Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: A Gecko, Oak Roots & Celeste Figs Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter Area Horticulture Agent

Medium sized gecko.

Mediterranean Gecko, a harmless lizard. Photo:

A Gecko

A homeowner sent a picture of an animal that he thought was poisonous, and wanted to confirm his concern. The animal in question looks like the one in this image.

This lizard is a Mediterranean gecko, a harmless, exotic reptile established in the Gulf coast of the United State. It does feed on insects and could be beneficial.

Tree roots lifting up the slab.

A lifted slab 1/4 of an inch or higher is designated as a trip hazard. Photo:

Oak Roots

Dan Gill, a retired AgCenter horticulturist, shared some information with AgCenter horticulture agents in Louisiana. He received an email from Kathy B. who asked:

“Hi Dan, I have a large oak tree in my front yard located approximately three feet from the side walk. There is one root which is pushing up between breaks in the sidewalk and making the sidewalk uneven and hazardous. If I replace a section of the sidewalk and grind the root down will the tree be harmed?”

Gill offered these wise words:

Yes, the tree will be harmed. Roots do two main things for a tree:

1) They absorb the water and minerals the tree needs from the soil. Removing large roots like the one damaging the sidewalk will reduce the tree's ability to absorb water and this may negatively affect its health and vigor (although this is not a matter of life and death).

2) Roots hold the tree up. The only things that keep a tree from falling on your house in a storm are the roots. Cutting major roots weakens the roots system and increases the chances of a tree going over in a storm.

If possible, repair the sidewalk without cutting or grinding down the root. If this is not possible, you will just have to accept the negative consequences it may have on the tree.

Celeste fig.

Celeste fig with a fungal-infected, beetle-infested wood. Photo: Travis T.

Celeste Figs

Another homeowner, Travis T., sent an email to Gill asking about his Celeste fig tree:

“Hi Dan, My two oldest trees are twin Celeste trees planted in 2006.

The trees are heavy producers netting over 24 gallons per season each. They are the same size and receive the same care.

Recently I removed some tall grass and discovered borer damage on the backside of the tree where grass was tall during the past season. I always pull grass near the trunks of my trees by hand to avoid damage to the trunk.

It seems that the borers entered through an old pruning cut. I am attaching a high resolution picture.

I intend to clean the area well and paint the entire trunk with diluted white paint to better see any future beetles with a daily inspection. This is the only damage on the entire tree. The twin is perfect in every way.

So my Fig Friends group is very interested in this situation since some of them have as many as 80 trees of many varieties. meanwhile another of the group had flooding on his place near Carencro, LA in August of last year and he recently started seeing borer presence in many of the trees in the area which was flooded and the trees appear to be stressed . He intends to cut the trees off at the ground and burn them. The trees should return from the root.

We were looking for a time frame to watch for a presence of the beetles, or as you say a spray schedule. We will watch for some sign of the problem in the future. In my 30 years of growing fig trees this is the first problem I have had.”

Here is Gill’s response:

“The main issue with the affected fig tree is a fungal infection. Stubs were left when pruning was done in the past. The tree could not heal over the wounds, and they eventually allowed a fungal infection to enter the stubs and then move down into the trunk. As we commonly see, the bores are a secondary problem. They are not attacking the healthy parts of the tree, just the dead and dying tissue resulting from the fungal infection.

Unfortunately, there is no practical treatment or cure for the fungal infection now that it is in the trunk. The fig tree will try to fight it, but it looks like it is losing the battle. Expect this area to continue to decay. Feel free to paint the trunk, but this will not stop the decay. If the tree has more than one trunk, you may eventually remove this trunk entirely.

I don’t think there is a season to spray for borers. They are not a regular pest of fig trees, generally showing up only if something else is the major issue (like trees dying from flooding being attacked by borers or fungal decay). The main defense is keeping the trees as healthy as possible, pruning properly, removing dead branches promptly, etc.”

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.”

1/11/2023 7:51:34 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture