Curly dwarf may sound like the punchline from a bad joke, but this viral disease can ruin your artichoke plants.
Curly dwarf is spread by insects, and can be fatal, so knowing what it looks like can help you keep it from spreading to uninfected plants. While only found on artichokes, in the field, cardoons, sunflowers, and zinnias have been infected in laboratory tests.
[Unfortunately, I was unable to find a single image of an artichoke plant infected with curly dwarf, but I will keep looking. Please let us know if you have one!]
Curly dwarf, also known as artichoke curly dwarf, is caused by the artichoke curly dwarf virus (ACDV). While very little is currently known about this particular virus, we do know that it is almost found in tandem with another virus (Artichoke latent virus), which seems to have no disease symptoms.
Symptoms of curly dwarf
Severe stunting, leaf curling, and reduced bud production, with buds remaining small and often misshapen, is a clear indication that your plant has become infected with curly dwarf. Leaves may also have dark, dead areas.
Preventing curly dwarf
We do not yet know which insects spread curly dwarf, but we do know that it can be transmitted to uninfected plants. For this reason, it is important to remove any infected plants as soon as they are identified. The curly dwarf virus is commonly spread when infected plants are divided for propagation purposes, so only use certified disease-free plants.
Since the virus also lives on milk thistle (Silybum marianum), keeping those weeds away from your artichoke plant may reduce the chance of infection.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!