Wednesday, October 17, 2012

News from The Bulletin September/October 2012

As members of the BC Council of Garden Clubs (BCCGC) the Powell River Garden Club receives The Bulletin bi-monthly throughout the year. The Bulletin contains news and information from the Council as well as informative and interesting articles submitted by Club members.

Below, please find many of the articles published in The Bulletin, September/October 2012. A printed copy of The Bulletin is available at Club meetings. 

Article #1     Lens aka Lentils
Article #2     Blue Weed (Echium Vulgare) from Invasive Species
                     Council of BC
Article #3     Chrysanthemum
Article #4     Cladium difformis, aka Bristly Roseslug...Various sites
Article #5     Plants and Wilting
Article #6     Mycorrhiza Primer (excerpt) Ted St. John, Ph.D

Article #1     Lens aka Lentils

The genus Lens of the legume family Fabaceae contains four species of small, erect or climbing herbs with pinnate leaves and small inconspicuous white flowers and small flattened pods. The edible seeds of Lens species are referred to as lentils; the lentil most commonly eaten is the seed of Lens culinaris. Other countries refer to lentils as pulse or pigeon pea. Origin and geographic distribution:  Lentil is one of the oldest pulse crops and of ancient cultivation in western Asia, Egypt and southern Europe. It probably originated in western Asia, from where it spread into the Mediterranean region, Asia, Africa and Europe.  Lentil was a common part of the diet of the ancient Greeks, Jews and Romans and was the mainstay of the poor, especially in Egypt.

It was associated with many legends, tales and customs, and it is the first pulse crop mentioned in the Bible. The oldest archaeological remains of lentil are from Greece, dated 11,000 BC, and Syria, dated 8500–7500 BC. However, it is uncertain whether they were from cultivated plants or from wild ones. It is from the 5th millennium BC that unequivocally domesticated lentil seeds have been found.  Lentil has been introduced into the Americas, New Zealand and Australia. It is now widely cultivated in temperate and subtropical regions, and in the tropics at higher elevations and in cool seasons. In tropical Africa it is grown in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia (mainly in the northern, central and eastern Highlands), Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius. It is also cultivated in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and South Africa.

Description:  Lentils grow as an erect, pale green annual up to 60(–75) cm tall with a square stem and a taproot. Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, with 5–16 leaflets. Flowers are bisexual, narrowly 5-lobed, tubular with a corolla that is pale blue, white or pink. When pollinated, seeds are lens-shaped and are grey, green, brownish green, pale red speckled with black, or black.

Propagation and plantingLentil is propagated by seed which remain viable for more than 5 years under cool and dry storage conditions. A dormancy period of 4–6 weeks is common. The minimum temperature for germination is 15ºC and the optimum temperature 18–21ºC; temperatures above 27ºC are harmful. A firm, smooth seedbed is best for lentil. The seed is broadcast, or planted in rows 20–90 cm apart with 5–25 cm between plants within the row. The sowing depth is 1–6 cm depending on seed size and moisture availability. Lentil is usually grown as a main crop, but sometimes mixed with other crops, eg., in India with barley, mustard or castor.  

Management:  Lentil is a poor competitor with weeds, especially when young. It should be sown in a clean field and weeding should generally be done within 3 weeks after sowing. Lentil normally responds well to fertilizers high in phosphorus. Effectively nodulated lentil seldom responds to application of high Nitrogen fertilizers.

Top Five Lentil Producers:

Canada – 1,510,200 tonnes
India – 950,000 tonnes
Turkey – 302,181 tonnes
United States – 265,760 tonnes
Australia – 143,000 tonnes

Lentil colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black.  


  • Brown/Spanish pardina
  • French green/puy lentils (dark speckled blue green)
  • Green
  • Black/beluga
  • Yellow/tan lentils (red inside)
  • Red Chief (decorticated yellow lentils
  • Eston green (small green)
  • Richlea (medium green)
  • Laird (large green)
  • Petite golden (decorticated lentils)
  • Masoor (brown-skinned lentils, which are orange inside)
  • Petite crimson/red (decorticated masoor lentils)
  • Macachiados (big Mexican yellow lentils)
  • The seeds require a cooking time of 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety — shorter for small varieties with the husk removed, such as the common red lentil — and have a distinctive, earthy flavor.

