jump to navigation

Asian Longhorn Beetle March 24, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Insects.
1 comment so far

I was asked to do a small study on the Asian LongHorn Beetle (ALB) for my Arboroculture class a few years back and to say the least this is a very interesting beetle. So most of my information I was able to obtain mostly through the University of Vermont mainly due to the fact that the ALB has been found in the New England region. However I have added onto the bottom of this blog of not just the UV information but some other sites that are interesting to read as well.



Asian Longhorn Beetle: Description

Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky) or more commonly known as the Asian Longhorn Beetle (ALB) is about an inch long and is of dark colors, mainly a glossy or shiny coal black color with white spots (University of Vermont). Females are larger than males and have shorter antennae. Males tend to have large antennae and a sleeker smaller bullet shaped body. ALB has more than likely been introduced into New York, Chicago, and New Jersey through shipping yards. An exotic insect from the Asian areas; ALB now threatens many of the United States native trees.


Asian Longhorn Beetle: Left - Male, Right - Female

Asian Longhorn Beetle: Left - Male, Right - Female


The ALB has aimed its appetite mostly for Maple (Acer) species, such as; Boxelder, Norway, red, silver and Sugar Maple. The ALB is most commonly found on these tree species, however ALB has also been found on these species of trees too; Alders, birches, elms, horsechestnut, popular, mulberry, black locust, and willows (Pest Alert). Sugar maples in China are used as trap trees on plantations. ALBs are attracted to sugar maples more than other maple species. The beetles are then treated within these infested trees or the trees are cut down and removed (Koday’s).




Found in the United States and thought to be high interest areas for infestations of Exotic Longhorn Beetles (beetles NOT native to North America).



Asian Longhorn beetles leave large almost dime sized holes in the hosts’ trunk. The larvas eat the heartwood of the host and girdle it from the inside out. Females leave large gapping oviposition wounds in the trunk which in time can leave the host susceptible to other insect or pathogen infections. Healthy hosts will ooze out of the open wounds and try to force the insects out. Stressed hosts will become more stressed if attached by the beetles. The beetles have been known to attack very healthy trees forcing the healthy trees into decline, eventually killing the host, already stressed trees die much faster.


Warranting Management:

IF a tree has been infested with ALB then the situation warrants management.


Management Options:

The best management option is to not allow the Asian Longhorn beetle to infest hosts.



Climate doesn’t seem to affect the Asian Longhorn beetle too much. The ALB has been confirmed in New York, New Jersey and Illinois in the early to mid 1990s and its natural habitat is China. The beetles have not yet been found in Europe and at one time it was recorded in Japan, and is present in Korea Democratic People’s Republic, Korea Republic, and Taiwan. Cooler temperatures don’t seem to be an issue for the beetles (EPPO). The ALB (or other exotic Longhorn beetles) has also been seen in ports all over the U.S. such as; Southern California, the Virginias, Florida, Washington, around other Great Lakes states, and all up and down the East Cost. This doesn’t mean that the beetles are present (University of Vermont).


            Mechanical Practices:

Mechanical means as of right now seem to be the best way of controlling the ALB. Removal of the tree is the best management IF trees have been infested. In the United States we should keep it confined to the areas it has already infested and to not allow the beetles to move from the areas in it has already infested.


Biocontrols and Pesticides:

Many pesticides have been put under testing. To name a few Imidacloprid, Disulfoton, Acephate, Bifenthrin, and Chlorpyrifos have all been applied as soil injection, trunk injection and trunk implanting. Imidacloprid is the active ingredient in the common insecticide Marathon interestingly enough was the most affective in killing the beetles. Marathon has been the most over used insecticide in greenhouse pest management and many insects have developed immunity to it. However, it seems the ALB don’t have a very good defense against imidacloprid, especially if it is trunk injected (University of Vermont). It should also be noted that NONE of these chemicals can be used on any kind of crop trees, such as Maples for maple sugar. Natural biocontrols have still not been found; because the beetles spend a good portion of their time inside the tree it is hard for natural controls to reach them. Entomologists and other researchers are still looking for the biocontrols or pathogens that attack the ALBs.



