Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Coneflower bizarro

An alien has invaded my coneflower world! At Mt. Cuba last week I learned about a disease that afflicts these otherwise pretty tough and beautiful natives and about 300 other plant species, including asters, black-eyed Susans, zinnias, marigolds, crysanthemums, petunias and snapdragons AND - as if this isn't enough - lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and celery. The disease is called - improbably - aster yellows. What a weird name. So if you have something like this growing in your garden, it's not a mutant, as I have thought. And it's not, in my case, a green coneflower. (I thought perhaps I'd bought one along the way. The memory is going.) This is a coneflower afflicted with aster yellows, which is caused by leafhoppers and exacerbated by cool, wet weather. Had any of that lately!?

Coneflower bizarro

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

An alien has invaded my coneflower world! At Mt. Cuba last week I learned about a disease that afflicts these otherwise pretty tough and beautiful natives and about 300 other plant species, including asters, black-eyed Susans, zinnias, marigolds, crysanthemums, petunias and snapdragons AND - as if this isn't enough - lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and celery. The disease is called - improbably - aster yellows. What a weird name. So if you have something like this growing in your garden, it's not a mutant, as I have thought. And it's not, in my case, a green coneflower. (I thought perhaps I'd bought one along the way. The memory is going.) This is a coneflower afflicted with aster yellows, which is caused by leafhoppers and exacerbated by cool, wet weather. Had any of that lately!?

The symptoms include curled leaves or deformity like this - little leaves inside the flower or even instead of the flower. And the prognosis is not good. The disease is incurable, so just rip those babies out of there to prevent its spread. I did that this weekend - pulled out a patch or two of bizarro green coneflowers. The experts also recommend growing plants that don't usually get aster yellows - stuff like verbena, salvia, geranium, flowering tobacco and impatiens. I have those things already but half my garden this time of year is coneflowers!

The last bit of advice, from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, a really good information source, is to control weeds. It's like what the doctor says: Do everything in moderation, get proper sleep and exercise often. Sure. I'm on it.

About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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