    Lentils are used throughout South Asia, the Mediterranean regions and West Asia. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. Lentils are used to prepare an inexpensive and nutritious soup all over Europe and North and South America, s
    sometimes combined with some form of chicken or pork.

    Dried lentils can also be sprouted by soaking in water for one day and keeping moist for several days, which changes their nutrition profile. Lentils with husk remain whole with moderate cooking; lentils without husk tend to disintegrate into a thick purée, which leads to quite different dishes.

    Nutritional value and health benefits: With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Proteins include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world which have large vegetarian populations. Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids.

    Lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11% rather than 31%). Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish.

    About a quarter of the worldwide production of lentils is from India, most of which is consumed in the domestic market. Canada is the largest export producer of lentils in the world, and Saskatchewan is the most important producing region in Canada. Statistics Canada estimates that Canadian lentil production for the 2009/10 year is a record 1.5 million metric tonnes.

    In culture Lentils are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible, the first time recounting the incident in which Jacob purchases the birthright from Esau with stewed lentils (a "mess of pottage"). In Jewish mourning tradition, they are considered as food for mourners, together with boiled eggs, because their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.

    In Italy, eating lentils on New Year's Eve traditionally symbolizes the hope for a prosperous new year, most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

    In "Cinderella", one of Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cinderella's stepmother assigns Cinderella the task of fishing lentils out of ash. If she succeeds, she may go to the ball.

    Harvesting: Lentil is harvested when the pods turn yellow-brown and the lower ones are still firm. Further delay may lead to shattering. In many areas the plant is cut down manually to ground level and left to dry for about 10 days, before being threshed and winnowed.

    Article #2     Blue Weed from Invasive Species Council of BC

    From a gardener’s perspective, flowering plants that attract bees, butterflies, and birds while deterring deer from a daily nibble are a welcome addition to the yard. One such plant, blueweed (Echium vulgare), has pretty blue blossoms and makes for an attractive center piece in any garden bed, but comes with a surprising price tag to our ecosystems and economy as a highly invasive plant.

    Invasive plants grow rapidly and spread quickly, causing damage to the environment, economy and our health. They are also the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
    Introduced from Europe, blueweed is a biennial to short-lived perennial, and considered regionally noxious under the BC Weed Control Act. Blueweed is commonly found on road-sides, drainage ditches, rights-of-way, fence lines, pastures, rangeland, and other disturbed areas. It is a concern in the Cariboo, Central Kootenay, Columbia-Shuswap, East Kootenay, Okanagan-Silmilkameen, and Thompson-Nicola Regional Districts.

    Commonly called "viper's bugloss`because of its resemblance to a viper`s head, blueweed has bright blue blossoms found on the upper side of short, rough stems, and grows 30-80 centimetres in height.  Hairy stems are painful to the touch, and hairs often have swollen deark bases that form noticeable flecks.  Leaves become progressively smaller as they approach the top of the plant. 

    Although large infestations make a pretty photography, this plant can spread quickly by producing healthy seeds that are easily distributed.  A single plant can produce up to 2800 seeds that generally drop in the immediate vicinity of the parent plant, but can be distributed further by people and animals as the rough seeds stick to clothing, hair and feathers. 
    Blueweed is occasionally found in nurseries as a gardening plant since it attracts butterflies and not deer or rabbits.  Deer, as well as most grazing animals on pastures and rangelands, will avoid blueweed since it is unpalatable; therefore, a small infestation will spread quickly, reducing the area available for food and forage crops and increasing overgrazing on pastures.  As a result, infestations are associated with economic losses and rising managements costs on agricultural lands. 

    Help your community protect local resources by preventing and managing invasive plants.  There are hundreds of beautiful native plants and non-invasive exotic alternatives available to replace this invasive in your backyard. 

