GARDENER'S MAILBAG: Will my loquat leaves fall or do I need to prune?

By Neil Sperry
Special to the Herald Democrat

Dear Neil: This is the third landscape in the past 20 years where I have grown Caesalpinia pulcherrima. I have never had this experience before. Two large plants set out by a landscaping firm had hitchhiking plants along with them. They bloomed light yellow and their stalks have many thorns and lighter green leaves. What is this? I can’t find it anywhere.

Hitchhiking Bird Of Paradise

I did some searching, and a website “Weeds of Australia” shows that it’s probably Caesalpinia decapetala, known by common names such as cat’s claw and Mysore thorn and many others. Try a Web search using those key words, or perhaps this link will get you to the page I found. You will discover that it is highly invasive and despised – a plant that chokes out all others and, due to its thorny stems, makes forested wetlands impassable. You really don’t want to leave this in your landscape.

Dear Neil: All the leaves on our loquat turned brown after the freeze. They are still hanging on the plant, although it’s also producing new leaves. Will they eventually fall, or should I take corrective action of some sort? If so, what action?

Try brushing against them. I would expect that many or most would drop off the plant by now. If the tips of the branches died back due to the cold, trim and reshape the plant to correct the damage.

Dear Neil: What are these white masses that appear on our cedar posts, patio ceiling and window screens every summer? We have scrubbed them off, only to have them come back overnight. We thought they were a fungus, but we also wonder if they might be insect eggs.

I’m pretty sure you’re looking at insect eggs, perhaps, since they’re showing up overnight, moth eggs. This is a bit far afield for a horticulturist, so I’m going to refer you to your local county Extension office. Ask that they confer with one of the Texas A&M Extension entomologists for identification and control recommendations. In the meantime, you might want to think about any types of moths, particularly small and inobtrusive types that might have been present in large numbers this summer and fall.

Dear Neil: I’ve been wondering for some time what this weed is that’s in my yard. Is there a good way to eliminate it?


You have K.R. bluestem, as in “King Ranch.” It was brought in as a forage grass, but it has escaped the ranchlands and invaded home lawns, commercial properties, parks and vacant lots. It seems like this year has been the worst by far. Since it’s a perennial grass, there is no “pre-emergent” that will help with it. About all you can do is mow frequently to prevent seedheads from forming. If you have a small outbreak apply a glyphosate-only herbicide to kill it out, but know that the glyphosate will also kill desirable grass that you hit, so be as precise as you can.

Dear Neil: I’ve just moved to Texas. I’ve not seen this weed where I’ve lived before. It pulls up easily from the moist soils, but I’m wondering what it is and if there are other ways to control it.

I get several questions about roadside asters each year when they come into bloom in the fall. It grows in parts of our yards where our turfgrass gets too little water and nutrition. A broadleafed weedkiller (containing 2,4-D) will control it, but if you step up your maintenance schedule just a bit, the grass will crowd it out.

Dear Neil: My Japanese yew froze in February. I’m about to remove it, but I know yews are poisonous. What precautions do I need to take?

Japanese Yew

Nothing special. I’m assuming you’re not intending to chew on it. The wood won’t hurt you. Just cut it into manageable pieces and send it off with other brush you send to the landfill. I have even used its wood to turn pens on my lathe back when I was using that hobby as a fund-raising project for a charity.

Dear Neil: We planted this maple 12 years ago. For the first several years we got beautiful fall color, but for the past four or five years it has just turned brown and the leaves have fallen off. What would have caused that? What can we do?

Maple With Brown Leaves

It’s difficult to tell from just the one photo. (Your more distant photo was very dark.) I’m pretty sure there is a fungal leaf spot involved on the leaves that are visible in your photo. Whether that could have been a problem in prior years, of course, I can’t tell. Your best solution would be to send a sample to the Texas A&M Plant Disease Clinic while you still have some of the impacted leaves. Let them culture and identify the pathogen and suggest the best fungicide (if any) to use as a spray.

Dear Neil: This Arizona ash was planted 21 years ago in memory of our son. He was a baseball player and umpire. Last February just about killed it. I had an arborist work with it in the spring, and more recently. I was told to trim the tree back this fall, but my tree trimmer told me not to do it until mid-winter. What should I do? This tree is very special to us.

Memorial Arizona Ash Tree

It doesn’t matter whether you prune it now or while it’s completely dormant. I would prune it right away if it were my tree because I’d be able to tell dead branches from live ones. You want to make all your cuts of the dead branches flush with the remaining branches so that they can heal properly. It will be a tedious job that must be done carefully. And you’re correct. Ash trees were brutalized by the cold. Hopefully this won’t come into play, but should you lose any large part of the trunk, save the wood. Let it air-dry and have a woodworker make you some kind of very special and memorable item for your house. Ash wood is very pretty. Finally, I think I’m seeing early onset of brown patch disease at the bottom of your photo. I’m seeing the faint circles of browning grass. Better have the fungicide handy.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of this newspaper or e-mail him at Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.