the show

Pecan Tree Tips

encore date: December 10, 2011

original air date: November 12, 2011

Lisa Berdoll from Berdoll Pecan Farm goes nuts with tips for cultivating pecan trees. On tour, visit a hillside garden terraced for fruits, vegetables, and perennials. Daphne analyzes dodder that’s invaded a gardener’s plants. Her pick of the week is native Texas poinsettia. In part 2 of “how not to kill your trees,” Trisha Shirey illustrates pruning, watering and mulching tips.

Question of the Week

What is this in my firecracker fern?

Thanks to Diane Hanna for sending this great question! The stringy spaghetti-looking mess covering her beautiful firecracker fern is actually a parasitic plant called dodder. Dodder invades the tissue of the host plant and steals its nutrients to grow. It has very little chlorophyll, so it usually isn’t green. It can range in color from pale whitish-brown to bright orange, and when you first see it, you’ll wonder if someone hasn’t covered your plants in silly string.

This plant does flower and produces a prolific number of seeds, so you should remove it immediately and throw it away before the seeds have a chance to spread. Once you have seen the plant, keep an eye out for it around your yard and pull out fresh seedlings as soon as you see them growing on any of your plants.

In this situation, I would suggest first removing all of the dodder from the container. Also remove any plant parts that the dodder is attached to-those have already been invaded and dodder will grow back from them. If you notice that the dodder grows back, I would suggest tossing the whole container and getting a new firecracker fern.

There’s no recommended chemical control for dodder in this situation, so don’t use any herbicides or fungicides. Although this plant seems like an alien from outer space, it’s actually pretty easy to control with good cultural practices-ripping it up and tossing it out. I bet this one came in with the plant when it was originally purchased. But as long as you get rid of the parasite before the seeds spread around, there shouldn’t be any future flare-ups.

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Plant of the Week

Texas poinsettia

Texas poinsettia

Euphorbia cyathophora

This Texas native poinsettia is also known as "fire on the mountain." This small spreading plant does indeed resemble its showier relative, the Christmas poinsettia; with those striking reddish-orange colored bracts beneath the much less showy, small white flowers. Texas poinsettia generally stays 18 to 24 inches tall, but can get taller, especially in deep shade, if it's stretching for more light. I was truly amazed by these native poinsettias in our demonstration garden during summer 2011's record-breaking heat and drought. With only one irrigation per week, the plants looked fabulous all summer long. They did get a little wilty in the afternoon, but were always perked up by morning. They flower from late summer through fall and they're annuals, so they will come back in your garden next year from seed. The leaves have an interesting pointy shape and the orange coloring on the bracts look like arrows, pointing out to insect pollinators just exactly where the inconspicuous little flowers are. Native poinsettias spread by seeds and by clumping, but they really aren't invasive in the landscape. A few people have remarked to me that they decided they didn't want it anymore but it still came back, even after they pulled it out. So be careful where you put it, but be assured that it will come back year after year, in even the worst conditions. It's listed as hardy to zone 4, which is negative 25 degrees Fahrenheit, so it also won't have any trouble surviving our winters. Although I haven't seen it for myself, I've also heard reports that grasshoppers don't eat wild poinsettias, which sounds like a pretty positive quality to me!