Have you ever walked by a shrub that looked like it was covered with spaghetti? No, it’s not cloudy with a chance of meatballs – the plant is infected with a weed called Dodder. Dodder is a parasitic vine that is extremely difficult to eradicate. What is a parasitic vine? It’s a weed that depends on a host plant for all of its needs.
How to Identify Dodder
To spot Dodder, look for long, slender, thread like stems that kind of look like spaghetti. It may also have bell shaped flowers that are cream colored. Dodder is a tricky weed because it grows and branches out to nearby plants very easily. Because of this ability, it often looks like a matted mess covering up a whole plant. The more vines there are, the more energy that is removed from the host plant. The loss of nutrients to the Dodder combined with the loss of light from the matted weeds can cause major damage to the host plant.
One of the biggest challenges with Dodder is its seeds. Dodder is a flowering plant and its flowers will produce thousands of seeds which, when mature, will fall to the soil below. The seeds have a very hard coat around them and stay dormant in the soil until the right conditions come around to sprout. When it comes to getting rid of a Dodder infestation, it is the seeds that cause the greatest headache, which is why prevention is so important.
At the first sign of Dodder, pull it off the plant and throw it away. Check the infestation site often because the weed may quickly regrow so it’s important to keep pulling. If you see Dodder soon after it has attached itself to a host, prune the infected portion of the host plant 1/8 to 1/4 inch below the point of the attachment, otherwise the dodder can regenerate. If the Dodder is attached to a shrub or tree, pruning is only helpful if it is confined to one or two branches. Removing any more than that will most likely cause major damage to the host shrub or tree.
Because Dodder is extremely difficult to destroy once it has taken over a plant, it is important to try to end the growth cycle. Use a pre-emergent herbicide like oryzaline that, when added to the soil under the infested plants, will kill the seed before it grows. Currently, there are no post-emergent herbicides that kill dodder without also killing the host plant. If the infestation is completely unmanageable, removal of the host plant with its attached dodder may be the easiest solution.
Is Artificial Turf Right for Your Lawn?
First seen in the 1960’s, artificial turf used to be installed only at football fields, putt-putt courses and tacky backyard patios. Synthetic grass has come a long way since then and is gaining more respect. When water bills are high and water conservation is top of mind, many homeowners are questioning whether artificial grass may be right for their yard. According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Water Wise program, turf can be the most water intensive planting in a landscape. They suggest that if you don’t need turf, replace it with lower water use landscape options (such as natural desert landscaping). If you need turf, consider a synthetic lawn or a native grass turf. Let’s take an un-biased look at natural and artificial grass:
- Improves air quality. The grass blades and extensive root systems capture pollutants such as dust, ozone and sulfur dioxide. Like other living plants, grass lawns absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
- Acts as an evaporative cooler and lowers surrounding air temperatures. In 2004, Salt River Project (SRP) conducted an 18 month research exhibition on select grass varieties, synthetic turf and xeriscape. Natural grass was the coolest at 100 degrees.
- Requires maintenance. Lawns need regular watering, mowing, fertilizing and weeding, as well as occasional aerating, dethatching and the optional overseeding.
- Lower install costs. A natural lawn can cost about $1 per square foot to install, while artificial turf averages around $6 to $8 per square foot.
- Easy to maintain – artificial grass only requires an occasional hosing to remove dust and raking to maintain appearance. You can create grass where it would otherwise be difficult to grow and maintain.
- Has a hot surface. In SRP’s temperature test, synthetic grass topped the charts at an unbearable 165 degrees. However, it did cool off quickly when shaded and did not radiate heat like asphalt. See the graph at the bottom of the page.
- Synthetic grass is hypo-allergenic and won’t aggravate your allergies.
- Long term water savings may outweigh the install costs. Most companies offer a 9-10 year manufacturer’s warranty and the average life span is 15-20 years. Dan Levy of XGrass® states, “Artificial grass can save a homeowner up to 60% on their yearly water bill. That’s a lot of water to conserve over the turf life span.”
If you aren’t sure that grass – real or synthetic – is what you want, consider another alternative: xeriscaping. Xeriscape is a landscaping method that employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water. According to SRP’s study, the xeriscape demonstration garden used 12 times less water than would have been needed to maintain a similar-sized area of turf. A xeriscape landscape also requires little maintenance compared to turf.
