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 - September 07, 2011

From: Economy, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Striped caterpillars on Cornus sericea (redtwig dogwood)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My red-twig dogwood has white/black striped caterpillars that congregate on the underside of the leaves and they are stripping the leaves. What can I do? They almost look like Monarch butterfly larvae. Would they feed on anything other than milkweed? Help!

ANSWER:

Cornus sericea ssp. sericea (Redosier dogwood or redtwig dogwood) is listsed as a larval host for Celastrina ladon (Spring azure).  It seems its caterpillar has at least two forms—both green and pinkish—depending on what it is feeding.

The sawfly larvae (Macremphytus tarsatus) is reportedly a significant pest on dogwood (Cornus) species.  It, too, has several forms.

Here is a list of moth caterpillars that feed on Dogwood Shrubs and here are links to photos of some these caterpillars:

White-lined Bomolocha, Euthyatira pudens,  Hyalophora cecropia, Hydrelia albifera, Hypagyrtis unipunctata, Probole amicaria, Schizura unicornis and Xanthotype sospeta.

Monarch butterflies do, generally, feed on milkweed plants, but they will also feed on other members of the Family Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family) such as  Matelea species, Cynanchum species and Funastrum species.  I doubt that they would feed on Cornus species in the Family Cornaceae (Dogwood Family).

Perhaps one of the caterpillars above is the one you are seeing.  Whatever the caterpillars are, if they are destroying your dogwood tree, you probably want to remove them.  It can be very effective to put on some gloves and simply pick them off and put them into a container of soapy water, vegetable oil or water with insecticidal soap.  You can also consider using a natural insecticide, Bt, that comes as a powder that can be sprinkled on the leaves or can be mixed with water and sprayed.  As with all insecticides, please read and carefully follow instructions for application and safety.

 

From the Image Gallery


Redosier dogwood
Cornus sericea ssp. sericea

Redosier dogwood
Cornus sericea ssp. sericea

More Trees Questions

Identity of evergreen tree at Barton Springs in Austin TX
October 11, 2015 - I am trying to identify an evergreen tree at Barton Springs in Austin. It is growing on the south lawn overlooking the pool. It has needles arranged in a fan like shape and makes a kind of crown-shape...
view the full question and answer

Lifespan and pruning of cedar elm in San Antonio
October 03, 2009 - How long do cedar elm trees live? How can you estimate the age of one, or tell if it is nearing the end of its normal lifespan? Do you have any recommendations for selecting someone to prune it proper...
view the full question and answer

Problem with flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolatta)
July 14, 2008 - My Flameleaf Sumac appears to have an insect infestation in the bark which oozes a sappy sticky substance. This has apparently caused one of the limbs to die. Will it kill the whole plant and is there...
view the full question and answer

Sap oozing from trunks of Cherry Laurels in Austin, TX
January 24, 2015 - I have several mature compact cherry laurels whose leaves are beginning to turn yellow. They are in raised beds, have been properly fertilized, have compost spread around them, and are properly water...
view the full question and answer

Sap flowing from live oak trees in Austin
May 08, 2010 - I have live oak trees in my backyard,17 to be exact. I live in Northwest Austin, in Williamson county. There are two live oaks growing about 4-5 feet apart in the center of my yard. One appears to ha...
view the full question and answer

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