Tag Archives: aloe mite

random updates

San Miguel Island buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, possibly protected by a cloak of extra-hot chili powder

Update #1: The gopher chronicles (Original post: Cooking for Vermin)

It’s been three weeks since I tried to ward off gophers by using extra-hot chili powder. People want to know if it works.

The conclusion: There’s no sign of obvious damage from pocket gophers in the treated area. The plants are growing and blooming normally. That might sound like success, but there hasn’t been any gopher damage anywhere else in the garden, either. So it’s inconclusive at this point. But I’ll post as the season goes on. I really really want this to work.

Update #2: Life post-hacking (Original post: I was hacked)

After I realized that my blog was hacked I cleaned out what looked like the problem code. But two days later the WordPress Pharma Hack was back. I did more drastic cleanup after that, and it looks like that took care of the problem.

The tide turns...

Even after cleanup, because it takes days to weeks for Google to catch up and reindex everything on a site, searches for my blog showed many titles for my posts as promising ways to buy various drugs without prescription. Even as recently as Wednesday, last week, the number one blog keyword was “Prescription.” For a garden blog it’s pathetic to have that word ahead of the next four on the list: “garden,” “plants,” “blog” or “landscape.” But the tide turned on Thursday, and the good words continue to rise as the hacker words sink.

Update #3: Aloe, good-bye (Original post: Exotic plant, exotic pest)

It’s been almost a year since I mentioned that my specimen Aloe barberae (aka A. bainesii) was in serious decline. Aloe mites had attacked the plant and I was blaming its fate on them. The plant continued to decline to the point that it had just a few growing tips that kept getting smaller and smaller. Something was very wrong and we cut the plant back to a stump one to two months later, leaving three small pups that were springing from the lowest two feet of the plant.

The dying trunk of the dying aloe, with the three pups looking increasingly worse. Time to pull the pups off to root them, it looks like...

Since then even those little pups have failed to thrive. Signs of mites have been few, so I’m beginning to think that some other cause is responsible for the problems. Hypothesis #1 at the moment: pocket gophers eating the roots. My main reason for thinking this is that there’s another A. barberae just a few feet away that looks robust, with none of the signs of illness the big plant was showing. I’ll keep my hope up for that plant.

A rooted cutting of the original big aloe

In the meantime, aloes being aloes, I figured that all the little branch tips I cut off might root easily. I treated all the chunks with miticide, stuck them in potting mix and kept them just-moist. All three took.

Quite frankly I’m not sure there’s room in the front for two giant aloes I had there in the first place–placing the two original plants so close was a mistake. So I gave two of the rooted plants to people in my office who were eager to grow this terrific plant. I still have one rooted plant, along with a half dozen more unrooted branch tips sitting on my greenhouse floor that are still green, almost a year later. I might end up with an impressive aloe in a pot if I can’t find a place for it. And if I root the remaining branch tips I could have a half-dozen more giveaways.

The original plant looks doomed, but pieces of the original clone live on. In the life and death world of gardens that’s almost a happy ending.

Update #4: Crest-fallen (Original post: Mutant Primrose)

In case you’re wonderng what happened to the mutant Hooker’s evening primrose from a May 12 posting, it looks like the weight of the extra tissue on the crested growing tip was more than the stem could keep aloft. Within a week of the original photo, the stem flopped to the ground, where it has stayed, still alive, but not thriving…

Now (early July)...
How the plant looked in early May...

Update #5: A different outcome for a crested growth (Original post: Deformity or Biological Wonder?)

My last progress report is on this mutant crested growth of a Euphorbia lambii. Since I posted on it in June of 2009, the plant seems to have incorporated the crest into its continued growth patterns, unlike on what was going on with the primrose above. Still, you can tell that the growth pattern isn’t quite what normal plants go through. Still interesting, two years later…

The crest as of July of this year...
The crest in June, 2009
A different view of the plant as it looks today. The spindly-looking-ness of the plant is my fault (forgetting to water it enough) and not something the crested growth is responsible for.

exotic plant, exotic pest

The upper canopy of my two plants of Aloe barberae (aka A. Bainesii). The left one is the larger, typical form. The one on the right is the dwarf form from Mozambique. The one on the left is the one affect by aloe mite.

I’m heartbroken that one of the two big tree aloe in the front yard is under attack by aloe mites, the scourge of many aloe growers. The succulent expert at one of my local nurseries just shook his head when I asked for anything that would make the mites go away. Of course I ran to the web for advice. Discussions splattered all over the charts, from guardedly optimistic to “throw the thing in the trash.” I started to uncover several references to the syndrome that the aloe gall mites generate as “aloe cancer.”

The best discussion I encountered I’ve seen so far is at XericWorld forums, where the whole range of opinions gets expressed by a number of experts. The thread has lots of photos of infected plants and of the mites themselves. Growers expressed success with insecticides (even though mites aren’t insects). Others had zero results even with dedicated miticides. Most people recommend plant-surgery, and one person treated affected areas with bleach.

A newly developing gall.
One of the galls produced by the plant in reaction to being attacked by Aloe mites.

Sunbird Aloes, a commercial firm in South Africa, the land of aloes, recommends a completely different treatment: formaldehyde applied to the gall.

There’s also an informative page hosted by Michael J. Green hosted at the Gates Cactus & Succulent Society [ here ]. The author here points out that the gall is produced by the plant in reaction to a chemical produced by the mites, a compound similar to 2-4-d, one of the main ingredients in the infamous Vietnam War herbicide Agent Orange.

Closeup of another of the galls on the trunk.

Most of the treatments are intended for spot treatments when only part of the plant is infested. But my poor plant has a major infestation all over its main trunk, and that’s been affecting the growths farther up. It’s been in gradual decline for several years, but it’s going downhill quickly. At first I thought it was gophers eating the roots, or the renters next door stopping watering of their lawn and the aloe roots that extend under it. But I’ve finally figured out the awful truth. Even the plant seems to realize its distress since it’s starting to shoot new growths from near the base of the trunk.

I step back and try to be philosophical and maybe even marvel in my grief that such tiny, nearly microsopic creatures can take down such a large plant. It’s all a part of the cycle of life that we celebrate with the seasons and the changes plants go through. Only with something tree-sized I was hoping for something that would outlive me, not a twenty-year relationship that would end in tragedy.

The end of one of the leaves being produced at the base of the plant. I'm not sure if this might be early signs of mite damage or a bad reaction to some of my draconian treatments.

If any of you have had luck with something let me know! In the meantime I’m trying a few treatments. As much as I try to avoid chemical nastiness in the garden, I’m desperate. I’m removing the galls and swabbing the infected area with a 50% bleach solution. I’ve applied the systemic insecticide imidacloprid at the roots, hoping that the insecticide won’t affect the beneficial bugs feeding on the plants nearby. Then I tried to spray just the affected plant–a big 12-16 footer–as best as I could with Bayer 3-in-1, which in addition to imidacloprid contains the miticide tau-fluvalinate. I don’t know that these treatments will do anything other than relieve me of guilt that I didn’t try what I could to save the plant.

Wish me luck.