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That plant that won't die is Chinese tallow, and it's on the State of Florida Noxious Weed List

Popcorn tree is a persistent species

Q: I have this plant that keeps surviving even though I cut it back months ago. Do you know what it is, and should I keep it? It is close to my house. Maj-Lis Carlson, Clearwater

A: The plant that you have pictured that doesn't want to die is Chinese tallow or popcorn tree, Triadica sebifera, formerly Sapium sebiferum. Once upon a time, it was a small deciduous tree with beautiful fall color that was widely planted in landscapes, but because of its abundant seed set (the popcorn) and tastiness to birds, it began popping up "in all the wrong places" and landed itself on the State of Florida Noxious Weed List. Now you understand how it landed in your yard and why it wouldn't die. It is unfortunate that it escaped because it really filled a niche in the urban landscape.

Rid oyster plants of rascally rabbits

Q: I live in a condominium and we have approximately 273 oyster plants along a walkway. Our problem is rabbits nesting in the plants. This breaks the stems and leaves and the plants die. We have had to replace about 30 of them. Once the rabbits nest in one, rather than go back to it, they nest in a perfectly good one, destroying it.

I would like advice on how to keep the rabbits off the plants. I have tried pepper, moth crystals and mothballs. None of these seem to deter them. I would get a dog, but they are not allowed in the area. I would appreciate any suggestion or help. Herman White, Clearwater

A: You may want to try dried blood. Mix 1/2 tablespoon in a gallon of water and spray on plants, or add blood meal around and under plants. Rabbits are herbivores and don't like the scent of animals. Blood contains nitrogen so it also acts as a fertilizer.

Unfortunately, it will have to be reapplied after rains. I love to recommend the Water Scarecrow, which is a sprinkler with a motion sensor and comes on when interrupted and sprays water. However, along a walkway it may get some folks wet.

Cast iron plant is having some health problems

Q: I bought a house a little more than a year ago, and the garden was well-established at that time. It gets partial shade. Starting around December, however, some of the plants started yellowing, and then more started, as shown in the photo. I have not fertilized the garden. One nursery asked if I had trimmed anything so more sunlight falls on the garden (no), and said the plants look burned from the sun. Additionally, I have seen no flowers — they always look the same, except the increasing yellowing.

So my question to you is, what are these plants, what is wrong with them and what should I do? Brenda C. Brewer, Brandon

A: The pictured plant in question is called cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior. It is a very durable plant for shady locations outside and will accept low light levels as an interior plant, hence its name cast iron plant. The plant multiplies by underground stems (rhizomes) and the flower, even though insignificant, can be found where the leaf joins the stem at the soil surface. It is brownish in color and the size of a dime, definitely not a show stopper.

The scorch on the leaves does look like too much light as your nurseryman stated, for they cannot tolerate full sun. If this isn't the case, another possibility could be a fungus, "root and petiole rot." The first symptoms are brown lesions on the stems just under the soil surface, which usually go unnoticed. Then the yellowing and scorching of the leaves followed by fluffy white mycelium (how a fungus grows) at the soil surface. Prune out diseased leaves and let the area dry out, for water spreads fungal diseases. There are no fungicides labeled for homeowners to use for this problem.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Photos cannot be returned. Do not send plant samples.

That plant that won't die is Chinese tallow, and it's on the State of Florida Noxious Weed List 09/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:31am]

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