Springtailed Invaders

Springtailed Invaders

A month or so ago I was leaving for work and I noticed a strange substance near the entrance to the house.  The substance was blue and my first thought was crushed chalk from my kids writing on the sidewalk.  Upon closer investigation I realized the substance was moving!  It was now clear to me that the substance wasn’t chalk, but a congregation of insects.  Naturally, I took pictures and collected a sample to bring into the county extension office…where I work.  I looked at the insects under the microscope, but I wasn’t able to determine the species.  So I sent some samples off to the University of Florida/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A swarm of Desoria flora

A swarm of Desoria flora on damp, outdoor steps. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

The experts identified the specimens as Desoria flora, a species of springtail insects endemic to Florida and originally described in Alachua County in 1980.  Both entomologists thought it was unique the springtails were swarming.  Springtails live in leaf litter and upper layers of soils.  They are sometimes found in the potting mix of indoor and outdoor plants.  Clients bring springtail specimens in to the office for identification from time to time.  However, this was the first time I had seen them in a congregation.

A linear springtail

A linear springtail. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

If you find interesting insects, plants, or fungi and want them identified, please bring them into your local Extension Office.  We’d be happy to help you identify the specimens.  But sometimes we have to mail things off to a specialist.

 

Palm Tree Problems

Palm Tree Problems

Palm trees are great for adding a tropical feel to your landscape.  For the most part, they are easy to care for, however there are a number of environmental and nutritional factors that can affect palm tree growth.  Extended drought conditions can cause palm trunk to contract or shrivel and extended periods of moisture can cause trunks to swell and crack.

A palm tree with an irregularly shaped trunk due to water stress.

A palm tree with an irregularly shaped trunk due to water stress. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

Palm trees are monocots and do not have lateral meristems or vascular cambium.  In dicot and coniferous trees these structures produce additional xylem (water transport structures) internally and phloem (nutrient transport structures) and bark externally.  This means that once the apical meristem (frond producing portion of the palm) dies, the tree dies.  It also means that wounds to the trunks of palms are visible for life instead of healing over like in dicots.  If you were to cut the top out of a red maple, a number of it’s branches would fight to take over as the main trunk.  If you were to cut the top out of a palm tree , you would be left with a dead snag for a tree.  Palms certainly have unique structures and growing habits.  Visit this publication from Dr. Timothy Broschat for more information on palm tree anatomy and morphology.

A palm tree with a wound near the base of its trunk.

A palm tree with a wound near the base of its trunk. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

Palm trees display nutritional disorders differently from other trees.  Their nutritional balance gets disrupted if too much nitrogen is applied.  This often happens when high nitrogen turfgrass fertilizers are applied near palm plantings.  The recommended palm fertilizer is 8-2-12 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) plus 4 magnesium all available in 100% slow release form.  A soil test is recommended to determine if other micronutrients are needed in addition to magnesium.

Potassium-deficient older leaf of Dictyosperma album (hurricane palm) showing translucent yellow-orange spotting.

Potassium-deficient older leaf of Dictyosperma album (hurricane palm) showing translucent yellow-orange spotting. Photo Credit: Timothy K. Broschat, University of Florida/IFAS

Potassium is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies observed in palm trees.  For more detailed information on palm tree nutrient deficiencies please visit the publication: Nutrient Deficiencies of Landscape and Field-Grown Palms in Florida.

This article provides just a glimpse of some of the common issues that affect palms.  For more information on what could be going on with your palm trees and general palm tree care please visit Ask IFAS: Palm Care.

Green Worms in My Yard

Green Worms in My Yard

If you’ve been raking leaves recently, you’ve probably noticed little green worms hanging from the trees.  They seem to be in abundance this year and can be found crawling on driveways, just hanging around, and maybe even feeding on oak tree leaves.

