Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Leaf Key, Roselle Hibiscus, and Digger Bees

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Leaf Key to Common Trees in Louisiana. Image: LSU AgCenter

Leaf Key

Mara, a regular contributor to RSFF, sent this email with a picture of oaks leaves, “Do you think both samples are virginiana [live oak]? The browner (older) leaves are not laurifolia [laurel oak]. I was thinking one tree could be different, as the trees look a bit different--their growth habit. All 4 are about 50 years old now. One of them produces more ‘squat’ acorns, like the laurifolia.”AHA shared these thoughts, “The leaves in your photo look like live oak leaves. I can tell that you did your research when you mentioned the botanical names of ‘virginiana” for the live oak and ‘laurifolia” for laurel oak.

Let me share these thoughts. Even leaves in the same tree can be a little different. The sun leaves on the top of a tree tend to be narrower due to plentiful sunlight while the shade leaves are broader to catch more sunlight.”

Mara responded, “Many years ago, I picked up a booklet published by LDAF, Commercial Trees of Louisiana. That is where I get my tree smarts.”

The book Mara cited above was a useful publication, but it is out of print. For people who want to identify the trees in their landscape, there is a resource by the LSU AgCenter, and it is titled, Leaf Key to the Common Trees in Louisiana. This publication is a free, downloadable guide to help find the names of trees from their leaves. This booklet has 36 pages and includes 132 trees, both broadleaf and evergreen. Some non-native trees are in this document.

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The bloom of this hibiscus will make tea. Photo: Betsy Cornett, Master Gardener.

Roselle Hibiscus

Betsy, a Master Gardener in Beauregard Parish, shared this image in which she proudly displays her harvest of roselle hibiscus. Will Afton, an AgCenter Horticulture Agent, wrote about this plant about a year in GNO Gardening, “Roselle is an easy to grow plant that is related to a lot of plants that most of us in South Louisiana already have experienced growing. The flowers are just as beautiful as tropical hibiscus and rose of Sharon. The deep red pods even give an interesting effect when grown in the garden and landscape. However, with the roselle we can harvest those pods and young leaves to add variety to home cuisine while at the same time providing a little personal security for the self-sustaining homeowner. Start the process of locating a couple of seeds in late winter so you can give this wonderful plant a shot this warm season.”

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A nest of digger bees. Photo: Christy Frederic, Master Gardener, Pineville, LA

Digger Bees

Christy is another contributor to RSFF, and she sent an image with this question, “[Do you] have any idea what kind of insect makes these little tunnels? I poked a pine needle in a couple, and it went in several inches easily.” AHA asked Dr. James Villegas for help to identify this insect, and he responded, “Those look like nests of Digger Bees. Is the homeowner seeing bees around? Digger bees are docile unless provoked.”

A website, Bird Watching - Types of bees found in Louisiana, shared this narrative about digger bees, “Digger Bees are aptly named – to make their nests, they dig into the soil and construct their homes from mud!

They are considered social-solitary bees. This term sounds confusing but think of it like this: Digger Bees nest in the ground, in their hole. But their nests are often near other Digger Bee nests, like individual houses in a neighborhood. So, Digger Bees might be considered the suburban settlers of the bee world!

Some studies have shown Digger Bees are even more efficient at pollinating flowers and crops than Honeybees or Bumblebees. Unfortunately, because Digger Bees resemble wasps, people often have them killed or removed when they find them. But these species are relatively docile and will only sting if directly provoked.”

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.”

1/12/2024 3:27:27 PM
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