Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I just moved here and I have this tree in my yard which has clusters of white seed pods. I am also seeing loads of seedlings all underneath the canopy. What is it and should I be concerned?

 

Chinese Tallow

Chinese Tallow

A:  This tree is a Chinese tallow tree and it is classified as a Class I invasive plant by the Florida Exotic Plant Pest as well as the Florida Noxious Weed list. It has been a time consuming pest for the City of Fernandina Parks and Recreation as they have worked tirelessly to manage it in Egan’s Creek. In China, Chinese tallow, Triadica sebifera, is cultivated for seed oil. During the 1700’s, Chinese tallow was introduced to the United States primarily for use as an ornamental tree. It was also introduced for making soap from the seed oil. Not only has Chinese tallow become naturalized in the southern coastal plain from South Carolina south to Texas, it has become naturalized in over half of the counties in Florida. Characteristics which make Chinese tallow a popular ornamental are its fast growth rate, attractive fall color, and its ability to resist damage from pests. It is a small to medium-sized tree that grows to about 20 feet tall, but some specimens can reach 40-50 feet. The fruit is a three-lobed capsule (0.5 inches) and seeds are covered with vegetable tallow, a white waxy coating. Fruit ripens from August to November. We would recommend you remove it but now might be the best time as it is loaded with seeds. If you try to remove it now, the seeds are likely to spread. The seeds have a very high germination rate.  This publication will provide more information about proper removal.  http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/399


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Q: What is this tree? The leaves are changing color now. I have only one of these on my property.

Turkey Oak

Turkey Oak

A:   Thanks for bringing in a sample for me.  Right now this tree, Turkey oak, Quercus laevis, is showing us rusty, brown colors.  Quercus is the Latin name for “oak,” and laevis comes from the Latin word meaning “smooth, slippery, or polished,” which refers to the tree’s nearly hairless leaves. Turkey oak, or turkey-foot oak, received its common name from the shape of its leaves, which resemble a turkey’s foot. These trees can be found from Virginia, south to central Florida, and west to southeastern Louisiana. Turkey oak is also known as scrub oak—referring to the habitat where the species is commonly located.  Turkey oaks provide food for wildlife such as the black bear, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey.  This tree has a high resistance to wind and is also drought tolerant. Turkey oak trees grow to about 40 feet but can reach heights of 70 feet. They are often found growing in high bluff areas so here in Nassau County, Florida we can find them in Hilliard and Yulee. Turkey oaks have been known to produce large amounts of pollen in the spring which can cause problems for people with allergies. The tree’s wood has been used for lumber and general construction, but is commonly used for fuel wood, barbecuing, and farm construction. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr312


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Q: I have received an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift. The photo of the flower is so beautiful it is hard for me to believe I can grow this plant. I really want to keep it alive. How do I take care of it?

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

I am also enamored with this lovely flower and you will be surprised to find out, it is a fairly easy plant to grow.  Right now, just keep the plant in an area with bright light but not direct light and no direct cold breezes.  The soil should be moist but never wet.  Amaryllis bulbs can be planted in the ground anytime between September and January.  Amaryllis plants do best in light or dappled shade. In heavy shade, they will be thin, spindly and flower poorly.  If planted in full sun, amaryllis leaves will turn yellow.  These plants require well-drained soils amended with organic matter or compost.  Use slow-release forms of fertilizer to minimize leaching of nutrients into water resources.  Apply 2-3 light applications of fertilizer during growing season, which is March through September. Plant the bulbs 12 to 15 inches apart with the neck of the bulb protruding above the ground. Once planted in the ground, water newly planted amaryllis and keep them moist but not waterlogged until the plants are well-established. The bulbs may be left in the ground for several years or dug and reset every September or October. It is not necessary to dig, separate, and replant each year, but doing so will encourage uniform flowering and larger blooms. An additional advantage to digging is it will provide an opportunity to discard unhealthy bulbs, to remove young offsets (bulblets) and to amend the bed with organic matter. Diseased bulbs will show red discoloration and lesions on the bulbs.  These diseased bulbs should be destroyed. Control weeds by spreading a 2-inch layer of mulch over the bed at planting time and remove any weeds immediately.  Amaryllis bulbs lend themselves well to containers too.  More complete information can be obtained from the University of Florida publication titled “Amaryllis” by Dr. Sydney Brown and Dr. Robert Black.


