Showing posts from July, 2018

Sunflowers Are Loved by Many

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson

I planed to get some photos of sunflowers for this week's blog post. Instead, I found these cool caterpillars.

What’s growing on the underside of my neighbor’s sunflower leaves? -Carl M., Los Lunas, NM Answer: At first, I thought the dusty black stuff looked like mold, but under a microscope, you can see that those black dots are a weird combination of eggs and insect poo (Fig. 1). I sent the leaf down to the NMSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic ( Here are comments from NMSU Extension Entomologist Dr. Carol Sutherland's diagnostic report: “These little creatures are ‘lace bugs’ (Order Hemiptera, Family Tingidae, Corythucha morrilli). The adult stage has the features that give these bugs their common name: lace bug. The elaborate pattern of veins in the wings looks like fine lace (Fig. 2). There are also structures on the thorax that continue the lacy pattern. As ‘true bugs,’ these insects ha…

The Fire Blight Fight

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question: I think my Asian pear might have fire blight. Can you tell from this branch? [Sample submitted with wilted, blackened leaves at tips of new growth. See photo below.]
                        -Jade W., Albuquerque, NM
Answer: I couldn’t tell for sure from the sample, so I sent it to the NMSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic in Las Cruces ( Our NMSU Extension Plant Pathology Specialist Jason French explained how samples are analyzed in the lab when a bacterial infection is suspected. First, they excise a small amount of tissue at the margin of the infection (the intersection of healthy and symptomatic tissue). Then they macerate and streak the solution onto a specialized media in a petri dish. All of the work is done under sterile conditions. Within 24 to 48 hours, any bacterial growth colonies on the plate are tested further with a metabolite panel. After diagnosing this Asian pear branch, they recomme…

Draining or Retaining? Fungus Gnats and Other Side Effects of Poor Drainage

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson "The drainage rate of any soil is also influenced by the drainage rate of the soil lower in the profile... To understand soil drainage one must investigate the total profile." - the Internation Society of Arboriculture and Urban Tree Foundation "Planting Standards

Question: I’ve been battling with little gnats in potted plants for months. I have covered the soil with small aquarium gravel, and have tried using bowls of vinegar and even sticky flytraps. But they are still very prevalent in my home and making me a little bit nuts! -Erin F., Albuquerque, NM Answer: It sounds like you have fungus gnats. As Dr. Carol Sutherland, NMSU Extension Entomologist and State Entomologist for NMDA, explained, “Fungus gnats are those very tiny, blackish, mosquito-like creatures that fly in your face when you water your plants indoors. Female fungus gnats are attracted to the organic matter in your potting medium. Algae, fungi, and va…

Grow Your Library: Recommended Plant Books

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson

Question: We are building our Extension Master Gardener library. What are your favorite plant books? -Lin Y., Valencia County, NM Answer: I try to keep an edition—any edition—of Robert DeWitt Ivey’s “Flowering Plants of New Mexico” with me as I travel around the state. Every plant in the book includes a hand-drawn image of the flowering structures and leaves, and a zoomed-in portion of the plant if there are distinguishing characteristics to be found. In the introduction, Ivey explains that he made most of the drawings from fresh or live plants during their flowering period and includes the location and date. A miniature map of New Mexico also accompanies each drawing with a shaded area depicting the general distribution range. Call me crazy, but when you see a beautiful flower on a hiking trail near Cloudcroft on July 4 and then find it in this book with Ivey’s note saying he found it in bloom on July 16 in the same national forest, you m…