As of right now there is no “cure all” for this pest. However, there are many people working all over the world trying to control it. As of right now the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services has adopted the rule of thumb that if a tree is infested with ALB then it should be removed because the U.S. and the world for that mater has yet to identify another way of control other than to not allow the pest to spread.




EPPO DATA SHEETS ON QUARANTINE PESTS Anoplophora glabripennis http://www.eppo.org/QUARANTINE/insects/Anoplophora_glabripennis/ANOLGL_ds.pdf


Koday’s Kids Amazing Insects: Asian Longhorned Beetle


University of Vermont: Insecticides



University of Vermont: Asian Longhorned Beetle















Ergot and Ergotism February 23, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Plant Pathogens.
add a comment

Civilizations have been plagued with a fungus called Ergot for centuries. Ergot is found on all the grains of the world but is most commonly found on rye and wheat. Ergot replaces the grain with purplish sclerotium, which is a hard compact mass of fungal tissue, and is the place where the sexual stage of the fungus will take place after over wintering (Hill, SP 2007). The sclerotia form the ergot, and mostly grow in wet cool areas, or when there has been a particularly wet season. In French ergot means “spur,” because it resembles the spur of a male rooster which, is on the back of their leg used to protect themselves. The sclerotia are “full” of alkaloids and when a mammal eats them the resulting disease is called Ergotism. Ergot on RyeErgotism constricts the blood vessels of mammals and can have devastating consequences. In humans there are two “types” of ergotism: One being Gangrenous, which is the physical constriction of blood vessels and the extremities of the body, can actually fall off and dry gangrene, can set in (Matoissian, 1989, p. 5.1). The second is Convulsive ergotism, which causes hallucinations, convulsions, and the sense of flying and can cause abortions (Hill, FA 2007).

Throughout history, especially in the European nations and a little in the Americas ergotism plagued the peoples and were known as epidemics. Religions and governments didn’t have a clue as to what was happening to the people and there are many stories and epidemics that are blamed on ergots; they didn’t know how to stop or control the horrible things that happened to the people. In today’s society we know more about ergots and ergotism and we for the most part know how to control the fungus from growing. Even though ergots are a bad thing now and throughout history there are some good uses medicinally as well like; midwives used them to stop the bleeding after child birth and migraine headaches.

The Roman Catholic Church during the 1500’s was particularly preyed upon by ergotism. Wheat during this period was particularly expensive to the peasants, so they all grew and ate rye bread. Ergotism is more common on rye and it is extremely difficult to tell dark rye from ergot. If light rye was ground into flour and ergot was also ground with the light rye then the resulting color would be a dusty brown color and it could be easily identified that something was wrong with the flour. However, with dark rye and ergot being ground into flour, it’s not distinguishable and therefore was made into bread and eaten regularly. The peasants became continuously sick with ergotism, so they would go to the only place, they new; the Church and God (Hill, SP 2007).

The Catholic Church uses Saints for miraculous cures or devastating plagues. Saint Anthony is the Saint that the Church chose to accommodate for ergotism even though the Church didn’t know what ergotism was, they called it “Saint Anthony’s Fire”. Saint Anthony's FireSaint Anthony is also associated with another disease from Ancient Egypt that had close to the same symptoms, if not, the exact same. The Church has money and therefore was able to afford wheat flour. Thus, when the peasants went to the Church for help, they actually received help. The peasants ate wheat bread which wasn’t infected with ergot, unlike the rye bread which was, and therefore were actually cured. Then the peasants would go back to where they were living and began to become ill again because they are eating rye bread and therefore began to have the same symptoms. The people thought that it was God that was curing them through Saint Anthony and therefore many turned to the Church. Today we know that it was because the people weren’t eating the ergot rye bread and therefore were flushing the ergot out of their systems.