These green worms that are all over the yard are oak leafrollers (Archips semiferanus) or oak leaftiers (Croesia semipurpurana).  Some people may refer to them as inchworms, however a number of different caterpillars can go by that name.  Leafrollers and leaftiers range in length from 1/4″ to 1″.  The adult form of these insects is a 1/2″ long moth.  The oak leafroller moth is mottled tan and brown and the oak leaftier moth is yellow with brown markings.

oak leafroller

An oak leafroller caterpillar crawling on a leaf. Photo Credit: Blair Fannin, Texas A&M University

In May, the adults of both species lay their eggs in the twigs and leaf buds of a number of tree species.  The eggs don’t hatch until March of the following year.  When the caterpillars emerge, they feed on the newly forming leaves and flowers of oak, hackberry, pecan and walnut trees.  If they are disturbed, they will stop feeding and hang from a strand of silk.  Oak leafroller caterpillars pupate in tree branches, while oak leaftier caterpillars drop to the ground and pupate in leaf litter.  Adult moths emerge in one to two weeks.

Leafroller Moth

A leafroller moth with wings spread. Photo Credit: U.S. National Museum

The oak leafrollers and oak leaftiers don’t really do enough damage to be considered pests, but they are a bit of a nuisance.  Thankfully, birds and parasitic wasps will eat and kill the majority of the population.  For in-depth information on most of the interesting insects in your yard, please visit the UF/IFAS Featured Creatures Website.

Satsuki Azaleas: Elegant small evergreens with oversized flowers

Satsuki Azaleas: Elegant small evergreens with oversized flowers

Article written by Dr. Gary Knox, North Florida Research & Extension Center – Quincy, FL.

‘Gumpo Pink’ flowers are 3 inches in diameter and are pink with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches on petals.

Background

In the times before re-blooming azaleas like Encore®, Bloom-A-Thon® and others, Satsuki azaleas were valued for late flowering that extended the azalea “bloom season”. Even with modern re-blooming azaleas, Satsuki azaleas still are appreciated as refined evergreen shrubs for the sophisticated garden or discerning plant collector.

“Satsuki” means “Fifth Month” in Japanese, corresponding to their flowering time in much of Japan. These azaleas were developed hundreds of years ago from their native Rhododendron indicum and R. eriocarpum. The Japanese selected cultivars more for their form and foliage than for flowering. These beloved plants were used in gardens as sheared boxwood-like hedges or pruned into rounded mounds that might resemble rocks or boulders in classical Japanese gardens. Their size and form also made them well adapted for training as bonsai. Most of the Satsuki azaleas in America were introduced in the 1930s by USDA.

Description

Satsuki azaleas are small evergreen shrubs that flower in April and May in north Florida, long after most older type azaleas have finished. Satsuki azaleas also are known for producing large, mostly single flowers up to 5 inches in diameter in colors of white, pink, red, reddish orange and purple. Often the flowers will include stripes, edging, blotches, spots or flecks of contrasting colors (Sometimes all on the same plant!) with more than 20 different color patterns recorded.

Satsuki azaleas have an elegant subtle charm, quite unlike the flashy, over-the-top, heavy blooming all-at-once Southern Indica azaleas like ‘Formosa’ and ‘George L. Taber’. Typically, Satsuki azaleas display a few large blooms at a time, allowing one to better appreciate their size and color patterns as contrasted against their fine-textured, dark green leaves. To make up for a less boisterous display, Satsuki azaleas flower over a longer timeframe, averaging about 8 weeks, with some flowering an amazing 14 weeks. In another contrast, most Satsuki azaleas grow smaller in size, in my experience reaching about 3 feet tall and wide in a five-year timeframe. The rounded to lance-shaped leaves of Satsuki azaleas also are demure, ranging in length from just ½ inch to no more than 2 inches.

Culture

Satsuki azaleas enjoy the same conditions as most other azaleas: light shade and moist, rich, well-drained soil.  Mulch regularly to maintain organic matter and help hold moisture. Fertilize lightly and keep the roots evenly moist. Minimal to no pruning is required. Satsuki azaleas also are well adapted to container culture. Their small size and fine textured leaves make these a favorite for bonsai enthusiasts since their small leaves, branching habit and mounded form naturally make them look like miniature mature “trees”.

