Whenever I see photos of the symptoms of Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV) up close, I actually think that if it weren’t so destructive, if would be beautiful.
One of the two strains of this Potyvirus, called PRSV-P, infects both Papayas (Carica papaya) and cucurbits (Cucurbitaceae); the plants suffer mosaic (interference with photosynthesis), leaf distortions, patches of necrotic tissue (which invites fungal infection), deformities in the fruit, and greatly-reduced yields. The virus is highly infectious, moving rapidly from plant-to-plant, primarily through aphid predation.
After being introduced to Hawaii in the 1930s, the virus mutated, and by the 1950s had halted 94% of Papaya plantations on Oahu. Production moved to other islands, but the pathogen followed, and also began infecting home gardens in the 1970s. Even with aggressive horticultural and insecticidal management, by the 1990s, the virus infected commercial plantations, and over 50%-80% of the industry was decimated in various global sites of production.
Carica papaya is a rather genetically homogenous tree, so there were few reservoirs of resistance to the virus to be found in feral or wild populations of the plant. As a result, something else needed to be done to save the production of this fruit: in 1998, the answer came in the form of genetic engineering.
Periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) are among those insects that arrive in plagues.
Related to smaller bugs like leafhoppers, they are often mistakenly called locusts. But the similarities between cicadas and Biblically-significant pests are limited to their tendency to congregate en masse. Unlike swarming locusts—which eat everything green in times of drought—periodical cicadas descend upon deciduous trees (their preferred food source) in the eastern United States for a period of about four or six weeks, on specific years.
Divided into regionally-distinct and synchronous “broods,” different species of Magicicada emerge on either 13- or 17-year cycles; the vast majority of their lives are spent in a larval stage under the soil, sucking nutrients from tree roots.
Right now, the so-called “Brood V” of 17-year periodical cicadas has emerged in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, right on schedule. This brood consists of three species: Magicicada cassinii, Magicicada septendecim, and Magicicada septendecula.
Sola dosis facit venenum: The Dose Makes the Poison
In the springtime, a special delicacy to be had is the emerging, curled frond of the fern, called a fiddlehead because of it’s resemblance to the scroll of a fiddle.
Not all fiddleheads are classified as edible: among the most-consumed species are the Vegetable fern (Athyrium esculentum), Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Royal fern (Osmunda regalis), Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), Lady fern, (Athyrium filix-femina), and Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum).
As habitats of native bees, beetles, and butterflies are sometimes scarce, or in the way of cultivation, it is important to preserve refuges where these creatures can hide, and continue to symbiotically interact with your local ecosystem.
Most arbourists these days will tell you that tree topping (the practice of pollarding large trunks and branches on mature trees) is an excessively destructive process: it’s largely been replaced in the trade with spiral thinning.