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 - September 05, 2011

From: Jesup, GA
Region: Select Region
Topic: Pests, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Caterpillars devouring Blue Wild Indigo in Jesup GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a false blue indigo growing in my garden. Every spring it gets defoliated by Genista moth caterpillars. It usually doesn't put out new growth until the next spring. This summer, it has put out new growth and now it is covered in the caterpillars again. Should I use some control to get rid of them or should I just let nature take it's course?

ANSWER:

Baptisia australis (Blue wild indigo) is native to North America and to Georgia. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it is native to far northwestern Georgia, while Wayne County is in far southeastern Georgia. We don't think that is germane to your problem, just a comment. With a species name like australis, we were surprised that it was native to North America at all, but it turns out the "australis" means "southern" and not "from Australia." We are always learning new things. Also, when we searched on our Native Plant Database on the common name "False Blue Indigo" we got zero results. When we searched on the Internet the same way, this is the plant we got. The "False" may be part of a trade name, or it may be another totally different, and non-native, plant.

Now let's talk about the Genista caterpillar. How did you identify it as such? Here are pictures of the caterpillar and moth. From the National Society of Arboculture, please read this article on the Genista. In particular, note their comments on the use of pesticides. We have not found any research indicating that the Blue Wild Indigo is a larval host for the Genista moth; however, it would appear that is what you are seeing.

From BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of North America, we found the information that wild blue indigo is a larval host to the Wild Indigo Duskywing.

From Gardens with Wings, we found pictures of the caterpillar, mature butterfly and chrysalis of this visitor to the Wild Blue Indigo.

Bottom Line: We learned that the Genista is a web producing caterpillar that attacks Texas laurel, crape myrtle, honeysuckle, and Laburnum. Larvae defoliate as well as spin webs. We would appeal to you not to employ pesticides, as they can do much more harm than good to the surrounding vegetation, butterflies, soil and water supply. Whatever is eating your plant, if you would rather not have a chewed-on plant, we suggest you pull it out. There is no point in wasting scarce resources on a plant that is not satisfactory to you.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Blue wild indigo
Baptisia australis

Blue wild indigo
Baptisia australis

Blue wild indigo
Baptisia australis

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Avoiding planting Indian Paintbrush in Hawaii because of invasiveness
March 01, 2007 - My daughter is living in Hilo, Hawaii. For her birthday, her boyfriend ordered her some Indian Paintbrush seeds. Trying to be sure she grows them correctly in a pot, she found instructions that say ...
view the full question and answer

Plant called beargrass from Granbury, TX
September 24, 2011 - I am not a native Texan. We have a clump of what my husband (from Big Spring) calls "Bear Grass." It is over to the side of our yard and we have always enjoyed it (moved here in 1982). It blooms ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion on slope in Texas
June 19, 2010 - We have an erosion problem developing on the low side of a gently sloping hill. We are in clay soil at the base of the hill with oaks and pines. We have a right of way that is without trees forty fee...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
June 29, 2012 - I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. ...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of endangered plant Texas trailing phlox from Carrollton TX
December 26, 2013 - 1. How many seeds does the Texas trailing phlox produce per season? 2. Can the seeds be taken from a living plant without hurting it? Thank You!
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