    Blueweed (echium vulgare)

    Article #3 Chrysanthemum
    picture from
    Chrysanthemum oil contains a chemical called pyrethrum, which repels and kills insects, especially aphids. Unfortunately, it can also kill insects that are beneficial to plants, so care should be used when spraying insect repelling products with pyrethrum in gardens. Insect repellents for humans and pets also often contain pyrethrum.
    You can also make your own insect repellent by mixing chrysanthemum oil with other fragrant essential oils like rosemary, sage and thyme. However, allergies to chrysanthemum are common, so individuals should always test natural oil products before using on skin or internally.

    Chrysanthemums plants have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution by the NASA Clean Air Study.

    Article #4 Cladium difformis, aka Bristly Roseslug...Various sites
    At this time of the year, our roses are sometimes plagued with tiny little green creatures that resemble miniature caterpillars. These little creatures can totally defoliate your roses in less than a week. The creatures are called Cladium difformis or more commonly Bristly Roseslug. They are not slugs, they do not behave like slugs and are not related to them. There are three main species of roseslug, the bristly roseslug, the curled roseslug, and the European roseslug. The one we have locally is the bristly roseslug which is actually a sawfly larvae. Sawflies are a plant-feeding wasp. They are yellowish-green in colour, velvety and less than half an inch long. They are tapered and have a slimy appearance when you look closely, thus their moniker of ‘slug’. Sawfly larvae have jointed legs and a bead-like head that is usually a different colour than their bodies. These larvae look much like butterfly or moth caterpillars, but can be identified by the number of fleshy legs (prolegs) that follow the front three pairs of legs. Sawflies have five or more pair of prolegs, while caterpillars have less than five.

    Bristly Roseslug

    Adult Male

    Bristly roseslug have six generations per year. The fully-grown larvae drop from the plants and burrow into the soil where they will remain dormant underground until the following spring when the adults emerge and lay eggs on the new rose foliage to begin the cycle over again.

    The adult sawfly are small, dark, non-stinging wasps. Their young larvae feed on rose, raspberry and strawberry leaves, skeletonizing and eating all the leaf tissue but leaving the
    veins. They do this by eating the soft part of the leaves, leaving behind the network of veins and one epidermis layer. The exposed epidermis quickly turns brown and crisp.

    As the larvae ages they chew holes in the tissue of the leaves rather than skeletonizing them. This causes us to think we have more than one type of insect invading our roses, raspberrries and strawberries.

    Sawflies are best controlled when they are young. If you have a small infestation, simply pick them off, dislodge them with something or spray them off with a stream of water. If you use water, do so early in the day so the leaves can dry before sunset to dissuade fungal development.

    If you have a large infestation you may need to resort to other controls. Any contact or systemic insecticide labelled for use on roses will kill roseslugs. The key is to spray thoroughly to make sure the spray covers the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Spray the soil under the rose bushes as the larvae pupate in the soil prior to over wintering.

    Horticultural oil, insecticidal soap and azadiractin (neem) are low-toxicity biorational insecticides for young sawflies. Azadiractins are slower act-ing. Bacillus thuringienses (Bt) is effective on young lepidoptera caterpillars but NOT on larval sawflies. Conventional insecticides include acephate (Orthene), carbaryl (Sevin), malathion and diazinon. Avoid spraying the rose flowers as many conventional insecticides are highly toxic to bees. 
    Article #5 Plants and Wilting
    Moisture stress occurs when the water in a plant's cells is reduced to less than normal levels. This can occur because of a lack of water in the plant's root zone, higher rates of transpiration than the rate of moisture uptake by the roots, i.e. loss of roots due to transplanting.

    Permanent wilting point (PWP) or wilting point (WP) is defined as the minimal point of soil moisture the plant requires not to wilt. If moisture decreases to this or any lower point a plant wilts and can no longer recover its turgidity when placed in a saturated atmosphere for 12 hours.
    About Wilting through lack of water
    Plants have a vascular system which enables water and nutrients to be taken from the environment through a complex root system. The continual flow of water and nutrients ensures that the vascular system remains firm, and that the plant continues to grow in a healthy way. Lack of water results in a loss of firmness which causes the symptoms of wilting.
    Plants respond to lack of water by closing down areas of the vascular system, which consequently results in leaf, flower and fruit loss.
    Plants can usually recover from short, occasional periods of lack of water, but sustained periods or frequent wilting often results in death.

