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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Problem with leaves of Texas Ash in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We purchased a 3' to 4' Texas Ash in March 2012. The past few days I noticed new leaves at the top are curled under, have a milky substance on them, and more than a few ladybugs on them. What is this? What do I do?

ANSWER:

According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) is native to Travis County so we can strike that as a problem. We went to a website from Iowa State University Extension on Common Problems of Ash Trees. There were some pretty scary things, like Emerald Ash Borer, mentioned, but we think No. 19 holds the key:

"19. Leafcurl ash aphids feed on leaflets as they expand in the spring. The insect’s body is covered in white, waxy strands. Feeding causes leaflets to twist and curl. In addition, aphids secrete clear, sticky honeydew, which can speckle anything under the tree. Natural enemies usually control the aphids."

When you mentioned aphids, accompanied by ladybugs, that gave us the first clue. And the good news is, ladybugs are sworn foes of aphids. They are definitely one of the natural enemies that usually control aphids.

From a website called You Grow Girl we found this article Good Bugs, Bad Bugs: Ladybug vs. Aphid. We suggest you don't treat the problem at all, the ladybugs are handling it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas ash
Fraxinus albicans

Texas ash
Fraxinus albicans

Texas ash
Fraxinus albicans

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