Catalpa Trees in Bloom

Those trees covered with white flowers we have been seeing are Catalpa trees.  To me, a well-formed, fully grown Catalpa is an impressive sight.

A mature Catalpa tree blooming in rural Monroe County.

 

Catalpas have other positive attributes other than their flowers.  They grow fast compared to many other trees and can reach a height of 50 feet.   Catalpas tolerate the stressful growing conditions of a city environment, which is why so many were planted in urban areas.

In years past, farmers planted Catalpas to use for fence posts because the wood is resistant to rotting when in contact with the soil.  Nowadays, like everyone else, farmers buy their fence posts.

After flowering, long, slim cigar-shaped seedpods will form where the flowers once were giving the tree its nickname “Cigar Tree”.  These pods hang on all winter.

Not everyone likes Catalpa trees.  The branches are brittle and can break off during storms.   Some people feel its shape and large leaves give it a coarse, unrefined look.  I have to agree that a Catalpa struggling to survive in a difficult spot can look pretty ragged.   In addition, the flowers and seedpods make a mess in the yard after they fall off

Catalpa worms, the caterpillar stage of a sphinx moth, are sometimes found eating catalpa leaves.   Anglers use these worms for fish bait; fish love catalpa worms.

I remember when I was a youngster some Umbrella trees in my Grandmother’s garden.  There was a row of them, about eight feet high with a tuft of leaves growing out of the top.  Those trees were catalpas grafted with a bud from a dwarf form of the tree.   Every spring she would cut back the last season’s growth forcing the tree to form a new umbrella.   It made quite an impression on me.  The Umbrella tree form is still available at nurseries.

Catalpas are such a versatile tree, no wonder they have been so popular for so long.

Bob

 

 

 

 

 

Keep an Eye Out for Poison Ivy

Most plants made excellent growth during our cool, wet spring.  Standing water in low-lying areas did some damage but plants in well-drained areas made exceptional growth.

We will be seeing the effects of our spring for the rest of the summer.  One of those is the bumper crop of poison ivy. Poison ivy is turning up in places were it never has grown before.

We have a forty-foot square patch of wild dewberries in a dry spot near the chicken run.  Those vines choke out anything that tries to get a foothold. Not this year though. The poison ivy has nearly overgrown the dewberries this spring.  I’m sure it was in large part due to the rain stimulating the poison ivy growth.  Poison ivy resembles dewberries at first glance.  It would be very easy for someone to walk trough that area without realizing there was poison ivy mixed in.

Notice the dofference between poison ivy in the center of the photo and a bramble leaf to the left.

Be careful when working in your yard and garden, you may have poison ivy growing and not realize it.  As a reminder, poison ivy has three leaflets growing out of a single point on the stem.  The leaves are smooth and often, shiny-looking.  It can grow as a vine, a shrubby plant or look like any other weed in the yard.  Sometimes a young Box Elder seedling is mistaken for poison ivy.  If the plant in question has thorns, it is not poison ivy.

It’s a good idea to keep in mind that old saying: “leaflets three, let it be”.

Bob

 

Plum Curculio Damage on Apples

The cold, wet spring we had is fast becoming a distant memory now that nice weather is finally here. One thing that keeps reminding me of spring is the insect damage I see on my apples.

It was difficult for me to spray the apples at just the right time in between all the rainy days we had early in the season.  As a result, my apples are showing signs of plum curculio damage.

The plum curculio is a small (1/4 inch long) beetle that attacks apples, pears, peaches, cherries and of course, plums.  The adult female emerged a couple of weeks after the apple blossoms fell.  That’s when I should have sprayed. But, it was rainy and I was gone for a few days and missed the critical spray.

The adult female curculio cuts a crescent shaped slit in the skin of the apple, and then lays an egg under the flap of apple skin.  The egg hatches and the tiny worn that emerges starts eating the young apple.

Plum curculio damage on developing apples.

Many of these damaged apples will fall off; some will stay on the tree and grow to full size but will have scars left from the curculio attack. The cherries, peaches and plums won’t be so lucky; they will all fall to the ground carrying the growing curculio larvae with them. There they will grow.  As they reach full size, the burrow into the soil. Later in the summer, the mature curculios emerge from the soil and feed for a while before they hibernate under the leaves for winter.

The plum curculios are still be laying eggs at this point in the season, so it is a good idea to keep up your spraying routine. Other pests will be out in the orchard attacking your fruit trees too.

Bob