Q: Can you identify a seed for me from a description? In the fall, this plant's seedpods are quite large and prickly, like a miniature porcupine. The plant itself grows to about 3 or 4 feet and its flowers open in the evening and are truly beautiful. The flowers remind me of a trumpet. Could it be trumpet flower, moonflower or lavatera? — Judy Holweger.
A: From your description of the plant and its seedpod, I'm quite certain it's Datura, which is the botanical genus of the plant, and can also be used as a common name. Botanical names are great, because the same common name is often used for various plants, such as moonflower, which easily causes confusion.
A name often used for this type of Datura is Angel's Trumpet, and plant parts are toxic. Besides white, there are also lavender shades, and even some double-flowered types.
Q: We’ve had our raspberry patch for over 25 years. This past summer, for the first time, we discovered small white worms in the berries. Can you tell me when and with what I should spray the plants? We still had a good harvest in midsummer, but the only way we could eat them was to first freeze them. — Gene Gaffney, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
A: You are experiencing one of the worst fruit insects to invade the United States, which entered the country from Asia and quickly spread across the U.S. in just the past 10 years or so, and is firmly entrenched in Minnesota and North Dakota.
It’s the Spotted Winged Drosophila fruit fly, abbreviated SWD. The adult fly injects eggs into the fruit, which hatch into small white wormlike larvae. Control is challenging, because insecticides used must have a short residual so ripening berries can safely be eaten. One product that is being used for SWD control, and can be sprayed within one day of harvest, is the active ingredient Spinosad. As always, read and follow label instructions.
Here is a link to a North Dakota State University bulletin that includes important cultural practices, such as removing overripe fruit: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/crops/integrated-pest-management-of-spotted-wing-drosophila-in-north-dakota
The timing of spray depends on the presence of adult flies that begin laying eggs when fruit begins to ripen. The above bulletin mentions homemade vinegar traps that can be placed near the raspberry patch, so you can monitor when the SWD flies are present. If it’s any consolation, almost all of us are battling these worms in our berries. On the upside, live insects are considered an edible delicacy in some cultures.
Q: I’ve got an old spider plant and I know I can start new ones from all the little spiders. The “mother” plant is getting overgrown, but I hate to throw it out. Can it be cut back, and will it regrow? — Dawn S., Fargo.
A: Large, old spider plants often reach an overgrown stage, where they no longer look as attractive as they once did. But there’s no need to let go. If the plant and root system are otherwise healthy, an old spider plant can be rejuvenated successfully.
Here’s what to do: With a pruning shears, knife or scissors, totally cut back all foliage and trailing spiders back to about 2 inches above soil level, so nothing is left but short stubs. Remove the plant from its pot and cut away an inch or two from the outside perimeter of the rootball, which is usually a mass of enlarged roots. Then repot in fresh mix.
This sounds drastic, but as long as the spider plant and its roots are healthy, it will soon send up fresh new growth, creating a plant that looks brand new. I haven’t lost a spider plant patient yet with this method when it’s been used on large, robust, but overgrown plants.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at email@example.com or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.