Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Drake Elm, Wood Ashes & Passion Vine

Drake Elm also known as Chinese Elm with yellow foliage.

Drake elm also known as Chinese elm with yellow foliage.
Photo: Chrissy Morton

Chrissy sent this message last month, “I have a Drake elm that is four years old. Within the last month the leaves started turning yellow and are falling off. The bark has peeled off also.”

The Drake elm also goes by the name of Chinese elm is an attractive shade tree with an interesting bark pattern. This tree is desirable, but some homeowners confused this elm with the Siberian elm which is a tree to avoid in the landscape because it would be invasive like other Asian tree species.

The bark naturally exfoliates and falls off. However, the change of foliage is concerning. Area Horticulture Agent looks into the diseases affecting Drake elms. Some Drake elms are susceptible to Dutch elm disease and to elm anthracnose. Area Horticulture Agent suggested a fungicidal soil drench to help her tree, but Chrissy shared that this treatment is failing to help. If you have a Drake (Chinese) elm with these symptoms, please contact Area Horticulture Agent to see if there is a pattern of disease spread in Louisiana.

Wood ashes.

Wood ashes has some beneficial properties if used correctly.

Juanita of Jena sent an email on behalf of another gardener, “A friend of mine has been burning leaves, branches and brush in a pile for about 15 years. She wants to know if the burned ashes/dirt/compost would work as soil/potting soil in pots of flowers or not??”

The short answer is “yes”. Two AgCenter Horticulturists, Dr. Kiki Fontenot and Dr. Thomas Koske, “The analysis … revealed that the ashes have an acid neutralizing (liming) power of at least 20 percent of pure lime. Because ashes are more soluble than lime, they will neutralize soil acidity within a few days after incorporation by rain or cultivation. On the downside, the analysis indicated the ashes contained a salt (Na) content of about 22 percent.”

They go on to say, “If your soil has a neutral pH (pH near 7) or has high potassium, then ashes should NOT be applied.” However, “If soil is acidic and moderate to very deficient in potassium, then wood ashes should improve the soil. Wood ash is a liming material that works at sweetening the soil at about half the rate of ag limestone or dolomite. If you need 20 pounds of lime, you can try about 40 to 50 pounds of wood ash. Only a soil nutrient analysis will give a definitive answer as to your soil needs.”

Finally, ash can provide potassium, an important plant nutrient. Here are some guidelines for applying ash to a lawn or garden, “The safe amount of ashes to be applied will depend on the soil type and its current pH. For sandy soils, the maximum rate of 10 gallons of ashes per 1000 square feet will supply 3 pounds of K2O and 10 pounds of lime. For all other soils the maximum rate of 20 gallons per 1,000 square feet will supply 6 pounds of K2O and 20 pounds of lime.”

Yellow passion vine, a native pollinator plant.

Yellow passion vine, a native pollinator plant.
Photo: Linda Gaspard.

Gulf fritillary butterfly feeding on yellow passion vine.

Gulf fritillary butterfly feeding on yellow passion vine.
Photo by University of Florida

Linda of Marksville had a concern about a plant and sent her question and an image, “Please tell me this is not a poison ivy vine.”

Good news!! This is not poison ivy. It is yellow passion vine. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it is a native plant of the lower 48 states. “This is a major food plant for several species of butterfly larvae” including “Julia, Mexican & Gulf fritillaries butterflies, Zebra & Crimson-patch longwing butterflies.”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent, 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

9/13/2019 3:53:25 PM
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