Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Vole Infestation, Persimmon Seedlings, Mystery Seed, and Goji Plants


A vole, a rodent, forages on plants. Photo: Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

Vole Infestation

A couple of weeks ago, Merle, a gardener, had asked about managing watermelon damage by wildlife, but he did not know the species causing the damage. Since then, Merle found a vole that his cat had killed, and he suspects that animal may be responsible for damage on his watermelons. This gardener is interested in using repellents rather than toxicants or poisons.

AHA consulted with Dr. Ashley Long, a wildlife specialist with the AgCenter. Dr. Long shared these recommendations for reducing the impacts of a vole infestations, “Here are some tips for managing voles:

  • Move or remove any bird feeders
  • Eliminate ground cover; mow grass and keep other vegetation in the area less than 2” in height
  • Remove mulch or pine straw – they like to burrow through it
  • Use cages to cover any trees or ornamental plants with damage
  • Set mouse traps right inside any burrow openings they can find – bait with sliced apples (voles are omnivorous, but for the most part, eat plants and really like apples – and watermelons apparently!)

Mouse traps and vegetation management are going to be their best options at this time of year, but if they really want to use a repellent, they should look for products with capsaicin (often come in tablet or pellet form) - please remind them to keep pets and kids away from the area. May take several applications if there is a lot of rain when they are applying it to the area.

They can make their own pepper spray pretty easy: boil 1 gallon of water and 3 tbsp of hot pepper flakes (or 10 chopped jalapenos) for 15 minutes, leave sit for 24 hours, strain off the pepper flakes or pepper slices, then add 2 tsp of biodegradable dish soap to the remaining liquid. Then apply to any visible runways in the garden or along the perimeter, I’m suggesting that because most people recommend that you only apply it to fruit bearing plants before the fruit sets or after the fruit is harvested, capsaicin can burn the leaves of the plant, and you need to be careful when you harvest or prep the produce after you’ve applied the solution.”


Persimmon seedling from a long root. Photo: Jacob Mott.

Persimmon Seedlings

Jacob is fighting a regular weed in his lawn, “[I am] looking for some insight. I have a few pictures of a plant I would like to identify.

The plant continues to grow back. I find it extremely hard to kill. It also continues to sprout new saplings in different locations around the yard. The plant has a long single root system that grows shallow.”

A little later, Jacob sent some more information, “It’s been awhile since I used Roundup™. I do not remember significant results, other than some burned leaves from the product. [It] seemed like [the weeds] came back 2-3 weeks after. I have used salt directly on the leaves, [I saw only] temporary results. [Then I] used a shovel to cut the saplings, [and] they continue to grow. “

“I sent a pic…of root structure. I have not dug up the roots like this before, [and this long root] … may be my answer [to my weed issue]. The main root is long, [and it is] unknown how far it goes. Diameter is about one inch to an inch and a half with saplings growing from main root.”

The seedlings are identified as American persimmon. Jacob is correct in removing the offending root to control the weedy seedlings in his landscape.


A packet of mystery seed from China. Photo: Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter.

Mystery Seed

Danny came by the AgCenter with a packet of mystery seed from China. He took the precaution of spraying the unopened packet with Lysol™ and inserted in a Zip-Loc™ sac.

Danny responded responsibly by bringing the seeds to the AgCenter. Extension agents in each AgCenter office have instructions to send these packets to the USDA in Baton Rouge for inspection and analysis. If you receive any of these mystery seeds, contact your local AgCenter office for guidance on handling these packets.

If you received a seed packet, your personal identity may be compromised. CBS News reports, “The Agriculture Department has said the packages are most likely part of a ‘brushing’ scam, in which a seller sends unsolicited items to someone and then posts false positive customer reviews to boost sales.”

"Brushing scams involving seed packets in international mail shipments are not uncommon," the USDA said. "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has intercepted similar seed shipments in recent years."

“Phylissia Clark of the Better Business Bureau told CBS DFW that if you are a victim of brushing, ‘your identity has been compromised.’”


Mongolian goji berries. Photo: LSU AgCenter.

Goji Plants

Jackie, a Master Gardener, sent this question to AHA, “Do you know where I can get goji berry plants to plant next spring?” The short answer to Jackie’s question is “online”. Several retail internet nurseries offer the goji plants for sale.

Dr. David Himelrick, retired AgCenter specialist, wrote an article, “Growing Goji Berries, the Latest ‘Superfruit’” because goji berries “have extraordinary antioxidant and nutrient qualities and provide benefits over and above the basic nutrition. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.” Dr. Himelrick continues discussing how to grow goji plants in the remainder of his article which is available on .

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

8/4/2020 3:03:54 PM
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