Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Crossvine, Sapsucker Damage, Weird Carrots & a Cold-damaged Tropical Tree


Flowers of the crossvine, a native plant. Photo: Dennis Gibson.


Dennis saw a flowering vine and asked AHA to identify it, “Thank for your help identifying past plants & trees. I have seen this vine before a wondered what is named]. If you can help me with information about it; is it poisonous & will it make a good hummingbird plant?”

In an AgCenter publication entitled, Ground Covers and Vines for Louisiana Landscapes by Dan Gill and Dr. Allen Owing, both retired horticulture specialists, crossvine is a desirable landscape vine. It has “red flowers with red and yellow interiors, [ and it blooms from] March to summer.” The NC State Extension website also reported that the crossvine is attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Also, native Americans used this plant for medicinal purpose and avoids the “toxic” label.


A tree trunk with woodpecker damage. Photo: Sidney Jacobson, Alexandria, LA.

Sapsucker Damage

Sidney sent a concerned email with clear images of a tree in his landscape, “Hi! I was referred to you in social media. I live in the Garden District [of Alexandria] across from [ The Lady of] Prompt Succor [Catholic] Church. A tree in my front yard facing church has succumbed to a disease or bugs. Is there anything we can do to save it, or do I need to have it removed before all the neighbor’s trees get infected? Is this something you can help with or refer someone to help with? Pictures [are] attached. [ I am ] new to the area.”

AHA responded, “The condition on your tree results from a woodpecker called a sapsucker. This bird creates these wounds called sapwells to attract insects, then the woodpecker feeds on the insects and on the sap. Dr. Brady Self, a forestry specialist at Mississippi State University, adds this comment, “The tree should recover from minor damage, but excessive numbers of holes can allow entry of insects and decay fungi that can cause secondary damage to the tree. Stress from intensive feeding can lead to cambium girdling, decline in tree health, and eventual death of the tree.”

Dr. Self also shared these control measures to prevent more damage, “Sapsuckers, like all woodpeckers, [have legal protection under] the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so lethal control requires a permit. The most common control method is to discourage the sapsucker from returning by wrapping burlap around the affected area; however, this may shift the bird’s attention to neighboring trees. Do not keep burlap on the tree indefinitely, as other damage may occur given sufficient time. Additional techniques include encircling the tree with chicken wire, applying reflective tape to branches (tape with a crinkling sound deters the birds as well), and draping the tree with plastic netting.

Besides tape, any reflective surface, such as old CDs or pie plates, will deter birds because they scare when they see bright sunlight reflected. Bird sound deterrents use soundwaves undetectable by humans, but batteries in these devices must [have new batteries] frequently. A decoy hawk or owl can be used, as well, but should be moved around the tree every few days so the woodpecker will think the decoy is alive.”


"Weird" carrots. Photo: John Martel.

Weird Carrots

John is already harvesting from his vegetable garden and saw an unusual crop, “These carrots were grown in my garden. In prior years they did fine. This year the same variety and from the same seed pack turned out different. None of the carrots looked “normal “ and some looked like this. What happened?”

Dr. Kiki Fontenot, the AgCenter’s veggie specialist, knew exactly what happened to John’s carrots, “This [event] is typical in clay soils. Or even if there was some organic matter added to the garden that was not completely broken down, for instance if some bark was mixed into the soil. Carrots are just very finicky and will branch rather than push through any obstacle they come across. I would suggest deep tilling the soil before the next seeding. But it does not look like nematode damage or anything disease-like."


A Norfolk Island pine with cold damage. Photo: Sherri Roberts.

Cold-damaged Tropical Tree

Sherri sent her email concerned about a tree, “The Norfolk [Island] pine (NIP) is changing with the fertilizer suggested to use. I am concerned about the skin splitting and the brown on the tips of all the limbs. I have included pictures.”

Robert Turley, a horticulture agent with the AgCenter, diagnosed the issue with this small tree, “the NIP is a tropical indoor plant that is not cold hardy for outdoor planting. Brown growth and leaves, splitting of limbs is all cold damage. I would let the weather get good and hot to see were the cold damage finally show itself.” If the damage is too extensive, then the tree may have to be removed.

If the NIP recovers from the damage, then perhaps placing the tree in a large container with casters may be an option. Then the tree can be moved indoors when cold weather is forecast.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“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.”

4/4/2022 7:08:23 PM
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