Garden Word of the Day
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Anemophily [ani-MA-filly] describes plants that are pollinated by wind.
Most plants are pollinated by bees, butterflies, and wasps, along with occasional bats, beetles, and birds. These pollinators are responsible for the lion’s share of our harvests by carrying sticky pollen from one flower to another.
In one out of ten cases, the wind carries pollen from plant to plant.
Very often, wind pollination augments pollination by pollinators. This is important information if you grow any of these anemophilous plants and want a harvest.
Characteristics of wind-pollinated plants
This is one of those cases where you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Most plants invest a lot of energy and resources into attracting pollinators. They produce chemicals with enticing aromas, construct flashy, intricate flowers, and crank out sugary nectar. Anemophilous plants don’t need to go to all that trouble. Even the size and stickiness of pollen grains are reduced in wind-pollinated plants. The pollen of these plants is so small that it can be captured by a bee’s electrostatic field. [There’s a lot of it flying around at certain times of the year.] That is why honey can contain ragweed pollen even though honey bees generally do not visit ragweed flowers. Bees do visit corn tassels and other grains.
Structurally, these plants tend to have long, exposed stamens and feathery stigmas. These are used to dispense and collect pollen, respectively.
If you are allergic to pollen, it’s most likely pollen from anemophilous plants.
Pseudomonas [soo-doh-MO-nas] is a genus of bacteria that most of us gardeners end up fighting.
These bacteria reside in plant debris, soil, and water. They also hide out in many dicot seeds. But don’t worry, Pseudomonas only infects plants with leaves and stems. The rest of your garden is safe. *wink*
Pseudomonas plant pathogens
Scientists have sequenced the DNA of more than 500 strains of Pseudomonas. Here is a list of the most common bacterial diseases caused by Pseudomonas:
Nearly all these diseases feature small dark spots that expand into odd-shaped dead areas. It’s all downhill from there.
These are some tough SOBs. They have evolved to survive rugged conditions. Their cell walls are equipped with pumps that eject antibiotics and other unwanted materials before they can do anything, so chemicals are often ineffective. Because of this, prevention is your best management tool. Spacing plants far enough apart so they dry off rapidly is the best prevention. And avoid overhead watering.
Pseudomonas isn’t all bad
As handy as it would be to say that all Pseudomonas are trouble, it ends up that some of these soil bacteria help plants stay healthy. They practically make life possible on Earth. Life sure is messy.
Some Pseudomonas protect plant roots against disease-causing Fusarium fungi and Pythium oomycetes. They also protect against plant-eating nematodes. Another strain helps activate disease resistance within wheat and other cereal crops. Some Pseudomonas can metabolize pollutants and are part of bioremediation efforts.
Finally, Pseudomonas are responsible for most snowflakes and raindrops that fall on Earth.
Now you know.
If you grow apples, cherries, kiwifruit, mulberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, or walnuts, you need to know about bacterial blight.
Bacterial blight is not the same thing as common bacterial blight, which attacks legumes. To make matters worse, many people call another bean variety of blight ‘bacterial blight’. I know, it gets confusing. Let’s see if we can clarify some of this.
The cause of bacterial blight
Bacterial blight, also known as blossom blight or shoot blight, is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas syringae. There are over 50 different strains of this bacteria that cause plant disease. Common examples include bacterial canker, bacterial speck, citrus blast, and halo blight. Pseudomonas syringae is commonly found on the exterior surfaces of healthy plants. It is only when bacteria get inside, through wounds or natural openings, that the trouble starts.
Bacterial blight symptoms
Like the other diseases caused by this pathogen, the first symptom is water-soaked areas on leaves. These areas turn brown and mushy and often have yellow halos. If these spots occur early in a leaf’s development, leaf curling and twisting may also occur. Leaves may also start dying from the outer edge, with the infection moving inward toward the center. Twigs may exhibit black streaks, and it is common for infected blossoms, branch tips, and leaves to die. If infected twigs develop a shepherd’s crook shape, it’s probably fireblight.
Managing bacterial blight
Pseudomonas syringae is most commonly spread by wind and rain. Insects and your garden tools can also be part of the problem. You have to assume that the disease is present. These bacteria can survive in diseased plants, infected plant debris, and soil.
Once a plant is infected, you can try to save it by trimming 10 to 12 inches below infected areas, making sure to disinfect your pruners between each cut. You can dip them in a 10% bleach solution for 30 seconds, though bleach is hard on tools. You can also use bathroom cleaner or other spray disinfectants that contain at least 70% alcohol. Just be sure to give it a few minutes to work before making another cut. Infected plant material should be bagged and thrown in the trash right away.
Prevention is easier. To prevent bacterial blight from taking hold in your landscape, use these tips:
Fixed copper sprays may also help.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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