Sources and Cultivars

Look for Satsuki azaleas in spring at garden centers or year-round at online nurseries. There are hundreds of cultivars but some popular types to look for include:

Gumpo Pink – 3-in. diameter light pink flowers with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches

Gumpo White – 3-in. diameter white flowers with occasional pink flakes and light green blotches

Gyokushin – 3-in. diameter flowers are predominantly white but with light to dark pink dots and blotches

Higasa – flowers are 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are purplish pink with purple blotches

Shugetsu – also called ‘Autumn Moon’, 3-in. diameter flowers are white with a broad, bright purplish-red border

Tama No Hada – flowers are 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are white to pink with deep pink stripes; usually flowers in fall as well as spring

Wakaebisu – 2.5-in. diameter flowers are “double” (hose-in-hose) and are salmon pink with deep pink dots and blotches; this also flowers in fall as well as spring

References:

Chappell, M. G.M. Weaver, B. Jernigan, and M. McCorkle. 2018. Container trial of 150 azalea (Rhododendron spp.) cultivars to assess insect tolerance and bloom characteristics in a production environment. HortScience 53(9-S): S465.

‘Gumpo Pink’ flowers are 3 inches in diameter and are pink with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches on petals.

‘Gyokushin’ flowers are white with occasional pink flecks and light green blotches.

‘Shugetsu’ has 3-inch flowers that have bright purplish-red border on edges of petals.

Galle, Fred C. Azaleas. 1985. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 486 pp.

 

Plant with Purpose at the Leon County Extension Office

Plant with Purpose at the Leon County Extension Office

Plant with Purpose: Written by Rachel Mathes

Last spring, we were all ready to host another Open House and Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend. When the realities of the pandemic became clear, we canceled the event for the safety of everyone involved. We typically have more than 500 visitors and dozens of volunteers on site. This year we are happy to announce we have adapted our annual fundraiser to a monthly learning and growing opportunity for the whole community.

growing milkweed

Master Gardener Volunteer Jeanne Breland is growing native milkweed in her monarch exclusion fortress for a Plant with Purpose talk and sale in the spring. Previous years’ milkweed have been eaten by monarch caterpillars before the sale so Jeanne has built her fortress to get the best results. Photo by Rachel Mathes

Our Master Gardener Volunteers will be teaching Thursday evening classes on particular plant groups throughout the year in our new series: Plant with Purpose. Topics will range from milkweed to shade plants to vegetables and herbs for different seasons. Attendees can attend the talks for free and grow along with us with the purchase of a box. These boxes are modeled after community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes you can purchase from local farms. Buyers will get a variety of the plants discussed in the plant lesson that week.  For example, in our first event, Growing a Pizza Garden, we will have two tomato plants, two pepper plants, and one basil plant available for $20. Throughout the year, prices and number of plants will vary depending on the topic.

We hope with this new model of presentations and plant sales will enable us to remain Covid-safe while still bringing horticulture education to the community. Classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6-7 pm via Zoom. Register on our Eventbrite to get the Zoom link emailed to you before each talk. Plant pick up will be the following Saturday from 10 am to noon. Master Gardener Volunteers will load up your plant box in a contact-free drive thru at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office at 615 Paul Russell Rd.

propagation table

Propagation of angel wing begonia and other plants by Joan Peloso, Master Gardener Volunteer.

Master Gardener Volunteers are already growing plants for you to purchase throughout the year. Landscape plants, herbs, vegetables, shrubs and even trees will be available later in the year. Funds raised from this series help fund our Horticulture programming. Some notable programs that will benefit from Plant with Purpose include our Demonstration Garden, 4-H Horticulture Club, the Veterans’ Garden Group at the VA Tallahassee Outpatient Clinic, and various school gardens we help support throughout Leon County.

In the last year, we have adapted many of our programs to meet virtually, and even created new ones like our Wednesday Webinar series where we explore different horticulture topics twice a month with guest speakers from around the Panhandle. While we still can’t meet in person to get down in the dirt with all of our community programs, we hope that the Plant with Purpose series will help fill the hole left by our cancelled Open House and Plant Sale. Join us for the first installment of Plant with Purpose on Thursday March 18th from 6-7pm. Pick up for purchased plant boxes will be Saturday March 20th from 10am-noon.

To register for this event and other events at the Leon County Extension Office, please visit the Leon County Extension Office Events Registration Page.