Staring from 1865 up to the Communist Revolution, Russia collected data of its peoples, crops and weather (Matoissian, 1989, p. 5.1). It was with this data that interference with areas in Russia that were largely dependent on rye was able to lower birth rate mortalities. Rye is a hardy grass that grows well in Russia, but unfortunately, the weather conditions are just right for ergot growth as well. By the mid nineteenth century the Russians knew about the dangers of ergotism (Matossian, 1986, p 475). Russians for the last two centuries at this time had the highest infant mortality rate in all of Europe (Matoissian, 1989, p. 5.1). For every one thousand births approximately 260 deaths occurred because of ergotism (Matossian, 1986, p 475). Ergotism can easily move from the blood system to a mother’s milk sacks so the children were drinking potent amounts of alkaloids (Matoissian, 1989, p. 5.1). Thanks to the data that the Russians started in the 1860’s the mortality rates of infants went down dramatically over the next century and today are down by an astonishing 26.90% (Russian Demographics, 2007). From the 260 deaths per every one thousand to only about 11.6 deaths per everyone thousand thanks to knowing where and how to combat ergot on plants is incredible.

The present impact of ergot is minimal. Today we have discovered a solution to “sterilize” ergots from rye seeds. A type of floating method has been devised of a solution approximately 30% potassium chloride and is pored over the rye seeds and then stirred. The ergot stage is buoyant and will float to the top of the mix and can be easily skimmed off the top, which in turn will minimize the amount of infected seeds that are planted every year (University of Hawaii, Botany 135). Today we still extract medicinal products out of ergot. Ergotamine is used as a headache and migraine reliever and Ergonovine is used to control postpartum hemorrhaging and can cause contractions of the uterus (University of Hawaii, Botany 135). However, women used the latter use scene the seventeenth century.

An interesting fact is that lysergic acid amide, or LSD a very powerful hallucinogen, can also be derived from ergot. Lulow Hoffmann, a Swiss chemist during the 1950’s, first discovered the drug while working on ergot. He accidentally absorbed a solution that ergot was soaking in, through his finger tips. He reported that for several months after this encounter when ever he turned on the water facet he didn’t see water coming out, but rather he saw blood (Hill, FA 2007). The hallucinogenic compound in ergot is an alkaloid, and all alkaloids are more or less soluble in water; but the toxic ones in ergots are less soluble than the hallucinogenic ones (Fungi as Parasites). LSD doesn’t occur in ergots but is a semi-synthetic derivative made in the lab from lysergic acid amide (Fungi as Parasites).

Even though today ergot and ergotism isn’t as large of a problem as it once was, it is still found throughout the world and can still be a very large nuisance. I was collecting wild grasses not to far from where I live in Aurora, Colorado and I came across it in the fields. Ergot is still prevalent today, we just know how to watch for it, and we can now easily get rid of the infected plants. People can still die from ergotism or lose limbs or have hallucinations, but it’s much less common. People should just be more careful of what they eat and hopefully if they bye rye bread from the grocery stores especially dark rye bread they will be able to trust the producer who made the bread. For the most part today ergot is used for the good things it does and can be found and taken care of so the bad things don’t happen.

For more information on Ergot and Ergotism look up these sources:

  1. Matoissian, M. Poisons of the Past/Ergotism 5.1. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989 http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/5_1Poisons%20of%20the%20Past%20Ergotism.htm

  1. Matossian, Mary Kilbourne Slavic Review: Vol. 45, No. 3 p. 457. Climate, Crops, and Natural Increase in Rural Russia, 1861-1913. Copyright 1986 The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. http://www.jstor.org/view/00376779/di000529/00p0098d/0

  1. Russian Demographics 2007. Russia Infant mortality rate: total: 11.06 deaths/1,000 live births male: 12.6 deaths/1,000 live births female: 9.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.) http://www.indexmundi.com/russia/infant_mortality_rate.html

  1. University of Hawaii. Ergot of Rye – I: Introduction and History. Lecture of Botany 135. http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM

Fungi as Parasites. Destructive Fungal Parasites. Ergotism. http://www.angelfire.com/wizard/kimbrough/Textbook/Ergotism_blue.htm#TOP

*NOTE: it should also be noted that I learned much of my knowledge from two classes that I have taken here at Colorado State University both taught by Dr. Jo Hill: Plants and Civilizations and Plant Pathology. So I defiantly give him lots of credit.

