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Mr. Smarty Plants - Mystery pest eating portulaca blooms

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Sunday - July 02, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Mystery pest eating portulaca blooms
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm from Texas and I purchased some portulaca from a local nursery about three weeks ago and planted them in the front yard....with plenty of sun. Here's the problem. The foliage seems very healthy, nice and green and full. Almost each plants seems to have a few flowers every morning and they open up well, but by the next morning the flowers are completely gone. I don't mean they've closed up; it looks as though all the flowers have been just snipped off. I don't think that they're being eaten by animals and I don't see any evidence of insects eating them. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Certainly, Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and other Portulaca spp. (e.g., Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora) are edible and it sounds as if something is eating your Portulaca. Squirrels are a likely suspect, but I wouldn't rule out mice and rats, as well. Desert tortoises and land iguanas are known to eat Portulaca, too, but I think we can be pretty certain that those aren't your culprits. It is reported to be a favorite of deer which could be the culprit in some parts of Austin. However, I suspect the deer would go after all the plant, not just the flowers. I think most likely it is one of the small rodents named above.
 

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