Plants Poisonous to Pets

Plants Poisonous to Pets

Is your pet one of those that likes to nibble on or gobble down new plants in your home or landscape? If so, it would be wise to make sure that the new plants you introduce do not send you running with your pet to the vet. There are many common plants that can adversely affect the health of your cat or dog. Symptoms range from mild nausea and vomiting to death, depending on the plant species and the amount ingested.

lantana blooms, seeds and leaves

Lantana is toxic to cattle and horses as well as to pets. Photo credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension

This is a sampling of some common indoor plants that are toxic to pets: alocasia, amaryllis, Ti Plant, English Ivy, dieffenbachia, Chinese evergreen, philodendron, corn plant, cyclamen, desert rose, dracaena, peace lily, pothos, and schefflera.

Some landscape plants that may cause a problem include: azalea, bird of paradise, caladium, cape jasmine, Carolina jessamine, chrysanthemum, daffodil, day lily, kalanchoe, lantana, oleander, and sago palm.

For a comprehensive list visit the ASPCA website or The Humane Society website for more information and a comprehensive list.


Stressed Pines Being Attacked By Beetles

Stressed Pines Being Attacked By Beetles

dying pinesPine bark beetles are frequent pests of stressed pines in the southern United States. The five most common southern pine bark beetle species include three in the genus Ips. Ips beetles usually colonize only those trees that are already stressed, declining, or fallen due to environmental factors. Infestations may occur in response to drought, root injury, disease, lightning strikes or other stresses including flooding.ips_beetles01

Ips calligraphus usually attacks the lower portions of stumps, trunks and large limbs greater than 4” in diameter. Early signs of attack include the accumulation of reddish-brown boring dust on the bark, nearby cobwebs or understory foliage. Ips calligraphus can complete their life cycles within 25 days during the summer and can produce eight generations per year in Florida. Newly-emerged adults can fly as far as four miles in their first dispersal to find a new host tree, whichever one is the most stressed.

Most trees are not well adapted to saturated soil conditions. With record rainfall this past April, the ground became inundated with water. When the root environment is dramatically changed by excess moisture, especially during the growing season, a tree’s entire physiology is altered, which may result in the death of the tree.

Water saturated soil reduces the supply of oxygen to tree roots, raises the pH of the soil, and changes the rate of decomposition of organic material; all of which weakens the tree, making it more susceptible to indirect damage from insects and diseases.When the ground becomes completely saturated, a tree’s metabolic processes begin to change very quickly. Photosynthesis is shut down within five hours; the tree is in starvation mode, living on stored starches and unable to make more food. Water moves into and occupies all available pore spaces that once held oxygen. Any remaining oxygen is utilized within three hours. The lack of oxygen prevents the normal decomposition of organic matter which leads to the production and accumulation of toxic gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen oxide. Additionally, within seven days there is a noticeable root growth loss. Roots only develop when soil oxygen levels are at 5% -15%. Over time, the decaying roots are attacked by pathogens. The loss of root mass from decay and fungal attack leaves the tree prone to drought damage. After only two weeks of saturated soil conditions the root crown area can have so many problems that decline and even death are imminent.

When a tree experiences these anaerobic soil conditions it will exhibit symptoms of leaf loss with minimal to no new leaf formation. This usually appears two to eight weeks after the soil dries out again. Many trees will not survive, especially the more juvenile and mature trees. However, well established trees may still decline several years later, if they experience additional stresses such as drought or root disturbance from construction.

There is little that can be done to combat the damage caused by soil saturation. However, it is important to enable the tree to conserve its food supply by resisting pruning and to avoid fertilizing until the following growth season. Removal of mulch will aid in the availability of soil oxygen. Basically, it is a “wait and see” process. While water is essential to the survival of trees, it can also be a detriment when it is excessive, especially for drought tolerant pine species such as Sand Pine, which is prevalent throughout the coastal areas.Pines

For urban and residential landscape trees, preventative strategies to avoid tree stress and therefore reduce the chances of infestation include the following:

1)    avoiding compaction of, physical damage to, or pavement over the root zones of pines,

2)    providing adequate spacing (15-20ft) between trees,

3)    minimizing competing vegetation beneath pines,

4)    maintaining proper soil nutrient and pH status and

5)    limiting irrigation to established pine areas.

When infested trees are removed, care should be taken to avoid injury to surrounding pines, which could attract the more harmful pine bark beetle species Dendroctonus frontalis, the Southern Pine Bark beetle.

There is no effective way to save an individual tree once it has been successfully colonized by Ips beetles. In some cases, the application of an approved insecticide that coats the entire tree trunk may be warranted to protect high-value landscape trees prior to infestation. UF/IFAS Extension can assist with recommendations.


New Resource for IPM of Rose, Camellia and Other Major Shrubs

New Resource for IPM of Rose, Camellia and Other Major Shrubs

ipm guideA new IPM guide is making it easier to grow five common southeastern shrubs. Growing five southeastern shrubs is now easier thanks to a free, new IPM resource from the Southern Nursery IPM Working Group.