    Design a watering schedule for plants based on their individual needs.
    • As a general guide, pots need watering once a day.
    • Hanging baskets should be watered twice a day.
    • New plants in the border need careful monitoring in their first year and will probably need watering two or three times a week. 
    • Established border plants will have deeper roots and will benefit most from one long drink each week rather than a daily dose.
    There are several causes of leaf scorch, one being not enough water in the soil for root absorption which occurs during drought periods.
    Water may be lost faster than it can be replaced. During summer, sunny, hot, and windy weather causes such rapid transpiration that roots cannot physically keep up with the water loss and if the plants are not being hydrated regularly, this could cause death.
    Article #6 Mycorrhiza Primer (excerpt) Ted St. John, Ph.D

    Most plant species form a symbiosis (mutually advantageous living arrangement) with beneficial fungi. The roots are colonized by the fungus, which also ramifies through the soil. The combination of root and fungus is called mycorrhiza. Mycorrhiza is considered such a fundamental part of the plant that most species could not survive in nature without it. The few plants that do not need mycorrhiza (mostly weeds) are considered to be departures from the normal state of the plant kingdom.

    Mycorrhizas are fundamental to the ecosystem function: the sum of energy flow and mineral cycling processes that characterize a natural community and allocate the resources that maintain it. It hardly states the case to say that mycorrhizas are important to the ecosystem function. It is much more accurate to say that mycorrhizas are ecosystem function.

    It is important to understand what mycorrhizal fungi are not. These are not the organisms that fix nitrogen (make atmospheric nitrogen available to plants) in association with legumes (those are bacteria of the genus Rhizobium). Mycorrhizal fungi do not fix nitrogen at all; in most cases what they do for the individual plant is aid in the uptake of phosphorous.

    Native mycorrhizal fungi are present in healthy ecosystems, but are often destroyed by disturbance. They are always missing from freshly graded sites.

    Ectomycorrhizal fungi enter the roots, where the hyphae (fungal filaments) pass between root cells. They do not enter the root cells, as do endomycorrhizal fungi. There is often a mantle (covering) of inter-woven fungal mycelium (mass of fungal filaments) on the surface of the finest roots, and an internal network, the Hartig net, that weaves between the cells in the root. The mantle is often visible to the unaided eye or by use of a hand lens. Ectomycorrhiza is found on many dominant forest trees and involves a ‘higher’ (often mushroom-forming) fungus. The term is abbreviated ECM or EM.
    Endomycorrhiza is not really a natural group; it simply refers to the fact that fungal hyphae enter the root cells. Under this name are the very dissimilar mycorrhizas of orchids, Ericaeae and relatives, and the largest group, the arbuscular (AM), or vesicular-arbuscular (VAM) type of mycorrhiza. This last group is so dominant in the plant kingdom that we might simplify the whole discussion by giving AM primary rights to the tern endomycorrhiza. The less common types would then go by their own separate names.
    Growth response: The best known mycorrhizal effect is that mycorrhizal plants take up more soil phosphorus and grow faster than corresponding non-mycorrhizal control plants.
    Soil with little inoculum selects against most natives and fa-vors the plant species that do not need to become mycorrhizal early in life – these plants are better known as
    Why Not Just Fertilize Instead of Inoculate?
    • Fertilization can produce large plants, but it often suppresses mycorrhiza formation.
    • Fertilization lacks or even suppresses the other important benefits of mycorrhiza.
    • Fertilization cannot increase plant species diversity; it tends to favour large individuals of the few most vigorous species.
    • Fertilization cannot improve plant survival, but rather tends to favor a few large plants rather than many smaller ones.
    • Fertilization does not make the site unfit for weeds, but instead gives them a nearly insurmountable competitive edge against native plants.
    • Fertilization does nothing to decrease root disease, favor beneficial bacteria, or improve soil structure, perhaps the most important effects of mycorrhiza in natural systems.
    Determine Whether Your Plants Need to Be Mycorrhizal
    Most plant species – probably 70% to 80% - are normally mycorrhizal in nature, and most of those are AM rather than some other kind. If in doubt, assume that your plants need to be AM. If your plant list contains few AM hosts, you should in most cases add some to the species list to be sure you gain the benefits of soil structure and favorable microbiology.

