Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: A “Pregnant” Bell Pepper, Tree Classes, and a Soil Borne Disease.

A bell pepper with another small pepper inside.
Photo: Adrienne Edwards.

Bell pepper

Adrienne sent an intriguing photo of a “double” bell pepper and wanted to know what is going on with this vegetable.

Yes, that is a small pepper inside of its parent pepper. AHA sent this picture to Dr. Kiki Fontenot, a vegetable specialist with the AgCenter. Dr. Fontenot examined the image and shared her comments, “I think the proper term is ‘vivipary’. In tomatoes and other fruit, it’s when the seeds germinate inside the fruit, while the fruit is still ripening on the plant. In strawberries, the berry produces foliage all over the outside of the fruit, the little achenes start sprouting while the fruit is on the plant. In peppers, it looks like baby peppers are forming inside the pepper.

It’s hard to explain and there are many theories as to why this happens. Some just say it’s a physiological phenomenon.

But if you google vivipary you’ll see the many theories from nutrition imbalances to environmental weather patterns, etc. etc. etc.

I just call it a bonus fruit!”

Live oaks are Class A trees. Photo: LSU Reveille.

Live oak trees

Cathy sent this question about landscape trees, “Would you happen to know the difference [between] a Class A and Class B tree? I am helping my son with a landscaping job and it specified for several of both class trees.”

After reading this question, AHA did not know the difference between Class A and Class B tree so he did a little research. AHA failed to find a technical definition from professional websites supporting horticulture. However, the City of Mandeville, LA has a legal definition from its planning department, “Class A Trees: Any self-supporting woody plant of a species which normally grows to an overall height of at least fifty (50) feet, usually with one main stem or trunk and many branches. It may appear to have several stems or trunks, as in several varieties of oaks.” There is a similar definition for Class B trees, but it has “an overall height of at least twenty-five (25) feet.” These classes of trees describe a standard legal definition for a tree protection ordinance of various cities.

A Helleri holly with a possible soil borne disease.
Photo: Matt Bardwell.

23_fig_4_phytophthera_lesionsjpgReddish brown lesions on infected roots caused by phytophthora fungi.
Photo: LSU AgCenter

Helleri holly with a possible soil borne disease

Matthew sent some pictures and a concerned email, “Some of these Helleri hollies are experiencing die-back in middle/crown that then later extends to the edges. It doesn’t seem to be heat or water stress & can affect one or two plants in a patch of 15-16 plants that are getting almost identical sun exposure, water, fertilizer. Any ideas would be most helpful.”

AHA consulted with the AgCenter’s Plant Diagnostic Lab, and it suggested that a soil borne pathogen called phytophthora may be the cause. An article from the AgCenter’s Horticulture Hints addresses this situation very well, “The wet fall and winter kept soils saturated and plant roots stressed from low oxygen levels. Opportunistic root rot fungi, like phytophthora, took advantage of these conditions to destroy root tissues on many of our beloved bedding plants, trees and shrubs.” At this writing, our rainfall so far this year is a little over five inches, so our conditions are encouraging root rot fungi. If a plant is dead or dying, gently dig it up to examine the roots.

The image below shows a root, and part of the root has the healthy white color while the brown part is a lesion cause by the phytophthora fungi. This fungus will eventually clog up the roots and stems, and the plant will wilt and dieback.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

2/4/2020 8:25:54 PM
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