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Mites - Myoporum tree threatened by thrips


Q: I have a 30-year-old myoporum tree that, I'm told by an arborist, has mites that are causing its leaves to shrivel and turn brown. It's also growing mushrooms on its trunk and has a fungus. The arborist wants to treat it with a nicotine-based spray that he says is nontoxic and harmless. I love this tree for the shade it provides and the swing that hangs from its branches. I also have fruit trees nearby, so I'm wondering: Is this spray treatment truly harmless? Am I just postponing the inevitable? Should I simply face that it may have reached the end of its lifespan? Are there any other alternatives that I could consider?

A: My research hasn't turned up a myoporum-attacking mite. The tree is sometimes infested by aphids, which make it sticky and attract the powdery black fungus called sooty mold. However, I suspect your tree is being damaged by a newly appearing pest, myoporum thrips. I saw myoporum trees with masses of thrips-curled and deformed leaves in San Diego County a couple of years ago, and Larry Costello, environmental horticulture adviser with the Cooperative Extension of San Mateo County, recently told me it has spread north at least as far as the Peninsula. When I was looking for a myoporum to photograph, I saw, to my horror, that the pest is now beginning to damage trees in San Francisco. It's a narrow, shiny, brown to black, winged insect about 1/20-inch long. Its larvae are white to orange. Like the myoporum itself, it's from Australia.

To control aphids, periodic hard sprays of water from below or a narrow-range oil spray would probably be enough. However, if, as is likely, your tree has myoporum thrips, control is more difficult. In the short run, the least toxic of the pesticides that have killed the thrips is Spinosad, a substance made by a microorganism. It's toxic to bees briefly after spraying, so should be timed to avoid active bees, but otherwise has a low toxicity profile. It would probably be most effective when the damage is only slight, before too many leaves have curled around the pests.

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Sudden Oak Death and Douglas Fir Trees


Helene Wright
California State Plant Health Director
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture


‘Tis the season for holiday greenery and plants-poinsettia plants, festive wreaths, holly to decorate the table and mistletoe to hang in the doorway. And, of course, who could forget the staple of Christmas decorations...the tree.

This year, getting a tree may present a challenge for Californians who cross the border into Curry County, Oregon. Whether your family holiday tradition is to fell your own tree, a la Chevy Chase in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," or whether you prefer the freshness of a recently-cut tree from Oregon, there are some things to be aware of this year.

Douglas fir trees, one of the most popular Christmas tree varieties, can be infected with Phytophthora ramorum, otherwise known as Sudden Oak Death (SOD). This invasive fungus can affect a variety of plant and tree species with Sudden Oak Death, which causes plants and trees to wither and die. Sudden Oak Death likely spreads through infected plant material, or spore laden rainwater and soil. Moist, cool, windy conditions are thought to spread the pathogen by dispersing spores from the leaves of hosts. Many of California's plants and trees could be negatively impacted by SOD, so a quarantine has been set at the California-Oregon border.

Trees coming from Curry County, Oregon into California must have one of two things: a sticker showing the tree has passed federal or state inspection and is free of the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, or a U.S. Forest Service permit proving it is from an uninfected area. The United States Department of Agriculture, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture are working together to stop the spread of Sudden Oak Death through Christmas trees.

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Bats: Whats happening to natures very own pest control?


You may think bats are scary, but what's truly terrifying is the mysterious fungus that's decimating the bat population, according to an article by Stacy Chase in last Sunday's Boston Globe:

At least 1 million bats in the past three years have been wiped out by a puzzling, widespread disease dubbed "white-nose syndrome"baby bat in what preeminent US scientists are calling the most precipitous decline of North American wildlife in human history.

If it isn't slowed or stopped, they believe bats will continue disappearing from the landscape in huge numbers and that entire species could become extinct within a decade.

This would have drastic repercussions for the rest of us. As Tim King, a conservation geneticist with the US Geological Survey in West Virginia, told Chase, "We're at the vanguard of an environmental catastrophe."

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