    Consider a Mixture of Mycorrhizal Fungi
    Several scientific studies have concluded that growth responses were improved with mixtures of fungi rather than single species. However, none of these studies has included a "wonder fungus" of the type sometimes isolated in large-scale screening projects. G. intraradices has turned up as a "wonder fungus" in several surveys, and field experience so far has shown it to be equal or superior to mixtures of other fungi. There is a concern that less effective fungi could dilute the propagules of the fungus that works best, perhaps decreasing its effectiveness. Even so, many researchers believe that mixtures of fungal species are preferrable. 
    Specificity to soil:  Mycorrhizal fungi are in general more specific to soil type than to host plant. Soil pH is the biggest selective factor, but soil texture and organic matter may also influence the suitability of the soil for particular fungi. The fungi commonly available as commercial inocula tend to have wide tolerance ranges. Glomus intraradices, the most widely available species, is suitable for soils from about pH 6 to 9. Another widely available fungus, G. etunicatum, is at its best in the acid range. Plant diversity depends to some extent upon fungal species diversity. There may be a benefit to some rare plant species of having particular fungi that grow at the right time of the year or produce some other specific effect. Until we know exactly how the effects are produced, the only way to include such fungi would be in quality topsoil from the native habitat of the rare plant species. What is very clear, from every study that has done the tests, is that inoculation is greatly superior to no inoculation, with differences between fungal species forming a secondary effect.
    Use Mycorrhizal Inoculum Correctly
    Root zone: One of the most important points is that endomycorrhizal inoculum must be placed in the soil, where new roots will grow through it. Colonization will succeed only if the fungi are properly placed and if the roots are healthy and growing. ECM spores are better able to penetrate the soil due to their small size; even so surface application is not the best use even of ECM inoculum.
    As a living material, mycorrhizal inoculum is susceptible to environmental stress. It is important not to allow the inoculum to sit in the sun or expose it to freezing temperatures. The life span of mycorrhizal spores, as given in the scientific literature, is in the neighborhood of 6 months to a year. Certain kinds of carriers appear to provide protection, and in good storage conditions, with the original production vessel kept intact, inoculum in calcined clay (the same material often used for cat litter) has retained its viability for two or more years.
    If the inoculum is laid down in lines, the lines should be about a foot apart. When growing from root to root, the fungi spread between ½ and 1 meter per year. Soil animals may move it somewhat faster.
    Container plants may be inoculated at the time of planting, either by adding a small amount of bulk inoculum to the root zone or by dropping in a biodegradable ‘teabag’ package.

    Mycorrhiza is a natural part of the soil and a part of plant nutrient uptake. The fungi are the dominant soil microorganisms, and soil biology depends heavily upon the presence, density, and types of mycorrhizal fungi. However, mycorrhizal fungi cannot make it rain, cannot decompact a fill slope, cannot compensate for planting out of season, and cannot make up for gardening methods that are otherwise very poor. Here are some of the claims that should raise a red flag:
    • Plants show dramatic growth increases within a few days:   Mycorrhizal growth responses are slow to develop; a rapid response would have come from fertilizer in the inoculum.
    • Growth response in spinach, broccoli, or other non-host:  plants known to be non-hosts are good tests of fertilizer or other.
    • Very low propagule counts:   propagule and spore counts vary from as low as two to several hundred per cubic centimeter of inoculum. Be aware that the cost of the material should reflect the propagule density. Make sure labels clearly state density. non-mycorrhizalo factor in the inoculum.


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