Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Hammerhead Worm, Mason Wasp, Little Garden Snakes, Quince Rust & Dandelion Edibility


A hammerhead worm. Photo: Ida Turner, LeCompte, LA.

Hammerhead Worm

Ida from LeCompte shared a picture and an email about a surprise she found one morning, “I found this in my back yard…. I thought it was a baby snake. It was about five inches long, [and] it came out of my flower bed. “

Hammerhead worms come from Asia and are predators of earthworms, an important part of having healthy soils. Another concern about hammerhead worms is the neurotoxin they exude. An example of a neurotoxin would be the venom from a black widow spider. Avoid handling this worm with bare hands and use table salt or vinegar or citrus oil to kill this worm. Finally, avoid cutting this pest into pieces because they reproduce by fragmenting.


Potter or mason wasp, a fierce looking but harmless insect. Photo: Blaine Rozas.

Mason Wasp

Blaine also sent an image and an email, “Can you identify this flying insect for me? I started seeing them last year under eaves and this year I have begun to see them crawling into carpenter bee holes. Could they be cicada wasps?”

Victoria Bayless, the Curator of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum quickly identified this scary looking insect, “This is one of the potter/mason wasps. Species Euodynerus bidens. Similar in appearance to the mason wasp, Monobia quadridens , that sometimes nest in old carpenter bee holes. So, they are solitary nesters and not considered dangerous.”


Western ribbonsnake (left) Photo: Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter.


DeKay's brownsnake Photo: Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter.

Little Garden Snakes

Gary of DeRidder brought a couple of small snakes for identification to the AgCenter for Beauregard Parish..

Brad Glorioso, a professional herpetologist with the US Geological Survey, identified both snakes, “The first one is a western ribbonsnake, and the second one [is] a Dekay’s brownsnake. Both [are] nonvenomous and common. The brownsnake is quite beneficial to gardens as they specialize on eating pests of plants like slugs.” Non-venomous snakes are beneficial because they feed on insects and vermin, so it is a clever idea to keep them around.

This email arrived in AHA’s inbox, “Hi, my name is Amanda…. You have helped me in the past with some gardening issues. Today I noticed some fungus on our cedar tree. I was wanting to know how to get rid of it if possible. We have lived here 6 years and I have never noticed this happening before. Any hints and tips would be appreciated. Thank you.”


Quince rust. Photo: Amanda Murdock.

Quince Rust

Amanda has a fungal disease called “quince rust.” Earlier in 2022, Carol Pinnell-Alison and Amy Thornton of the LSU AgCenter wrote about this disease, “Quince Rust is caused by the fungus Gymnosporangium clavipes. Fruits in the pome fruit group (apples, quince, pear and mayhaw) are susceptible. A unique aspect of this disease is that the eastern red cedar and some junipers are essential for the continuation of the disease from year to year. The fungus completes part of its life cycle on the cedar and junipers and part on the mayhaw.”

These authors add, “Management of quince rust would start with planting a selection of mayhaw that has resistance to the disease if available. If you already planted a susceptible selection, then the elimination of cedar and junipers close to the mayhaw would reduce the number of fungal spores that could cause an infection. This may not be very practical. A fungicide application from the time the flower buds begin showing color through bloom would help manage the disease. Fungicides available for homeowners are sulfur or myclobutanil. Copper fungicides may be used but not during bloom.”


Common dandelion. Photo: LSU AgCenter.

Dandelion Edibility

Carolyn of Covington, LA, made this inquiry, “I am wondering if there are only specific dandelions that are edible. My midwife told me about the dandelions with a single flower are the medicinal kind. I have mostly the kind with fractioning stems and small flowers. Are those edible? I was going to try to roast the roots for tea and cook the greens (with other kinds) for a spicy kick. What should I look for ‘edible dandelions?’”

AHA searched for “extension + edible dandelion” and found an article, “Dandelions for Food” by Michelle Jarvie with the Michigan State University Extension. Ms. Jarvie makes no distinction between types of dandelions. The stem is inedible, but the rest of the plant is suitable for various meals, “Dandelion flowers are a terrific addition to pancakes or fritters.”

Jarvie also discusses the leaves, “Next, the greens. Young greens picked before the plant flowers are the best, but they can be picked and eaten year-round. Young, more tender greens can be used fresh in salads, or chopped and used in place of chives on top of mashed or baked potatoes. They can also be cooked and used in similar ways as spinach, such as sautéed, stir-fried or creamed. One cup of chopped dandelion leaves supplies a good amount of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. They also contain a fair amount of sodium naturally, so it is also a great herb to use as flavoring instead of table salt.”

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.”

5/3/2022 12:58:07 PM
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