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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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Monday - November 18, 2013

From: Gatesville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Planting, Trees
Title: Young pecan trees with leaf and branch problems from Gatesville TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a young pecan tree that had very rapidly browning Leaves. They became brittle and so did the branches with affected leaves. The branches soon fell off. We treated with fungicide during that process. We retained some healthy leaves and branches at the top of the tree.

ANSWER:

Because we probably do not have enough information to give you a complete answer, we are going to direct you to some other resources so you can do some research and compare conditions described and the conditions in your tree.

First, here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer concerning twig and branch breakage; in this case, attributable to an insect called a "twig girdler."

Another previous Mr. Smarty Plants question concerns some possible reasons for the early leaf drop, which include the fact that you may have a pecan cultivar that is not so well adapted  to growth in your area as Carya illinoinensis (Pecan), which is the pecan native to Texas. While this USDA Plant Profile Map does not show Carya illinoinensis (Pecan) growing natively in Coryell County, it is shown growing in counties around it. Often when a plant does not show up in USDA plant records in a certain county, it is possible that it just has not been reported there. So, we hope you do have the native tree.

The previous plant questions we have linked you to have other possible reasons for your problem, but we would also suggest that you follow this link, Carya illinoinensis (Pecan), to our webpage on that tree in our Native Plant Database. Please note these growing conditons for that tree:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, moist, well-drained soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: The sweet, edible nut, makes pecan the best hickory for fruit production. The tree does not bear liberal quantities of fruit in the northern part of its range, but makes an interesting ornamental there. Susceptible to galls, twig girdlers, aphids, borers, weevils, pecan scab, tent caterpillars, and webworms. Slow-growing. Difficult to transplant because of a large taproot."

This lists a need for plenty of water and a number of varmints and diseases that can affect the tree, as well as compatible soils. If you compare the conditions in which your tree is growing and find some discrepancies, that may answer your question. One more possibility we will throw in is transplant shock. You said your pecan was a young tree - how and when was it planted? We always recommend that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be planted in the coolest time of the year, November to January, especially in dry and hot Central Texas. Transplant shock caused by improper planting is one of the biggest reasons for tree death.

We will add one more suggestion; we suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Education Office for Coryell County. They may know right off the bat what the problem is and recommended treatment due to others in your area possibly experiencing the same problems.

 

From the Image Gallery


Pecan
Carya illinoinensis

Pecan
Carya illinoinensis

Pecan
Carya illinoinensis

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