Friday, February 21, 2014

Killer Parasitic Plant Found on California Pepper Trees

About a week ago I got an email from some volunteers at a local park. They had dodder on their trees and needed to know how to control it. I asked them to send some pictures of the infestation, and I was quite surprised when I received them. Heaps of dodder vine were actually killing the tops of the trees. After doing some research on dodder I was made aware of Japanese dodder, a vine that threatens to become the Kudzu of California. It is what amounts to a super dodder and is considered a real threat to California agriculture. I had to check it out for myself so I visited the park. 

When I got there I was not disappointed; the amount of dodder on the trees was exceptional (see the pictures below).  I obtained some of the plant to try to identify. 

Turns out dodder is real tough to identify, especially if the minute whitish flowers are dry -as the ones on my specimen were. Still I was able to determine that this dodder was not the Japanese dodder due to the shape of the inflorescence (a typical Japanese dodder inflorescence is pictured here) and the fact that stems on the Japanese dodder can be 1/4 pencil thickness or better

Cuscuta sp.(dodder) massing on top of California pepper tree. Notice the dead and dying branches where the dodder is most concentrated. 

California pepper (Schinus molle) with substantial dodder infestation. the dodder appears as a golden mass at the top of the tree. 

Notice the thread-like dodder vines massing around the dying California pepper branches. 

Close up of dodder on pepper tree, notice dead branches in the background. 

Closeup of dodder from the pepper tree -notice the leaf in the middle of the picture; the dodder vine that seems to be laying on top of it as actually attached to it and has sucked the life out of it. 

Close up of dodder flowers -the flowers on the dodder vines were all dry -making them impossible to identify positively. However I was able to determine that the plant in question was not the dangerous Japanese dodder -its inflorescence is much different looking

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some Links for the Valentines' Day 'Love Potions' Tour

I'd like to thank everybody who took the 'Love Potion' tour this last Valentine's Day. It was a huge success and everybody was real enthusiastic -a great audience and I was privileged to be a part of the whole thing. Some people were asking that I post whatever references I had for the tour and so here are some of them -I'll post more at a later date.   Cheers,   Frank

Promegranate (Punica granatum)

Olive (Olea europa)
Peaches (Prunus persica)

Apple (Malus domestica)

Mulberry (Morus sp.)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Mango (Mangifera indica)

Banana (Musa sp.)
"In Russia, when a man peels a banana for a lady it means he has a romantic interest in her."

Meaning & symbolism of the orchid

Vanilla planifolia

Ivy (Hedera sp.)
Silk Tree (Ceiba pentandra)

Symbolic Meanings of Herbs, Flowers and Trees

Myths and legends of flowers, trees, fruits, and plants : in all ages and in all climes (1911)



Plants in Shakespeare’s Words


Plant & animal symbolism

The Unseen Arboretum (Amazing Images)

Recently the FLIR corporation was kind enough to lend us one of their thermal imagers in order to determine if they could detect the level infestation of a new and dangerous pest here, the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer. The images produced by the machine, a FLIR T440, are amazing. At night the trees seem to glow (even though the temperature differences are small, the coloration that is done by the FLIR camera highlights them dramatically).  Initial analysis of the images seem show a correlation between the images and infestation levels of the pest. 
A FLIR T440 image of shot hole borer infested oak trees -the differing colors on the trunks are due to temperature differences. 

The spots on this oaks' trunk may be due to shot hole borer activity. 

At night the trees at the Arboretum glow in the eyes of the FLIR T440 thermal camera. 

The bright yellow color indicates hotter areas then those areas showing orange or purple. 

A liquidambar tree in the Meadowbrook section as seen through the eyes of the imager.  

Trees on Tallac knoll as seen through the FLIR T440.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fugly Tumorous Ball Found on Aloe

Fugly Tumorous Ball -What is It?

Sometimes nature throws us a curve ball, and sometimes it can literally look like a ball -a ball of pure 100% ugly. Such is the case with this wild looking tumorous mass of tissue found growing on an aloe plant here. Turns out it's the end result of an infestation of a mite, Aceria aloinis, which injects a hormone like compound into the aloe that causes it to grown in a deformed manner. This is good for the mite because it can hide from predators in these convoluted growths, and in addition they are protected from most 'natural' insect sprays like soap and horticultural oil because the sprays cannot penetrate into these twisted masses of plant material. I'll be working to control this monster (actually the mite is no larger then a couple hundredths of an inch) in the coming month so I'll report back to you on what works for it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fiorinia pinicola Scale found on Podocarpus Here.

Podocarpus are stalwart mainstays of landscaping here in Southern California. Their evergreen, feathery foliage does duty as both a standalone tree and a thick, 20-30 foot privacy hedge. One of their best traits is their relative freedom from pests -still there are a few, including this one that was brought to my attention.

I'd never seen it before so I sent it to Gevork Arakelian, entomologist for the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioner's office. Turns out it's a type of scale from asia known as 'Juniper Fiorinia Scale' (Fiorinia pinacola). It's so far nothing to worry about -if it gets out of hand just use soap or oil spray.

Fiorinia pinacola on Podocarpus

Fiorinia pinacola on Podocarpus