Echinacea is a favourite perennial of mine, and I have several colour variations of it. Sometimes one puts on a funky show of flowers and although fascinating, it’s really a problem. A week or so ago I posted photos of my funky flowers and with questions about the cause, I felt I should explain.
Echinacea 'Pixie Meadowbrite' before aster yellows infected it.
Leaf hoppers are tiny 0.6 mm - 3 mm insects that are poor fliers and rely on wind currents to glide between plants. They can be distinguished by scuttling sideways when disturbed. Leaf hoppers feed on the sap of an infected plant whereupon the bacteria then reproduces within the insect. When the insect feeds on a healthy plant, the bacteria is transmitted. The pathogen can overwinter in plant roots and be a source of the bacteria in spring, so it is essential to destroy affected plants by putting them in the trash, and not a compost bin.
During hot and dry conditions, asters yellow is not conducive to spreading but during a season of abundant rainfall, makes the plants more succulent to attract leaf hoppers.
With echinacea, secondary flower heads emerge from the primary flowers or sometimes few petals will develop on the head. Other times the stems are twisted and the plant stunted.
When plants begin to mutate and produce odd looking flowers, there’s usually an underlying reason that needs to be investigated.
This year, practically every flower looked like this or had no petals at all.
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Tracie at her Cottage Garden Party