We encourage you to do your own research. Find out what your Community Association allows and if your city offers rebates for landscape conversion. Compare artificial turf companies, as each will have different costs, warranties and life spans. Your lawn is just that, yours. Make a decision that is best for your property and that has the most appeal for you.
SRP® Desert Wise Landscape Research Exhibit,
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Water Wise, http://www.ag.arizona.edu/cochise/waterwise/
Source: SRP® DesertWise Landscape Research Exhibit
Tamarisk, better known as Saltcedar, is an extremely aggressive and invasive foreign plant. Saltcedar was originally introduced to the United States as an ornamental shrub. Saltcedar grows rapidly and can reach heights of up to 26 feet. The Saltcedar also reproduces quickly; it can flower during its first year and, at maturity, produce 600,000 seeds annually. Its adaptability and resilience to harsh elements allows the Saltcedar to aggressively colonize. All of these traits combine to make an invasive plant.
Recognizing a Saltcedar
Though it looks similar to an evergreen, the Saltcedar is a deciduous tree (or shrub) with small scale-like leaves. Its light pink flowers form dense masses at the top of its long slender branches. The Saltcedar’s fast-growing roots spread deep and wide causing damage to nearby sidewalks and walls. Due to its rapid and successful reproduction, the Saltcedar escapes controlled cultivation easily and germinates in unwanted areas. It also consumes large quantities of water, up to 200 gallons per day, and deposits salt to form a saline crust to prevent other plant life from thriving in its vicinity.
Getting rid of the Saltcedar is no easy feat. It is resistant to fire, flooding and most weed control methods. A Certified Arborist or Arizona Office of Pest Management (OPM) Licensed Pest Applicator can eliminate the Saltcedar by cutting it to the ground and applying an herbicide to the stump. A list of Certified Arborists can be found at http://www.treecareindustry.org/index.aspx and Licensed Pest Applicators can be found by visiting the OPM website, http://www.sb.state.az.us/EmployeeDir.php.
Is It Grass?
Possibly one of the worst turf weeds to infest your lawn, Nutsedge spreads quickly and is extremely hard to eradicate. Nutsedge is the common name for Cyperus esculentus (yellow) and Cyperus rotundus (purple), a weed type that germinates well in warm moist soils and spreads through tubers (referred to as “nuts” or “nutlets”) under the soil. The tubers, or nuts, are grown on underground stems known as rhizomes that can grow as deep as 12 to 16 inches under the surface of the soil bed. Buds sprout on the tubers and grow new plants, this process eventually leads to a patch of Nutsedge.
Nutsedge looks similar to grass, but the blades are thicker and stiffer than most grasses. They grow straighter and in sets of 3 stems at the base (as opposed to 2 in grasses).
An infestation of Nutsedge is problematic because it grows twice as fast as turf grass requiring more frequent mowing and it is lighter green resulting in non-uniform turf appearance.
Nutsedge is nearly impossible to get rid of, but it can be controlled. If you are lucky and catch the Nutsedge early you can limit the production of tubers, which will suppress it from spreading. To limit tuber production continually remove the shoots and as much of the plant as possible by hand every 2 weeks. This will cause the plant to put all of its energy into growing new shoots instead of new tubers. Mature tubers can re-grow their shoots up to 12 times, so you will need to be consistent.Since Nutsedge looks similar to grass it is difficult to recognize early. If it has already taken over a small portion of your lawn you may want to consider chemical treatment. The best herbicide to treat Nutsedge is called Sedge Hammer, which is very expensive and can only be applied by a Certified Spray Technician (AZ SPCC Certified). The chemical should be applied during the growing season every 3 weeks; it will take as many as 3 or more applications to fully control the Nutsedge. To find a company with Certified Spray Technicians visit http://www.sb.state.az.us/CompanyDirectory.php.
Javelina, which resemble wild pigs, are actually peccary. These “desert hogs” have become quite common in certain residential areas, particularly where they find food. Preferred javelina diet consists of succulent plants and cacti, flowers, and other lush vegetation. Your beautiful bed of flowers is a delicious salad bar to a javelina.
Good news! There are certain plants that don’t taste good to a javelina. For a list of these plants, please check out the Arizona Cooperative Extension website below. Be aware, most new plants are an open invitation for consumption. So it’s best to install plants that are at least 5-gallons in size.
