Orange-striped Oak Worm


Orange-striped Oak Worm

Orange-striped Oak Worm

Just when you think you’ve had enough with pests munching on your landscape …along comes one more!

I’m always surprised in August when I see the first Orange-striped Oak Worm. In my mind, they have become harbingers of cooler weather ahead.

Orange-striped Oak Worms have one generation per year. Adults (moths) emerge and lay clusters of yellow eggs on the bottom of oak leaves. Young caterpillars are yellow and feed gregariously, skeletonizing leaves, leaving most fine veins intact. As they grow, larvae become black with increasingly noticeable orange stripes. Large larvae can consume entire leaves, leaving only the mid-vein.

These caterpillars can partially or entirely defoliate trees, but often only one or two branches are affected. Later they’ll start crawling down trees to the ground looking for pupation sites in soil and leaf litter. By that time though, they are usually about done feeding for the year so treatment is not warranted.

NCSU’s Steve Franks, supplied this additional interesting tidbit about the Orange-striped Oak Worm:

“Mark Coffelt and Pete Schultz studied this critter at Virginia Tech in the 1990’s. They looked at the life cycle, damage, parasitoids, and developed a sampling plan, aesthetic injury level, and threshold for taking action to reduce further damage.

“The authors also used a survey with photographs of trees with 15, 25, 50, 75, or 100% defoliation. 70% of respondents were willing to accept some defoliation, and 42% responded that 25% defoliation was aesthetically acceptable. Moreover, Coffelt and Schultz found that 25% defoliation did not reduce root starch reserves which is a measure of tree vigor.”

Fellow gardeners reinforce my philosophy that one doesn’t have to reach for the sprayer every time a pest takes a bite out of one of our plants. Particularly if those plants are mature, well-established trees.

Kids can enter the Fair too!

imageThe North Carolina Mountain State Fair is September 11-20. There is much fun to experience with all of the shows, rides, exhibits and animals. In addition, there are the smells of many types of food and cotton candy.

There is something of interest for every age group from cooking, canning and quilting to art and photography. Each competition is divided by age groups to include children. Check out the section of your interest at for times to enter and everything you need to know to prepare your winning entry.

imageFor example, you may enter the two flower shows that are sponsored by Buncombe County Extension Master Gardeners. Ages 6 to 19 may pre-register by August 28, competing in their age group of 6-8, 9-13 or 14-19. Bring in flowers with clear glass containers to enter the first show on September 9 and the second show on the 15th. Judges award ribbons. First place is $10.00 for a blue ribbon, with red $6 and white $4. There is prize money of over $14,000 for this department!

Check out the educational display in the Expo building for more information about herbs, annuals and perennials. Take a look at the Fair through a child’s eyes. School age children are admitted free on the opening day of the Fair and can proudly show their entries to parents and grandparents. With two flower shows, the excitement of competition can happen twice during those ten days of the N.C. Mountain State Fair!

We hope to see you at the Fair!


Gardening in the Mountains: Cool Weather Crops

GITM -August - Cool Weather Crops

GITM -August – Cool Weather Crops

Gardening in the Mountains: “Cool Weather Crops” presented by EMGV Alan Wagner. Thursday, August 20, 10:00 am. Free

Love vegetables? Love to garden? Learn how to extend your gardening season with the right plants and the right strategies. Successfully grow crops in early spring, fall, and maybe even winter.


Registration requested. Call (828) 255-5522.

Location: Buncombe County Center, 94 Coxe Ave., Asheville.

Free parking in the lot across the street.

NC Prepares for Possible Avian Flu Outbreak



While chickens are not in the line of the duty for our work as EMGVs, many gardeners have chickens and so this might be helpful information.

RALEIGH – State Veterinarian Doug Meckes announced additional precautions that are being put in place to help North Carolina prepare for a possible introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register for an NCFarmID number, Meckes said. This will facilitate the department in alerting poultry owners about an outbreak, especially owners in close proximity to a positive farm. Poultry owners can also sign up for a national premises ID number, but it is not required. Anyone already part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan is exempt from this requirement. An online sign-up form will be available after Aug. 1.

“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” Meckes said. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.”

Information gathered through NCFarmID registration is used solely for animal health purposes. This critical data will provide animal health officials with necessary contact information in case of an animal health concern, and help identify animals and premises that may have been affected.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is also requiring any commercial poultry grower with 200 or more birds to submit a HPAI outbreak plan. A commercial grower would be any grower under contract with an integrated company.

“It’s very important that growers think through the worst-case scenario, because a confirmation of high-path avian flu would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Meckes said. “We want each grower to consider their resources and location to determine how they can best handle an outbreak in a way that is environmentally sensitive and gets them back online as soon as is feasible.”

An HPAI Outbreak Plan template will be available on the department’s website after Aug. 1. Growers will need to submit the plan to the Veterinary Division no later than Sept. 15. While only commercial growers will be required to submit the plan, all flock owners are encouraged to plan ahead and consider how they would respond to a confirmed positive.

Last month, Meckes and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced that bird shows and sales would be halted fromAug. 15 to January 15, 2016. The intent is to prevent birds from commingling and spreading the HPAI virus. Individual sales are still allowed to take place.

For more information about avian influenza and the department’s response plans, go to

Entering Mountain State Fair

imageLook to your garden now and make plans to enter the Standard Flower Show (Sept 9) or the Flower and Garden Show (Sept 15) at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair September 11-20th. Buncombe County Extension Master Gardeners sponsors these shows and encourages amateur gardeners of all ages to enter the competition. There is a youth component, and we will post more information about that soon.

