Weatherford Democrat

April 26, 2014

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: New insect identified


Weatherford Democrat

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to pcmgaquestions@gmail.com. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.

Did you know? We need your help.

In 2004, an Asian insect known as Crape Myrtle Bark Scale was illegally imported into the DFW area.  It appears to be spreading rapidly, and Texas A&M is asking for help to track the infestation. One of the first signs of an infestation is a black, sooty mold coating that appears on the bark of the trunk and on the branches. Leaves and limbs may feel sticky from byproducts of feeding. While common aphids will infest the undersides of leaves and leave a sticky residue, these insects appear as white, waxy encrustations likely to occur anywhere on the plant, but often near pruning wounds or in branch crotches. If you believe you have this insect, please contact us at the number below.  We will assist you with recommended controls and report the outbreak to A&M.

I bought a new house on wooded property and have a lot of pricklypear scattered throughout three acres. What is the best way to get rid of it?

Pricklypear is a native cactus that is tolerant of harsh conditions. The plant is spread by seed by birds and by pads that are broken and left lying on the ground. These will root and grow a new plant within two months. 

According to A&M’s Texas Natural Resources Server, there are two methods for controlling pricklypear. The Brush Buster method involves an herbicide that can be applied to fields and pasture land, but isn’t approved for home lawn and garden use. The second method can be done by hand with a grubbing hoe or shovel. Cut the main root of the plant two to four inches below the soil, remove the detached plants, and stack them on a brush pile to compost. Be sure not to leave any pads lying on the soil.

On property with heavy infestations, the trick is often to learn the value of these plants. On larger properties, it is likely that you will never completely eradicate it because of the birds scattering the seeds. While I don’t want it in my immediate outdoor living space, I have chosen to let it thrive in the outer areas. Bees and butterflies enjoy the blooms, birds thrive on the seeds, and many other wild animals enjoy both the fruit and the moisture-rich pads of the plant.