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Q: I want to grow kale here. Is it too late to plant it now?

Kale

Kale

A:  Kale is cool-season cooking green somewhat similar to collard and nonheading cabbage. It has recently become known as one of the “super” foods – those foods important for their anti-oxidant qualities. “Kale” is a Scottish word derived from coles or caulis, terms used by the Greeks and Romans in referring to the whole cabbage-like group of plants. The German word “kohl” has the same origin. The Scotch varieties have deeply curled grayish green leaves. Kale is native to the Mediterranean or to Asia Minor. It was introduced to America from Europe as early as the 17th century. Kale is not a big commercial crop in Florida, but is found in about one out of ten home gardens. Most southern gardeners, including Floridians, prefer collards to kale. Culture is similar to that for cabbage and collards. Throughout Florida, it can be seeded or transplanted from September through March with fairly good results. For best results, it should be planted so that harvest takes place in the coolest months. For home use, some of the leaves are stripped off as needed; the plants then continue to produce more leaves. It takes about 2½ to 3 months from seeding to harvest. Because of the curly leaves, sand is more difficult to remove. Among the varieties listed by seed companies are ‘Blue Curled Scotch,’ ‘Dwarf Siberian,’ ‘Dwarf Green Curled Scotch,’ ‘Dwarf Blue Scotch,’ ‘Imperial Long Standing,’ ‘Siberian,’ ‘Spring,’ and ‘Flowering Kale.’ The latter is very attractive for landscape planting and is edible, but not very palatable. The term “flowering” derives from the shape and coloration of the plant, which resembles a flower, and does not refer to actual flowers.


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Q: What is causing the new leaves on my ficus plants to fold in half? I have been told they are thrips.

Weeping fig thrips

Weeping fig thrips

A:  After talking to you about bringing a sample in a sealed plastic bag to the office, I was able to determine they were most likely Weeping fig thrips, Gynaikohrps uzeli.  Since the plants at your nursery were originally brought in from South Florida, it was important for me to notify the Florida Division of Plant Industry plant inspector about spotting this insect pest.  We do not want these insects to become established here as it is quite possible for the insects to feed on other landscape plants which could lead to some serious issues.  Weeping fig thrips is a very large thrips compared to the flower and chili thrips we are more accustom to seeing in this area.  They are dark black and can be plainly seen without the aid of a stereoscope or eyepiece whereas flower or chili thrips are best seen using magnification aids. Weeping fig thrips typically feed on the new leaves and cause them to fold onto themselves, covering the thrips. The feeding causes blotches on the leaves and can lead to pre-mature leaf drop. Chemical control is difficult but professionals have chemicals available with the appropriate pesticide license.  Such products as Merit and Safari can be used as a soil drench (poured around the root area of the plant). This will allow the chemical to be absorbed through the roots and then the chemical will move to other parts of the plant eventually reaching every leaf.  When the insects feed on the leaves they will take in the chemical and you should see some control in your nursery setting.


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Q: My neighbor wants to cut down here tree because it is covered with a small fern. She seems to think this means the tree is dying. Will this fern kill the tree?

Resurrection fern

Resurrection fern

A:   I am so glad you brought in a photo of the fern as this made it very easy for me to identify the fern as Resurrection fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides. This plant is native to Florida and found in moist areas and sometimes on the trunks of trees.  Resurrection fern is classified as an epiphyte, similar to Spanish moss and “air” plants.  It uses the trunk of the tree as a place of attachment but does not derive any of its nutrients from the tree but instead takes moisture and nutrients from the outer surface of the bark.  Because it does not form true roots it must live in areas where the air is continually moist.  The name resurrection comes from the plant appearing to be dead and dried up but once the rains come and moisture returns the plant suddenly comes back to life.  Resurrection fern is not a parasite and it will not kill the tree.  Having Resurrection fern on the trunk of the tree does not indicate the tree is dying or in decline.  However, it does indicate the area is moist and conditions are perfect for the fern to thrive.