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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.

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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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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.

 
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Wednesday - August 29, 2012

From: Sunrise Beach, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Shrubs
Title: Problems with mountain laurel from Sunrise Beach TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In Llano Co., TX near lake LBJ, crushed granite type soil - my 4 - 5 year old TX Mtn. Laurels (2), about the size of large wheel barrows, are turning very pale, dropping leaves and on 1 the seed pods have been bored into and have turned dark. I did plant them according to directions but have forgotten details now and until now they have been healthy. We water them occasionally, mostly allowing them to live on what rain we get at this age. What could be wrong? I have photographed them if there is a way to email you photos.

ANSWER:

We are sorry, but we are no longer able to accept pictures.  You can go to our Plant Identification page which has links to several websites that do accept pictures; you may be able to get more information from that.

However, since Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) is a plant that is native to the area of Llano County, according to this USDA Plant Profile Map, we can assume that the  soils where you have planted the tree are hospitable to it. And since it is four or five years old, we can be fairly confident that you planted it with provisions for good drainage. If you follow this plant link, Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), to our webpage, you can study the Growing Conditions and Propagation Instructions to make sure everything is as it should be, although it sounds as though you are giving it good care.

So, we have to go looking for some pest or disease that may be causing your problems. Most of the references we found assured us the Mountain Laurel was subject to few problems; don't you hate when they say that and you KNOW there is something? One site, Texas A&M Integrated Pest Management,  has an article Genista Caterpillar on Texas Mountain Laurel, which includes suggestions on management.

In a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on Mountain Laurel, we discussed the possibility of chlorosis, or loss of chlorophyll, in the leaves of the same plant.  Please follow that link and note that we recommended the addition of an iron supplement to the soil because of the difficulty a plant can experience in extracting nitrogen from an alkaline soil. Also, consider our suggestion for adding a shredded bark mulch over the roots of the tree, which will both protect the roots from heat and cold but, as it decomposes, amend the drainage in the soil.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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