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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - October 02, 2009

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Shrubs
Title: Purple sage with black residue on leaves in Georgetown TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have 2 very healthy tx. purple sage that have developed a black residue on some leaves, and is a "sticky" substance..any ideas what this is and how to treat???

ANSWER:

The Curse of the Common Name has struck again. You see, there are two very dissimilar plants that carry the common name "purple sage." One is Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush), which we call cenizo and which is native to Central Texas. Four others are members of the genus salvia, a herbaceous blooming plant: Salvia dorrii (purple sage), Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii (purple sage), Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii var. incana (purple sage) and Salvia leucophylla (San Luis purple sage). While none of them are native to Texas, they could probably have been purchased from area nurseries.

In this case, which plant it is doesn't really matter because we think you have aphids, which are usually small and difficult to see, and the black stuff is a sooty mold which has grown on the sticky exudate of the aphids, called honeydew. This University of California Integrated Pest Management article on Aphids gives you information on control.  Neither the aphids nor the sooty mold are likely to cause real damage to the plant but are unsightly. When you read the article you will learn that a good stream of water on the plant will wash many of the offending little bugs off, and they can't get back up there after they are washed off. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Leucophyllum frutescens

Salvia dorrii

Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii

Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii var. incana

Salvia leucophylla

 

 

 

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