's new 132' long, unattractive building, which runs along & is just 40' away from our fence line & where they have decid...
view the full question and answer

Pruning wax myrtles from Austin
March 29, 2011 - I've got some wax myrtles that have grown up in the last 10 years on my property line, completely volunteer. My neighbor has begun to grumble about too much shade on his yard. I'd like to trim them ...
view the full question and answer

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