Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Crape Murder, Hybrid White Oaks, & Organic Treatment for Fire Ants.


An example of crape murder. Photo: LSU AgCenter.

Crape Murder

Belated Happy New! RSFF is back after holiday time off. After the first of the year, Christie shared her observation and concern for local crape myrtles trees, “Tis the season for Crape Murder. [I] ran over to the [local] Post Office this morning and saw [that] a row of (previously) healthy and lovely crape myrtles were savagely whacked by an unknowing person likely paid to do so.

[I] am considering a news tip to local media and wonder if you or another is a potential info source, I can point them to. Perhaps we can avoid more ‘monkey see monkey do’ [incompetence].

Yes, AHA can be a source for the problems related to crape murder. Mr. Lee Rouse, a horticulture agent, and Dr. Allen Owings, retired AgCenter horticulturist, wrote an article simply entitled, “Crape Murder”. They write about this issue, “at this point, the scale of correct and incorrect pruning is beginning to tip. There are more people pruning crape myrtles incorrectly than are being pruned correctly. Although this practice does not kill the tree, it can result in trees declining in health after years of improper pruning and wood decay can occur. If a crape myrtle becomes too large for a certain location, either it was planted in the wrong spot in the landscape or the wrong variety was selected. In addition to flower color, select crape myrtles for size at maturity.

When pruning a crape myrtle, plants should be thinned, not topped. Remove branches that rub against each other. Prune out branches that cross each other or are in competition with each other. Remove branches that do not contribute to the overall growth direction and shape that you desire for the tree. Also, eliminate suckers at the base of the tree and watersprouts (vigorous upright growth) in the tree canopy. Late fall through late winter is the ideal time to prune crape myrtles.”


Kindred Spirit (R) hybrid oak. Photo: Jim Robbins, NCSU Extension.

Hybrid White Oaks

We are in the season when tree planting will probably be successful. This cool, damp weather helps to reduce the transplant shock, and the tree are dormant. Bill writes, “I’m having to replace several red oak trees felled by the summer hurricanes and my neighbor suggested the hybrid white oaks rather than the “standard” variety trees.”

A quick online search of “hybrid white oak” reveals many nurseries selling this type of tree. NCSU Extension describes a couple of different hybrid white oaks. One is a naturally occurring hybrid called the “Compton” oak and “is a large deciduous hybrid white oak shade tree. Its parents include the Overcut Oak (Q. lyrate) and the Southern Live Oak (Q. virginiana). It naturally occurs in low-lying sites.”

Another type of hybrid is artificially bred. Again, NCSU Extension shares a description of this ‘cultivar’ or cultivated variety, “Kindred Spirit® Oak is a hybrid of a Swamp [White] Oak (Q. bicolor) and the columnar English Oak (Q. robur 'Fastigiata'). It has a columnar growth habit, and it was bred to be resistant to powdery mildew. Even though it is a hybrid, it still produces acorns that provide a food source for small mammals. Plant them in mass to form a tall hedge or to use as a specimen. Once established, it is drought tolerant and it does tolerate clay soils and salt well.” Swamp white oak is native to Louisiana so this cultivar will be suitable for our area.


A close-up image of a fire ant. Photo: Michael A. Seymour, LSU AgCenter.

Organic Treatment for Fire Ants

Heather sent this question regarding her blueberry plants, “Hello! I am looking for some advice for getting rid of fire ants in an organic way. I have several blueberry bushes that are constantly being infested with fire ants and I do not want to put any harsh chemicals on a bush bearing fruit. “

Dr. Blake Layton, an Extension Professor, Mississippi State Extension, shared this organic treatment for fire ants, “It is possible to control fire ants organically. Gardeners and homeowners have a few organic treatment options that are quite effective. Many of these contain the active ingredient spinosad. Spinosad is a biopesticide produced through commercial culture of a soil-born microbe that produces metabolites toxic to certain insects. These metabolites are harvested and formulated into insecticide, so the final product contains no living microbes. But note that not all products that contain spinosad are completely organic; some contain non-organic inert ingredients. Spinosad products approved for organic production usually indicate so on the label. Organic fire ant control products containing spinosad are available as baits and as liquid drenches.

Use Both Baits and Drenches: One of the most effective ways to control fire ants with these organic treatments is to use the baits as the foundation of your control program and use liquid drenches to spot treat mounds that survive the bait treatments or that ‘pop up' between bait treatments.”

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.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

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

1/14/2021 9:57:14 PM
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