Friday, June 18, 2010

Coneflower Trouble

I have coneflower problems! I started to notice the heads of the flowers with something black looking on them. At first I thought they were just going to seed, and some are. But when I began to notice the young buds with this same black marking, I decided to take a closer look.
I actually picked a few flowers and buds off and started to dig through them. On some, there was nothing. On others-I found tiny worms about the size of the end of your fingernail. They have some yellow on them and are burrowed down deep in the cone. What are they??
I was afraid my flowers had "aster yellow" disease which I read is a death sentence for coneflowers So, I was happy to think it was worms, but who has worms on their coneflowers?
"Nothing can hurt coneflowers" they say. Well, I beg to differ. I am losing mine everyday.. The funny thing is that this is all in the back. I have a few in front and on the side that look healthy.
I love my "pink daisies" as I called them when I was a little girl. I don't think these would be worms for butterflies or they would be eating the leaves. I tried insecticide soap on the cone heads, but I don't think it worked. Does anyone have any ideas?? HELP!!

27 comments:

tina said...

Well you've got me stumped. I spent some time looking up issues with coneflowers in a super good book I have and the four issues it says coneflowers are susceptible to are not indicated by the bloom. The four they say are: Verticullum wilt, southern blight, aster yellows, and one more I forget now. None talk about issues with the blooms. Have you cut open the bloom to see if there is any insect inside? Are the leaves still healthy? If so I think I'd cut off all the flowers and hope for a second bloom or take a sample to your extension agent. They can help more. Sorry can't help.

Meadowview Thymes said...

Tina--I did some research too (and thank you so much for taking the time to look for me!) and couldn't find anything about worms. Yes, I literally took the cone apart and saw the worms. The leaves are fine. The flowers are affected. You know what coneflowers look like when they go to seed--well the buds look like that. That is what drew my attention to them.. I have cut off most of the flowers hoping that will solve the problem. I need to try and capture a worm, but when I find one, they wiggle down deeper. Grrrr! :)

Pam/Digging said...

I have seen this on some of my coneflowers this year too. In fact, I recently cut back a number of coneflowers that were looking pretty bad and am hopeful that a rebloom later this summer will look better.

I'm afraid I didn't investigate further, though perhaps I should have.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Linda girl that sounds awful .. I have never run across that yet (and I hope I never do !! eeuuuww)
But I too wonder .. if this creature is only interested in the flower head .. cut all of them off .. maybe a weak liquid fertilizer would perk the rest of the plant up and perhaps go through a second flush .. then if it is still in the head of the flower, you might know if this thing is travelling up from the ground or root ?
I hope you can cure it .. I love my cone flowers too girl .. I'm sorry you have this problem !

perennialgardener said...

Sorry to hear about your dilemma with the Coneflowers, it has me stumped as well. Never seen worms or heard of worms attacking them. Hopefully your extension agent as Tina suggested can be of more help to you. Good luck!

Meadowview Thymes said...

Pam, you are the first one that has seen this problem--which makes me feel a little better. I am cutting off the bad looking flowers and hoping for later blooms. Maybe it's just a one time problem.

Joy, I did what you said and gave them liquid fertilizer. Very good idea. I took away infected flowers too, so maybe (fingers crossed) they will re-bloom and be fine.

Racquel I think everyone is stumped. Coneflowers are suppose to be insect free, so I thought. I hope it's not the bed they are in....no, wait...it's in other beds too, but only in back. I am not giving up..I am fighting back! :)

Nola @ the Alamo said...

I didn't find anything in reading up on them. I would take a sample to the county agent or contact a Dallas County Master Gardener for advice. In the meantime, I'll ask around if any of my gardening friends have any idea what it could be. I think I'd remove and destroy the "infected" ones, too, in hopes that it won't spread!

Tracy said...

I had little black worms on mine too. They were eating the leaves up like crazy and they were all clustered up under the leaves. I sprayed them with seven and they came back, but I just kept on doing it till they were gone. That was about a month or so ago and I live in Texas also. Please let me know if you find out what they are. I'm curious too. BTW this is not the first year I have had them.
Hope you can get rid of them.
Tracy

Meadowview Thymes said...

Nola, I did ask the Master Gardners, but they didn't know--only told me coneflowers shouldn't have problems. I did cut off the bad flowers and feed them like Joy suggested. I read that coneflowers need to be feed twice a year to stay healthy. Maybe all this TLC will work! Thanks for helping me research this!

Tracy, these worms are tiny and not on the leaves but in the head. That's the only place. I wonder if you had aphids or butterfly larvae. I will sure let you know if I find out what to do. Another gardening friend of mine reccommended Sevin dust. I am hoping cutting off the blooms will take the worms away and new growth will be healthy. Thanks for letting me know about your problems!

misterreereeder said...

Hey MT!!! I do not have anything to contribute to your flower dilemna but knowing you I am sure you will find your answer. I kind of giggled about your investigation and thought about you, China, and Ruby teaming up for this mystery.