Christmas Time Plants February 17, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Plants/Civilizations.
1 comment so far

 The Christmas cactus has always been a magical like plant to the western civilizations when it was discovered in South America is the early 1800’s.

Christmas Cactus Plant


Why the Christmas cactus is called the Christmas cactus?

Something I have always wondered about because it is a cactus, but not in the traditional sense and it seems to me that it is not a plant that is normally associated with the Christmas and winter Holidays. It is really a tropical plant from the Latin American rainforests and is widely available in Brazil. The plant drives from the Cactaceae family and its scientific name is Schlumbergera bridesii. According to Christmascarnivals.com the name came from a 19th century Frenchman named Fredric Schlumberger (hence the genus name Schlumbergera) who collected the cacti and saw that it blooms around Christmas time. Due to much hybridization of the plant the horticulture industry has been able to create the many different colors of the blossoms ranging from dark magenta to bright white.  The colors of the blossoms have been given many different meanings much like roses and how a bouquet of all red roses means “I love you” and a bouquet of red and white roses means “unity.”  The leaves of the cactus are flattened almost stem like with deep notches making it appear as if the leaf had been “glued” together from end to end. The blossoms also look almost orchid like, which brings us back to the fact that it is a cactus but not in the traditional sense.



A very pretty flower which doesn’t really look like it should be coming out of a cactus like plant mainly because most of us are more familiar with the great dessert cactus (which also have gorgeous flowers but don’t look like this).

The Christmas cactus is easy to take care of and to grow if you ever feel the need to grow one. All that simply needs to be done is: of watering and a decent amount of warmth and food ever now and then, but in order to get the plants to flower you should give it more light than it is normally used to because the plant can adapt to low light because of its natural habitat, but more light gives it more blooms. But you must be careful to still have some shade because complete direct sun light could scorch the leaves which is something I’m sure no one wants. Mainly make sure to shade the plant during the months of May through September. It needs well drained soils mainly due to the fact that the plant is an epiphyte, which means the plant lives on other objects (mainly other plants) in its natural habitat. But be sure not to mistake the plant for a parasitic plant which not only live on other plants, but steals all its nutrients from its host plant. The plant is not a true cactus and therefore it is not as drought tolerant as dessert cactus and therefore needs supplemental watering, but DO NOT drowned it in water and make sure that soil is able to drain the water out swiftly. DO NOT allow water to stand in a plate or catch bucket at the bottom of a planter. Either poor out the water at the bottom of the planter or use a turkey baster to remove the water (which is the best way to remove water without disturbing the plant).

This is a short history and an easy way to make a long healthy living plant (some of which are over 100 years old).


Another plant that is seen during the late months of the year is the Poinsettia. Many know this name and like to get at least one for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but what many don’t know is where they come from. Many also know lots of the folklore that comes with these plants, but I am going to make sure that you all know of at least two that are myth.

First off Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulchenima) are native to southern Mexico and Guatemala where they grow as a large shrubs or small trees as seen depicted here:

Poinsettias Natural Habitat


However it wasn’t until the 1930’s when a man named Paul Ecke was able to tame this plant into what we now know as the common Poinsettia bought in our stores. Ecke was born and bred right here in Colorado and is a proud alumni of Colorado State University, as of right now, his grandson Paul Ecke III runs the business and is still a proud breeder of the infamous Poinsettia.