Largely nocturnal creatures, javelina can also be seen in the daytime during wintertime when the nighttime temperatures are colder. To discourage javelina from taking up residence in your neighborhood, follow these simple tips:
- Avoid installing tasty plants or plants that drop fruit/nuts.
- Ensure there are no pools of standing water to drink.
- Keep garbage and table scraps secured and off the ground.
- Eliminate habitat such as crawlspaces or other areas for a javelina to hide.
- Do not scatter birdseed. Rather, try using seed blocks that can be suspended and do not contain much litter.
While there is no proven method for completely eliminating javelina, these suggestions will encourage javelina to frequent places other than your yard, while allowing you to enjoy an aesthetically pleasing desert landscape.
For more information:
Living with Javelina in Urban Areas http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_javelina.shtml
Javelina Resistant Plants
What Are Agave Snout Weevils?
Agave Snout Weevils are inch-long, dusty black, wingless insects and — as their name suggests — are particularly fond of Agave. Adults are known to lay their eggs between the leaves of Agaves, and the hatching larvae burrow into the plant. Infestation causes Agaves to collapse into a rotting mess during late summer and early fall.
How Do I Know If My Agave Is Infested?
Typically, an Agave Snout Weevil infestation is not discovered until the damage is too severe to save the plant. As the insects feed on the plant, they inject a bacterial infection, causing the leaves begin to wrinkle. The leaves will continue to shrivel over time as the infection moves through the heart of the plant. You might also notice a foul odor as the plant rots. The Agave will eventually collapse, leaving only the central spikes of the plant still standing. By this point, rehabilitating the plant is unlikely.
How Do I Eradicate Them?
Once you’ve recognized that you have an Agave Snout Weevil problem, it’s important that you remove all dead and infected plant parts from your garden. DLC’s Experts recommend inspecting the surrounding soil for adult weevils or larvae. Any remaining adults or larvae must be removed to avoid the infestation of other plants.
The key to eradicating Agave Snout Weevils is proactive prevention. Once the pests have infected your Agave, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the damage. The best thing you can do is prevent future attacks from claiming the lives of other plants. DLC’s Experts suggest applying a pesticide with Imidacloprid as the main ingredient around the base of the plant in early April and again in late May. Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide so it will work its way from the base through the entire plant and keep Agave Snout Weevils from feeding on it. Pesticides containing Imidacloprid can be found at your local home improvement store or nursery. As with any pesticide, follow the instructions on the label for proper use.
A Troublesome Weed
Euphorbia supina, or prostrate spurge, is a low-growing weed that forms a dense mat often found under other plants. Spurge is native to the United States and has a shallow taproot and stems that exude a milky white sap. Spurge leaves are small, opposite each other on the stems, green or red and often have purple spots. This weed germinates and thrives in dry, hot climates and tolerates some shade, but prefers direct sunlight. Like any other opportunistic weed, it takes advantage of disturbed soils or stressed turf areas.
Spurge is a late-germinating, summer annual with small and inconspicuous flowers. Spurge blooms anytime between the months of June and October. A single spurge plant is capable of producing thousands of seeds each flowering cycle.
Control Without Chemicals
Because spurge has a relatively shallow taproot, it is easy to remove manually from granite areas and planters. Infested turf areas are more difficult to control manually simply because young spurge plants are hard to spot among blades of grass. The best way to deter spurge in turf is to encourage turf density through proper watering and fertilization.
Control With Chemicals
Spraying spurge with an herbicide is the easiest way to control this troublesome weed in turf areas. However, you have to use the correct herbicide in the correct landscape area. Roundup is safe and widely available at any home improvement store; however, Roundup can only be sprayed on spurge in granite areas. Simply follow the instructions on the label making sure not to spray Roundup on spurge growing in turf. Roundup is a nonselective systemic killer, which means plants or grasses absorb the chemical into their root system and the chemical cannot differentiate between plants you want and weeds.
To kill spurge growing in turf areas, use an herbicide that targets broadleaf weeds, such as Amine 4. These types of herbicides can only be applied by an Arizona Office of Pest Management Licensed Pest Applicator. To find a company with a Licensed Applicators, visit http://www.sb.state.az.us/EmployeeDir.php.