This week’s photo challenge asks us to share an image with a unique, unexpected element, and I just snapped a few that fit the criteria perfectly.
Take a look at this “little extra something” on an Aloe saponaria that recently bloomed in the Ranchero. Note how the healthy, original flower spike (middle right in the frame) looks nothing like the new, extra-wierd one!
A. saponaria (aka Soap Aloe) is native to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and well suited to Florida’s salt air and gravelly, sandy soil. A single plant will expand considerably by producing offsets (pups) so over the years I’ve watched many enter the flowering stage. Newly emerging spikes typically look like this:
So what is causing the strange growth in pic 1? Eriophyes aloinis (aka Aloe Gall Mite) an extra-tiny “extra” I’d rather live without!
E. aloinis can attack any part of an aloe plant, but seems particularly drawn to flower spikes and the tops of rosettes. As they feed, the mites secrete a growth hormone regulator that induces a solid mass (gall) to form around them. Safe within the gall they eat and reproduce, wreaking havoc with their host’s normal tissue development and disfiguring the affected leaves and flowers.
Although the mites seldom kill, their aesthetic damage is irreversible. To prevent spreading, surgically remove any tumorous plant parts and dispose far, far away from your garden!
Until next time….
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