Meadowview Thymes said...

MR-lol! Yeah, I would team up with China and Ruby in a heartbeat!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi MT- I am having a similar problem with the flower heads on my cone flowers this year, too, up in the Dallas area. I haven't taken any completely apart to look for anything, like worms. I assumed it was drought b/c we hardly had any spring rains- my rain barrel is empty. And I didn't water early enough b/c I kept expecting rain! I am about to cut mine back. In 2 other location I have the lighter colored variety that do not have the problem. It's a weird one. I'll check with my native plant society friends and let you know what they might know. (smart cookies, each and every one of them!)

S. in Richardson

Meadowview Thymes said...

S--thank you for that information! Wonder if something is going on here in the Dallas area. First time I have heard of coneflowers with problems! I thought about joining the native plant society! Please let me know if you find out anything! :)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I live in Delaware and just noticed last week that there was a problem with my coneflower heads. I dug around and found the little worms. It is exasperating as I wanted the seed heads for the finches, but they are ruined now. I have cut them off and hopefully they will come back. I had this problem a couple of years ago, but not recently until this season. I am headed to a Master Gardener meeting later today - perhaps someone there will know more.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem with my coneflowers in Delaware. I have left a sample with the fellow that identifies plant pests for the extension service. I hope to have an answer soon. None of the Master Gardeners in my group could identify it either.

Anonymous said...

16 August

Hello folks,

Greetings from Ontario Canada.

Stumbled across this useful blog while looking around for information on coneflowers.

Yesterday I noted my coneflowers were not looking as good as earlier this summer. The leaves look great but the flowers were looking like they were all going to seed. However, I noted no new blooms.

So, a closer look identifed the heads of the blooms appeared to have dirt on them. Among the dirt, I noted small holes. When I opened a bloom, it contained brown and olive worms. These worms (0.5-3 mm) were eating there way through the blooms. Every bloom with the black dirt contained at least two worms.

It seems that 85% of my coneflower blooms have this dirt and worms. So, I have removed all the dirty blooms.

Since I have biology training, I know these worms are the larval phase of something. Given the size of the larvae, I can only guess they will mature to be beetles.

So, this blog identifies these larvae occur in the Dallas area, in Delaware, and in Ontario. That seems to cover most of central North America.

I am going to try to figure out what kind of larvae we are dealing with. One approach is to go in to the compost pile and find a larvae from a coneflower, so I can identify it directly. Or I can find out what other folks here in Ontario are writing about... something that has not turned up on this search tonight.

When I have an informed guess of what is eating our collective coneflowers, I will repost some words here.

Best wishes.

Meadowview Thymes said...

Thank you so much for the information and research on the coneflower worms. If you don't mind, I am going to post your comment to let everyone know what you found.
Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I live in Ontario & my coneflower heads were filled with same larvae! I cut the flowers off & hoping for better luck this year. The "worms" were in every head. I sprayed with soapy water but the damage was already done. Someone told me to spary with Neem oil but will that hurt butterfles? Help!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I came across this post and read all the comments trying to figure out if my coneflowers have aster yellows. The leaves all look fine, but some of the flowers are weird. These are different kinds of hybrids and their offspring. I need to go out and see if there are worms in them. How are your coneflowers doing this year?

I'll have to see if you are still blogging.

Anonymous said...

I am going through the same thing in austin. black dirt on the flower heads, worms inside. Its only the purple\pink ones that are affected, the white one seems fine. I cut the heads off and sprayed with neem oil. Curse these nasty little things

Ryan said...

I'm have the same problem in Texas. My purple coneflower and black eyed susans are getting infested.

Here are some photos of the larvae and a green bug I found on the black eyed susan.
http://www.meetup.com/DallasVegGardeners/messages/boards/thread/14034771

JMetzFior said...

I live at the beach in southern North Carolina and I have the same black "dirt" and little worms on my purple and yellow coneflower heads! A couple of months ago I cut all of the flowers off and they recently rebloomed, but I just noticed the worms are back. I can't find anyone who knows what they are, so any information that is posted would be great!

Robin Pulaski said...

I live in Connecticut and have these awful worms on my pink coneflowers. First time in many years of growing coneflowers. If anyone does figure out what this is...I would love to know. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I live in the Virginia foothills, and I have little fuzzy caterpillars all over my purple coneflowers, too. They are destroying both leaves and flower heads. In their wake is a lot of black "dirt" with disintegrated grey leaves. We have had a very wet June, so it has nothing to do with drought. I have had these flowers (hundreds of plants) for years and I have never seen such a thing. I pulled off one leaf that was covered with caterpillars and dropped it into soapy water. That seemed to kill them Wondering what I should do.

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Donald's Garden said...

Yep - WORMS --- I was determined to find out why this keeps happening year after year for me as well. I found a tiny little worm digging it's way through the seed head. I sprayed BT this morning.