Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Mexican Plum, Young Hawk, Deer Damage, and Evergreen Shrub

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A green fruit of a Mexican plum tree. Photo: Timothy Har

Mexican Plum

Timothy asked for assistance to identify a fruit tree, “Can you ID this tree? [A] friend living in Gardner [LA] asked me and I do not have a clue. [It] makes that fruit with large seed.” Timothy has a Mexican plum, and despite its name, it is a native fruit tree to Louisiana and its neighboring states. It will readily hybridize with the American plum, and in the area where there is hybridization, botanists have difficulty in distinguishing between the two plum species. The Mexican plum makes inferior fruit for jams, but it is desirable for attracting butterflies, especially the giant swallowtail butterfly.

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A juvenile red-tailed hawk. Photo: Mara Trotter.

Young Hawk

Mara, a regular contributor to RSFF, saw wildlife in her yard and sent this email, “Calling on you for the answer--again, as always. [One] Saturday afternoon I saw a GIANT predator sitting on my birdbath. My little bird book does not give me a conclusive answer--he looks like 2 of them. I did notice that this bird had yellow legs, and I think yellowish leggings (?) as well. It also had a short dark tail.

I heard it ‘tweet’ a lot-- a simple little tweet like you would not expect from a GIANT bird.”Ms. Brittany Perry, a wildlife biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) assisted with the identification of this predatory bird, “This is a juvenile red-tailed hawk (RTH), which has a different plumage from an adult. You can ID it from clean white chest, streaky bellied band. The ‘tweeting’ was because it is young and probably still being tended to by the adults. ”Various online sources report that the RTH is the most common hawk in North American, and it is the largest, too. The juveniles of RTH lack the red tail, and this species of hawk can reside in Louisiana or migrate through to other states.

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Probable deer browse damage to roses. Photo: Chaery Knight, DeRidder, LA

Deer Damage

Chaery saw damage on her roses and sent this email, “I cannot find any sign of insects on my roses, but something is eating the buds and leaves off. I used the [Bayer] Bioadvanced 3 in 1 [Insect, Disease & Mite Control]. The leaves were coming back and starting to bud again and as you can see they are missing again. Any idea what could be doing this? ”This damage resembles browsing by deer. A search for “deer repellents” on the AgCenter resulted in an article about deer-resistant plants. However, AHA found several strategies to repel deer from both extension and state wildlife agencies websites. The University of Missouri Extension presented many options to keep deer from the crops. One is called the “peanut butter fence” (PBF).Robert A. Pierce II, a wildlife biologist with Missouri Extension, conveys these points about the PBF, “The peanut butter fence has been shown to be an effective and inexpensive fence design in several field conditions. It is best used for gardens, nurseries, orchards, and field crops that are subject to moderate deer pressure.

A single strand of 17-gauge wire is suspended about 30 inches above the ground by 4-foot fiberglass rods at 30- to 60-foot intervals. Wood corner posts provide support. Aluminum foil "flags" (foil squares 4 inches by 4 inches folded over the wire) are attached to the wire at 20- to 50-foot intervals using tape or paper clips to hold them in place. Aluminum flashing can also be used and has the advantage of not being damaged or blown off. Closer spacing may be necessary near existing deer trails and during the first few months the fence is used, when deer behavior is being modified. The underside of the flags is baited with a 1-to-1 mixture of peanut butter and vegetable oil. The smell attracts the deer, which touch or sniff the flags and receive an electric shock. The flags should be rebaited every four to eight weeks, depending on weather conditions.”

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Shrubby Japanese yew. Photo: All Season Nursery, Lafayette, LA

Evergreen Shrub

Melanie wants to update her landscape, “We bought a house two years ago and I do not like the Podocarpus, so I had someone cut them down with a chain saw along with 2 Sago Palms. Will they come back? Or will I need to hire someone to dig them up? Any advice would be appreciated. ”Podocarpus, also called shrubby Japanese yew, is an evergreen plant with coarse leaves. This shrub can be shaped into a hedge and can be an alternative to boxwoods which suffer from various plant diseases. This plant can be readily propagated from seed or from cuttings. Also, there is little reporting about this evergreen becoming invasive. Larry Hodgson, blogger of the Laidback Gardener” reported that some species of Podocarpus may be able to sprout from a stump so digging up the stump and roots may be necessary to keep this shrub in check.

NC State Extension website reports, “Suckers are produced at the base of the evergreen. Seeds or suckers may propagate the plant.” This fact suggests that the stump and roots of the sago palm may require excavation to prevent this plant from returning to the landscape.

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.”

7/31/2023 9:03:09 PM
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