Cash premiums are presented for Blue, Red and White Ribbons. Best of Show and/ or the Judge’s Choice can also be awarded. The exhibitor must grow all the plant material for specimen classes. Container grown plants must be established in the container for at least 3 months. Artificial and silk flowers, endangered species or extremely invasive plants – such as Oriental Bittersweet are not allowed.

Complete set of rules for submitting entries and other useful information can be found in the online at Go to Mountain State Fair and then Competitions to find Exhibitor Rules and Entry Forms. Find Flower and Garden under Department M. Entry Forms much be received by August 28, 2015. Entry forms just show your intent to enter and may be emailed.

Photo by Diane PuckettStandard Flower Show sample categories Include:

  • Cut Annuals
  • Cut Perennials
  • Dahlias
  • Cut Foliage (no blooms or seedheads)
  • Culinary Herbs
  • Flowering or Berried Shrubs and Trees
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Cut Roses
  • Hanging Plants
  • Container grown Plants
  • Wreaths (by hand)
  • Design and Arrangements

Locust Leafminer

Don’t worry about those brown trees!

By Glenn Palmer –
Every year around this time people start asking about “Those trees that are already turning color”, like fall has come earlier and earlier. Generally they’re referring to roadside stands of Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia). The discoloration is caused by the offspring of a small beetle called the Locust Leafminer (Odontota orsalis). The female beetle deposits eggs inside Black Locust leaves where the larvae hatch and feed, creating “mines” between the upper and lower surfaces that eventually turn the leaves brown.

This is an annual occurrence, but there seem to be cycles where some areas are particularly hard-hit and entire mountainsides do indeed look like fall has arrived. Although a systemic insecticide applied at the right time might reduce the damage there doesn’t seem to be any long range ill effects on the trees.

Photo by Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State

Photo by Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State Univ

Dirr, in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, says “Black Locust is an ‘alley cat’ type of tree which can survive under the toughest conditions like strip-mined areas, highway cuts and fills. Not recommended for the home landscape.”

So, our suggestion is to find something else to worry about. No action needs to be taken regarding those browning trees.

By the way, Locust wood is a survivor, good for ground contact like fence posts or raised garden beds where it generally will last much longer than cedar lumber.

Nature’s Ingenuity

Basic Botany is a useful Tool for any Gardener
by Glenn Palmer

To me one of the important rewards of gardening has been gaining an appreciation for nature’s ingenuity, an understanding of the mechanisms that plants have adopted to carry them through their life cycles.

For example, take peas. The vine needs to fasten itself to the trellis for support as it climbs. But did you ever wonder how tendrils find the trellis? And what makes them twirl around? Or why do they climb in the first place?

Photo by Maria Keays

Photo by Maria Keays

It’s all due to “isms” like phototropism. If the light is overhead when a seed sprouts it will grow toward the light. If the light is off to one side a hormone called auxin causes the cell on the side away from the light to grow faster, bending the stem toward the light source. That’s called positive phototropism. Growing toward the light.

Thigmotropism is growth in response to touch or contact. As the pea climbs, its tip spirals around and then when it contacts something that might serve as a support thigmotropism – a sense of touch – takes over and one-sided growth shifts to make the tendril wrap about that support.

Positive or negative geotropisms cause parts of plants to grow against or toward gravity, away from or toward the earth. Negative geotropism causes White Pines to grow straight up, away from gravity while Sourwoods stick with positive phototropism and wander back and forth seeking the sunlight as the canopy above them changes. That’s why pioneers used naturally bent Sourwood logs as sledge runners.

And then there’s sex. Not an “ism” but something a gardener needs to understand. How do plants reproduce? We cut and plant pieces of a potato – actually they’re pieces of the root – to grow a new plant and more potatoes. But that’s not nature’s way. Given the right conditions – long days and cool nights – potatoes, members of the same genus as tomatoes, will produce small flowers which develop into small green “berries”.

Photo by John Meade

Photo by John Meade

Inside those berries will develop seeds which is the natural way for potatoes to reproduce. Due to our unusual 2015 weather pattern we’re seeing some of these potato berries in our gardens right now. But heads up! Those berries contain a toxin and are not edible!

EMGV Training Class 2016

imageN.C. Cooperative Extension, Buncombe County Center, will not be offering an Extension Master Gardener Certification class in 2016. Positive changes to update and streamline the EMGV training curriculum statewide are underway and more than likely will not be completed in time for the 2016 class deadlines. In addition, NC Cooperative Extension is implementing a strategic plan that affects budget, staffing, resources and programming on the local level, making it difficult to fully manage the many aspects and activities of our current master gardener group.

It is important that we have the program support and curriculum resources needed to provide a great experience for our all of our volunteers. Please be patient as we revamp the program and make sure the class of 2017 has the best EMGV experience possible.

Please call 828-255-5522 to register your name and be notified about the 2017 EMGV Certification application period.

Shedding Bark

By Glenn Palmer – 

imageEvery year around this time we are contacted by homeowners and landscapers who notice bark peeling off crape myrtles and accumulating around trees. This causes great concern because for most tree species shedding bark is very bad. For crape myrtles however, it is completely normal and happens every year. Often the landscape below is strewn with strips of crape myrtle bark.

Some crape myrtle varieties seem to shed more bark and in larger pieces than others. The multi-colored patterned bark is one of the attractive features of these trees and this shedding contributes to those patterns. In any case, just rake it up and figure it is probably a sign of active growth and a healthy tree.