En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - July 05, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Cottony infestation on Turk's Cap in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The Turks Cap in my front planter is well-established and, overall, happy and blooming. However, some of the top leaves, those in the most shaded area, have what looks like a thin, loose layer of cotton. These leaves are also a bit puckered. Any suggestions as to what this is (a mold, perhaps?) and what, if anything, needs to be done to remedy the situation? The planter also contains a couple of medium size(>two story) live oaks, wedelia, Tx. mountain laurel, purple oxalis, cedar sage, rock daisies, flame acanthus, dwarf ruellia, winecup, and evening primrose. Your help is greatly appreciated

ANSWER:

Generally, the Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) is a pretty tough, well-adapted plant for our area, and not much bothered by pests and diseases. There are three insect pests that can disturb it, creating various symptoms of the presence of the pest, one of which might be the "cotton" you are seeing on the leaves. Go to the websites indicated to see the symptoms, matching them up with your observations, and find a treatment that seems reasonable to you in the situation. Given the area where you are seeing this cotton, we would suggest that you trim back the area of the Turk's Cap that seems most affected. Since you have already observed that it is worse in the most-shaded area, and since you can prune Turk's Cap nearly all year long and not damage it, we would certainly suggest that you trim that out of the shady area, and dispose of it so whatever bug is causing the problem will not get an opportunity to spread somewhere else. 

Aphids: these will definitely cause leaf curl, and the honeydew they excrete begins as a whitish area, although it can develop a black fungus that will change the color and is really ugly. University of California Integrated Pest Management Aphids

Spider mites: this is probably the best suspect in your case, as the spider mite is a member of the Arachnid (spider) family and has web-spinning abilities. Again, from the UC IPM program Spider Mites

Mealy bugs: these individual bugs can also have a cottony appearance, and you can find some easy control methods in this eHow site How to Control Mealybugs.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Effects or insecticide on Monarch butterflies
July 28, 2013 - Thank you for fielding questions about plants!! Our nursery just informed us that their milkweed grower was using imidacloprid in their milkweed production. As a follow up to the question already in...
view the full question and answer

Root rot and transplant shock in Texas betony
July 13, 2006 - Texas betony is supposed to be drought resistant but also likes to be kept moist, but I have had trouble getting it established. These seem to be undemanding plants I have had entire stems dry up and...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Blackfoot Daisy from Lewisville, TX
April 23, 2013 - I planted a row of Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot Daisy) last spring at the front of the front yard, next to the sidewalk. It's full sun, east facing, unamended black clay gumbo soil. I put mulc...
view the full question and answer

Poppies for a wedding in August from Highlands Ranch CO
February 04, 2013 - Are poppies available to buy for weddings in August in Colorado?
view the full question and answer

Comment on poisonous sweet pea plant from Kalama WA
October 29, 2011 - No question, comment only. I am aware of the story of Christopher McCandless (Call of the Wild)and the belief that he was poisoned by ingesting part of the sweet pea plant; however I am curious what ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center