IPM for Shrubs in Southeastern U.S. Nursery Production is a compilation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) information for five major shrubs in nursery crop production in the southeast. This 175 page book covers sustainable management for insects, mites, diseases, and weeds for these shrubs, as well as nursery production information. This IPM resource was developed for nursery growers although professional landscape managers and collectors of these plants also will find the information valuable.

Individual chapters cover abelia (Abelia spp.), camellia (Camellia spp.), shrub rose (Rosa spp.), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) and viburnum (Viburnum spp.). Each chapter provides comprehensive information on the species, primary cultivars and their nursery production. Major pests, diseases, weeds and abiotic disorders are presented for each genus along with sustainable management methods and tables listing labeled pesticides and fungicides by mode of action and site. An additional chapter discusses weed management in shrub production. Future volumes covering additional shrubs are anticipated.

Edited by Clemson University’s Sarah A. White and University of Tennessee’s William E. Klingeman, this free guide was developed by the Southern Nursery IPM Working Group, including University of Florida NFREC’s Gary Knox and Mathews Paret. The award-winning, multi-disciplinary group is composed of experts from universities across the southeast. This group formed in 2008 to develop and deliver educational programming to the southern U.S. nursery industry and Extension personnel. The team recently won the 2014 Bright Idea Award from the Friends of Southern IPM and Southern IPM Center.

This resource joins the tree IPM book previously released by this group, IPM for Select Deciduous Trees in Southeastern US Nursery Production. The tree IPM book is similar to the new resource in that it contains IPM information for insects, mites, diseases, and weeds of nine major tree crops as well as production information. Individual chapters cover birch (Betula spp.), cherry (Prunus spp.), crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.), dogwood (Cornus spp.), chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), magnolia (Magnolia spp.), maple (Acer spp.), oak (Quercus spp.) and redbud (Cercis spp.).

Both books can be downloaded free through iTunes ( or each chapter is available as a free pdf through the Southern Nursery IPM Working Group website, A limited number of hardcopy books were printed and distributed to authors. Thanks to the Southern Region IPM Center for their generous support to make this resource possible!




Vegetable Crops for Fall Color

Vegetable Crops for Fall Color

Color can make a landscape.  Color highlights features of the landscape and draws the eye as a focal point itself.  Spring color is dominated by lush new green growth, Summer brings on flowers of all kind, and fall brings the spectacular show of foliage.

[important]A new suggestion: use vegetable crops as fall color![/important]

Fall and winter vegetable crops for the panhandle of Florida bring a different hue of colors that can be utilized in the landscape.  Let’s walk through a few that you may want to start seed for to brighten up your fall garden.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard brings several colors to our finger tips.  Reds, Whites, Greens, and Yellows are all available from different varieties of these crops.  Not only do they bring great color to the landscape but they also are sometimes referred to as the “Champagne” of greens.  They can be directly seeded or transplanted and should be planted 6-12 inches apart.

Swiss Chard Varieties. photo credit - Blake Thaxton

Swiss Chard Varieties. photo credit – Blake Thaxton

 Broccoli & Cauliflower

Broccoli brings a blue/green foliage and Cauliflower various colored heads.  Both can bring great color to the landscape and allow for something delicious to eat in the very near future.  Broccoli and Cauliflower transplants should be used for planting.  Broccoli and cauliflower should be given plenty of room with approximately 24 inches between plants.

Broccoli Varieties. photo credit - Blake Thaxton

Broccoli Varieties. photo credit – Blake Thaxton

Cauliflower Varieties. photo credit - Blake Thaxton

Cauliflower Varieties. photo credit – Blake Thaxton

There are many other crops to consider for fall color such as Lettuces, Cabbages, Kale, Etc.  Comment below with other vegetable crops that can be used for fall color.

Plants to Beat the Heat!

Plants to Beat the Heat!

CranRazz Butterfly Bush (3)Most people appreciate a colorful landscape, but may not have a lot of time or money to invest into keeping it looking good.  Add to that the low nutrient soils that do not hold water that are common in the western Panhandle and keeping an attractive yard becomes even more challenging, especially if irrigation is not available.

If you are looking for plants that require minimal maintenance beyond watering until establishment  here are a few you might want to try.

Butterfly Bush Buddleia spp. 

There are many different mature sizes and colors, but if you have a small space consider a dwarf like CranRazz or the Lo & Behold® series.  Butterfly bush blooms throughout the warm season and if it slows down, just deadhead or prune heavily and it will flush out with new foliage and blooms.  As the name suggests, butterflies are attracted to the blooms.


Another plans that is very heat tolerant with low water requirements is Hyssop Agastache rupestris.   Fine textured foliage and flowers that bloom all summer and thrive on neglect.  These come in hot colors including orange, pink and bicolor varieties.


Sedum love hot, dry spots and Sedum rupestre “Angelina’ is a groundcover type with showy yellow foliage.  It performs great in containers or sprawling over beds.   Evergreen with a bronzy winter color, it stands out all year.  Tiny yellow flowers appear to float above the foliage in the early summer, but do turn brown and need to be snipped off to keep plants looking tidy.