Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Native Violets, More Lichens, & Sundew Plants

A search of news stories about gardening during the viral pandemic indicates that working in the landscape is popular during these difficult times. There are both physical and emotional benefits to being in fresh air and sunshine.

One news outlet reported that seed companies are seeing a rush in sales to people with time on their hands. “Victory Gardens” of WWII fame are making a come back because there is uncertainty about food availability. If you have questions about gardening or if you see a new plant or insect or any other interesting feature, feel free to share with this column.

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Bird's-foot violet, a native wildflower to Louisiana. Photo: Louisiana Digital Library.

Bird's-foot violet

Mara made this observation and then shared a question, “I know you can answer my question. I grew up in the NW, where we had violets that were very scented, with a wonderful violet scent. When we moved here [to Alexandria], I was delighted to find violets growing all over. But--they're not [like NW] violets, and they don't smell. Otherwise, they're identical…. Why [does] something that looks alike doesn't SMELL alike.”

Plants with colorful and aromatic flowers are trying to attract pollinators, usually insects. The violet of the northwestern US uses both color and odor to attract the pollinators of that region. Apparently, our local violets are attracting insects with color only. The difference in violets from different areas seems to be the preference of the local pollinators.

Some plants like oak, pecan, and pine trees rely on wind to pollinate, and their flowers are very plain and are more difficult to see than attractive flowers, but these plain flowers are there in the spring.

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Lichens, a harmless plant on holly. Photo: Birgitt Thurman.

Lichens

Birgitt has another landscape question about her shrubs, “I have this white/brownish growth on a few of my Japanese Hollies. Do you know what this is? A few years ago, it damaged some of the bushes so badly that I had to tear them out.”

An AgCenter specialist in plant diseases examined these pictures and responded, “This could be secondary to another problem. Like fungal growth (lichens) on trees that are dying.

How old are these bushes and what are the characteristics of the location where they are planted (wet, dry, sandy, under an eve of a house, near a road or field, etc.)?”

These lichens are probably more like a symptom rather than a cause because these lichens grown in direct light. The canopy of this holly seems thin and enabled Ms. Birgitt to capture this image.

AHA had encountered homeowners who have deep beliefs that lichens are causing the problems of declining plants. If someone wants to have that belief, then that is his or her prerogative. However, this belief ignores the real causes of weak vegetation, and the problem will not be resolved.

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Pink sundew plants next to a pen. Photo: Mike Clanton.

Pink sundew plants

Mike sent a very clear image and wanted to know the name of this plant.

The pink plants in this image are called sundews and are carnivorous. Phil Hyatt, a professional botanist in the Kisatchie National Forest, writes this colorful description about sundews, “The sundew takes a different approach to trapping. Imagine, if you will, a glistening glazed donut 20 feet across laying out in the yard when you get up in the morning. You wonder, what's this? You step over to it and walk up on it. Then you realize your mistake! Your feet are stuck. You reach down with your hands, and they become stuck. The more you struggle, the more you realize you will never get free. The sundew is a tiny plant predator. It only grows a few inches tall. Each leaf lies at the grounds surface. Tiny sticky hairs cover the top of the leaf. If a small fly wanders onto it, the sticky surface traps the fly so that the plant can absorb it as food.”

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 khawkins@agcenter.lsu.edu. 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.”

4/7/2020 7:57:12 PM
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