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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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Sunday - August 12, 2012

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Insect damage on possumhaw
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We planted a small possumhaw in February of this year (2012). It had leaves and some berries and was doing real well until some bug starting eating the leaves and berries. I know it is not deer because it is surrounding by a cage. I have not seen any insects or caterpillars on it but the leaves have slowly been nibbled away until there are none. The plant is now putting out new sprouts on most branch tips. I realize that this has been the year of the bugs. Being new to Texas, we have seen insects that we did not know existed. Should we be concerned and should we do anything?

ANSWER:

Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) does not normally have many insect or disease problems.  I have a feeling that your possumhaw may have been stressed during one of the dry spells we have had this year.  Newly planted trees are more prone to stress than established trees. When a plant is stressed it often redirects some of the goodies it makes through photosynthesis.  Thus the leaves may get more sugars or other metabolites than normal.  This can attract insects that usually would not find the leaves tasty.  The fact that your possumhaw's branch tips are leafing out again is a good sign.  I believe that if you keep the tree well watered and mulched it will survive and resume healthy growth next year.

 

From the Image Gallery


Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

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