Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Quince Rust, Snake ID, Wild Petunia, Leaf Smut, and an Orange Bug

Quince rust.

Mayhaw fruit infected with quince rust. Photo: Niki Wisby, Master Gardener, Leesville, LA.

Quince Rust

Niki sent another image of diseased mayhaw fruit, “Good morning! I have another question for you. What is on this mayhaw tree?”These mayhaws are suffering from quince rust, and applications of fungicides will prevent infections. Another contributing factor is the presence of redcedar trees. Quince rust will infect a cedar tree, then a mayhaw, then a cedar tree and so on. Mayhaws and cedars are called alternative hosts because quince rust needs both plants for its life cycle.

The good news for gardeners is the wide variety of fungicides available at garden centers. These fungicides are labeled for a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and ornamentals and are labeled for a wide variety of fungal diseases. As always, read the label of your fungicide for safe and effective use.


Dekay's brownsnake. Photo: Pam Archer, DeRidder, LA.

Snake ID

Pam asked to identify a snake, “This snake was found in the spare bedroom. One of our cats brought it in to play with. Never a dull moment with cats. I ‘rescued’ it and turned it loose under our porch.”

AHA consulted with Ms. Cecilia “CC” Richmond, a wildlife biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to identify this species. Richmond shared her expertise, “It is a Dekay's Brownsnake. It is hard to see the facial features in the picture. If it was in the garden, mulch, just und. the grass, etc. - that is where they generally live. They mostly eat snails, slugs, earthworms, also small insects, etc. [it is] a very docile and good snake to have around.”


Carolina wild petunia. Photo: Mara Trotter

Wild Petunia

Mara asked about a wildflower, “[I am] attaching picture of three of my blue-purple wildflowers… it is about a foot tall. The bright morning sun washed out the color completely. If you know purple althea, then this one is bluer. “

AHA consulted with Mr. Robert Turley, a gifted horticulturalist with the AgCenter, and he helped with the identification: Carolina wild petunia. AHA went online to research this wildflower. Mr. Wade Bryant, a Florida Master Gardener, wrote a narrative about the Carolina wild petunia, “It is a pretty little plant native to Florida and endemic to the southeastern U.S.

It is an herbaceous, long-lived perennial and one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring. It has a strong woody root system that allows it to survive winter freezes and quickly come back in the spring. It also holds up very well for transplanting.

Carolina Wild Petunia is a must-have plant for pollinator gardens. It is a source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, wasps, and hummingbirds. It is also the host plant for the larva of the Common Buckeye and White Peacock butterflies.

It self-seeds readily. Seeds can also be harvested once the flower withers and the seed capsule turns brown. Seeds should be cold stratified to insure germination. It can also be propagated from cuttings and plant divisions after a few years.”

Lawn smut.

Leaf smut. Photo: Christa Haymon, Anacoco, LA

Leaf Smut

Christa saw something earlier in the spring and asked, “Can you tell me what this is? It is in patches on the grass (and weeds) in the yard. I do not know if it is fungal or something else. What should I do before it spreads into the garden?”

Christa had spores of leaf smut. The good news is that a water hosepipe can rinse the spores off. According to the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, “Smut diseases are favored by high nitrogen fertility. Reducing drought stress through proper irrigation practices will help to reduce smut injury. Proper and consistent mowing practices will also reduce incidences of smut, particularly on loose smut that affects the inflorescence. A healthy and vigorous lawn is less likely to get the disease. Chemical treatment is not warranted but there is homeowner [fungicides] available. Please refer to the label for precautions and proper usage.”

Orange bug.

A type of leaf footed bug. Photo: Elizabeth Berkes.

Orange Bug

Elizabeth saw a pest of concern, “Can you identify this guy for me? I have a whole colony in my landscape.” Elizabeth has a type of relative of the leaf footed bug, and it lacks a common name so, for thus purposes of RSFF, it called an ‘orange bug.’ Dr. James Villegas, an entomologist with the AgCenter, assisted with identifying this insect, “This insect is Spartocera fusca, a species of leaf-footed bug. Their preferred house plants are nightshade and ground cherries. [They are] not a major issue for residential or commercial cultivation [and] can be managed through physical removal. They do aggregate as most leaf-footed bugs do.”

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.”

7/5/2023 3:03:01 PM
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