March 8, 2007 at 7:17 a.m.
It is not unusual to have the asparagus beetle in an established asparagus bed. Last summer I received a call that one gardener had the beetles in his bed that he planted in the spring. Since I could not believe it, I went out to see for myself. Not only were they full of asparagus beetles, but there was no established bud anywhere to be found.
The asparagus beetle is particularly dangerous because they feed on the young, tender asparagus ferns. If they defoliate the ferns, it will stress the plant to a point of deforming and may kill the plant. You will know if you have beetle damage when you see the shoots come out of the ground bent over like a cane. This is called Sheppard's crook which means that the beetle has already attacked the roots. I realize that most gardeners have concerns about using chemicals. However, the only way I know to control the established asparagus beetle is with insecticides that say on the label that they are affective for the beetle.
Three years ago I had a very strange looking asparagus in one of my beds. It was green, about three feet long, and flat. It looked like a long green stick of string gum that kids eat now days. Last summer, two of our Master Gardeners spoke of the same type of asparagus in their bed. Also, last summer, a gardener brought in a sample to the Extension Office during a plant clinic. None of us had an answer to this puzzle.
In January I read an article in the Yard and Garden news "What's up with that?" by Nancy Rose from the U of M Extension Service. The article dealt with the weird stuff and fun facts from the gardening world.
Not only did she write about fun facts, but Nancy Rose had a picture of the asparagus ferns I have been writing about.
According to Nancy Rose, this old asparagus stalk was brought to the Extension Regional Center in Marshall, MN. Rose writes that this is a great example of abnormal growth known as fasciation.
Fasciation occurs when something goes wrong with the cells at the growing tips of plants. Instead of growing in an upright, fairly cylindrical form, the growing tip spreads laterally. This results in flattened, band-like growth. Fasciation can be caused by spontaneous cell mutation or damage to the growing tip.
Exposures to herbicides containing growth regulators are a common cause of fasciation in gardens.
Fasciation often occurs in stem tissue but can also occur in flowers, roots, and fruit tissue. An occasional fascinated stem or flower will not hurt the rest of the plant and rarely recurs. Sometimes it is actually a desirable trait. The wavy, flattened flower heads of cockscomb celosia, the decorative flat branches of Japanese Fantail Willow, and the oddly crested stems of certain cacti are all types of fasciation that some gardeners find fascinating.
You can read the entire article in the February edition of The Yard and Garden news at: http://www. extension.umn.edu/ projects/yard andgarden/YGLNews/YGLNews.html.
If you have ordered bare-root plants from the Chisago County Master Gardeners in the past, you already have received our plant order form. The mailing also includes upcoming events sponsored by the Master Gardener Program. If you are not on our mailing list but wish to be, you can call the Extension Office at 651-674-4417 or you can reach me at 651-257-4496.