Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hedge Trimming Pro

Check out the moves and the equipment displayed by Monrovia Nursery's Ignacio Morena as he prunes the brush cherry bushes located in near the Gazebo.
Notice the custom guide fashioned to attach to the gas powered trimmers blades. This guide allows him to use the feel of the hedge pressing against it to keep him from making too deep a cut.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ficus Whitefly: New Pest Showing Up Here Can Defoliate Ficus Hedges

Ficus benjamina leaves showing whitefly eggs and yellow mottling from feeding stress.
I have had numerous reports now of a new pest that is attacking and defoliating ornamental (but not edible ficus). The ficus whitefly has been showing up in the San Gabriel Valley this summer and fall after first appearing last year in west L.A.. The pest is recognized by the presence of small, white flying insects, egg cases that appear to be scale, and an immature form that looks like a crawling mealybug. Heavy infestations are usually accompanied by copious deposits of sooty mold covered honeydew. The combination of the stress put on the plant by the feeding of the insect and the decreased amount of sunlight the leaves receive due to the sooty-mold covered honeydew deposits can cause the ficus plant to completely defoliate.


Heavily infested Ficus benjamina leaves showing egg casings and yellowing leaves due to feeding damage.

Above: Ficus whitefly egg casing just above a hatched lace-wing egg casing. The lace-wing eats the whitefly.
So right now the only treatment for these pests are to use soil drenches of imidacloprid. Since Ficus plants do not produce bee attracting blooms this shouldn't be a problem for bees (make sure you have no bee attracting plants anywhere near the area where you are applying the imidacloprid).

Here's a video produced by Florida state agricultural officials regarding the pest:

Luckily, as the picture of the hatched-out lacewing egg casing shows, local predators will acquire a taste for these pests and over the next several years and infestations will become less and less damaging. Still, this is not the first, nor the last pest to attack the ubiquitously planted Ficus plant; here is a list of other ficus pests to look out for. 
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

False Spring Has Arrived

Our cool summer followed by a brief but intense period of heat has tricked some plants into thinking it's spring again. This 'False Spring' is pretty common here in Southern California, happening at least once every 5-10 years here or more. The fun thing about these not-so-common weather patterns is that they seem to affect different plants each time. This year our 'False Spring' has caused our 'Tower of Jewels' (Echium wildpretii) to bloom out of the seemingly dead clumps of last years plants. Since 'Tower of Jewels' is a biennial, I guess these would be 'triennials'.

'Tower of Jewels' (Echium wildpretii) blooming in fall from an old, mostly dead bloom cluster from last season.

Magnolia X 'Galaxy' blooming out of season due to the 'False Spring'.

 Fuzzy critters attacking oak trees? No, just a type of gall wasp that causes a furry but benign gall to appear on the leaves.

Live-oak wooly leaf galls.
 Hops (pictured above) are the female flowers of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus)extensively used in the beer industry as a flavoring and stabilizing agent. These are growing in our herb garden.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Plant Identification Class Starts Today

My plant identification class starts today at 2pm. We'll be doing a lot more field work in this session so I'll be posting Google photo albums with pictures of the plants we'll be working with as well as their locations. I've also started a new blog that will have links to these photos as well as links to identification sights and other useful information.