Now to the myths:

1.       Are Poinsettias poisonous to humans?

a.       Poinsettias are not poisonous to humans, small children if ingested can get a stomach ache and they would have to eat at least 50 bracts in order for that to happen, but that is it. An adult would have to eat up to 300+ bracts for them to receive a stomach ache. If there is any kind of “poison” it would be due to the fact that the “sap” inside to plants is a form of latex, therefore if anyone is “poisoned” it is more likely they have an allergy to latex.

b.      However, NEVER ALLOW a cat to ingest any part of the Poinsettia. Poinsettias are poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure within minutes. NOTE* kidney failure in cats due to Poinsettias, won’t always be in minutes it can take time, so it is always best to take your cat to the Vets as soon as you notice that the cat has ingested the plant.

2.       Are the colored parts of Poinsettias the flowers?

a.       Again NO, the colored parts of a Poinsettia are not the flowers. They are called bracts, which are like leaves, but not leaves either. They subtend the small yellow middle of the plant which are the flowers.



There will be more later on myths about plants and plant pathogens.

In the Beginning February 5, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Uncategorized.
add a comment

To start out the human civilizations we know today and throughout history would never have existed without plants existing first. Here’s a brief history of plants:

The first plant forms known to geological records showed up during the Archeozoic Eon (Archean) around 3.9 to 2.5 billion years ago. Known as the “Ancient Life” the first life forms evolved. One celled organisms like Blue-green algae, Achaeans, and bacteria appeared in the sea thus freeing oxygen into the atmosphere and making the planet inhabitable for future organisms. Like humans who didn’t appear until the latter end of the Cenozoic Era also known as “The Age of Mammals” around 65 million years ago. As stated before humans were at the latter end of the Era during the Quaternary Period also known as the “The Age of Man” around 1.8 million years ago through today. However what we call “Human Civilization” like we know today, or during times like the Roman Empire, began around 11,000 years ago to today in what is now called the Holocene age or more commonly known as “Human Civilization.”

For more information on the “Earth” time line visit:

Enchanted Learning

Another way of knowing that plants became before humans is in religion. For Christians using the King James Version (KJV) it states in the first book of the Old Testament Genesis Ch1: 11 and 12 that on the third day God:

“11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth agrass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth abrought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his bkind: and God saw that it was good.”

Then it states later in Genesis Ch1: 26 and 27 on the sixth day:

“26 ¶ And God said, Let aus bmake cman in our dimage, after our elikeness: and let them have fdominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own aimage, in the image of God created he him; male and bfemale created he them.”

To find more on the Old and New Testaments and their scriptures visit:


Or in the Jewish first book of the Torah, Bereshit, it states in Ch1: 11 and 12;

“11 And G-d said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth’ And it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and G-d saw that it was good.”

And in Bereshit Ch1: 26 and 27;

“26 And G-d said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’.

27 And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them.”

To find more on the Torah and it’s scriptures visit:

The Jewish Virtual Library

So even in religion plants were still before humans.

The way I see it: there is no denying that, no matter which way you decide to look at it, plants had to of come before humans.

The Basics February 3, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Hi all this blog I am writing is for those of you who just want to know about plants and plant interactions. I will be writing about the interactions of plants from the beginning and throughout human civilizations. I will be writing about the interesting, pivotal, and in many cases the “I’m never going to use this unless I go on to a game show or I actually work in the horticulture or agriculture fields.” This blog is for those that are just curious.

I am currently a  student getting a Bachelors of Science in Horticulture with a concentration in Floriculture and a minor in Horticulture Landscape. I have taken several classes that pertain to plants obviously but I also have a large fetish with art so I have also several art history classes and I have come to understand how/what plants have done for not only the art world but the history of civilization as well.

I am unbiased when it comes to talking about plants therefore I will be writing from many angles like science, history, art, and religion. I’ve taken several classes about all and I will be more than happy to hear about anything else interesting about a plant subject that either I don’t know that much about or have just never heard of it, because the world of plants is a VERY BIG world. I’m looking forward to writing and reading what you all can tell me about plants and of course if there are any questions that you all have to ask me I will do my best to answer.