Leaf damage on my lime tree: what’s going on?
Thanks to Amy Acosta-Welch for this great question about her lime tree. She’s noticed damage to her lime tree leaves: what’s happening?
It appears that so far, the damage is pretty limited and diffuse, with no discernible pattern, so it’s a bit hard to know for sure. Amy says she’s noticed some grasshoppers in her yard, but they’re voracious eaters, and they tend to devour leaves pretty quickly, leaving only stems behind. Some of the damage appears to be caused by the wind, or some other physical damage.
In a few places, it also looks like sun damage, which could have been caused if the tree is in a container and was moved into the shade for a period of time, then back into the sun.
Some of the other damage, where there are actual holes, could also be the early stages of caterpillar feeding, and since there’s not yet any discernible pattern to the damage, we asked entomologist Wizzie Brown, my colleague at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, who suggested that since this is a citrus plant, and since it’s butterfly season, the most likely culprit is swallowtail caterpillars.
I’d say the issue isn’t worth worrying about. Especially if the tree is mature. But you should watch to see if the problem progresses. Check for swallowtail caterpillars, which have a very distinctive appearance. Again, if the tree is mature, consider leaving the caterpillars alone, sacrificing a bit of your tree for the sake of future swallowtails.
Keep the plant healthy with sufficient water and fertilize with a high nitrogen formula this fall and next spring.