Trialeurodes vaporariorum, better known as ‘those nasty whiteflies’


Ficus leaves damaged by whiteflies

The Tucker Greenhouse has its share of ‘critters’, but right now there is a ‘bloom’ of these nasty whitefly insects, AND they are slowly defoliating a large Ficus tree in one of the tropical greenhouses. They seem to like certain plants better than others too.  They love feeding on members of the Araceae, and Moraceae plant families in particular.

For a great description of whiteflies and the havoc they can wreak on plants, see the following from Planet Natural, a research center for organic gardeners…

 “Common on houseplants and in greenhouses, the whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) is a sap-sucking insect that is often found in thick crowds on the undersides of leaves. When infested plants are disturbed, great clouds of the winged adults fly into the air. Both nymphs and adults damage plants by sucking the juices from new growth causing stunted growth, leaf yellowing and reduced yields. Plants become weak and susceptible to disease. Like aphids, whiteflies secrete honeydew, so leaves maybe sticky or covered with a black sooty mold. They are also responsible for transmitting several plant viruses. 
Adults (1/16 inch long) are moth-like insects with powdery white wings and short antenna. They are easily recognized and often found near the tops of plants or on stem ends. Wingless nymphs are flattened, oval and almost scale-like in appearance. After the first instar, or crawler stage, they settle down and attach themselves to the underside of leaves and begin feeding.
Young nymphs overwinter on the leaves of host plants. In late spring adult females deposit 200-400 eggs in circular clusters on the undersides of upper leaves. The eggs hatch in 5-10 days and first instar nymphs, which resemble small mealybugs and are called crawlers, move a short distance from the egg before flattening themselves against the leaf to feed. The remaining nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd and 4th) do not move. A non-feeding pupal stage follows and within a week, young adults emerge to repeat the cycle. There are many generations per year. Whiteflies develop from egg to adult in approximately 25 days at room temperature. Adults may live for one to two months.”
Since the Tucker Greenhouse is filled with a diverse group of plants, and since people of all age groups walk through it on a daily basis, I try and limit the use of harmful pesticides.  I do use insecticidal soap, and an occasional systemic insecticide applied to soil, but largely, I depend on beneficial insects to help me combat the vast array of plant feeding insects that visit the greenhouse regularly.  I use lady bugs, mealybug destroyers, and whitefly parasitic wasps.
Today I received a package in the mail of 3,000 Encarsia formosa pupae.  Encarsia is a whitefly parasitic wasp that feeds on whiteflies.
The package of 3,000 pupae was shipped on ice to keep the insects cool during shipment.  So, since these tiny, delicate wasp pupae are one these cards, I’ll be placing them on the branches of plants throughout the tropical room.  Stay tuned for the results!

End of fall semester! What is blooming or fruiting in the Tucker Greenhouse on Stop Day?

pink flower

Billbergia nutans, Queen’s Tears, found in the Bromeliaceae family.

orange flower

Caesalpinnia pulcherrima, Pride of Barbados, found in the Fabaceae family.

white flower

Eucharis grandiflora, Amazon Lily,  found in the Amaryllidaceae family.

maroon seed pod

Theobroma cacao, cacao tree seed pod (chocolate), Malavaceae family.

white flower

Cactaceae family, found in the desert room.

white flowers

Cordyline sp., Giant Palm Lily,  found in the Asparagaceae family.

white orchid

Orchidaceae family.

red flower

Euphorbia pulcherrima, Poinsettia, found in the  Euphorbiaceae family.

pink color

Adenium obesum, Desert rose, found in the Apocynaceae family.

white flower

Pentas sp.,  found in the Rubiaceae family.

pink orchid


Tucker Greenhouse ‘Corpse Plant’, better known as Titan arum

green plant

Amorphophallus titanum, commonly called Titan arum, is found in the Araceae family.

The Tucker greenhouse was given a Titan arum tuber from the New York Botanical Garden five years ago.  Each year after its stem and leaves die back, I lift the tuber and transplant it into a larger pot.  The summer heat in the Tucker greenhouse is way too hot for this tender plant, so, I bring it home to my patio for the long summer.  This year it grew to a height of 1.5 meters.  I recently brought it back to the Tucker greenhouse to live until next summer.  If everything I’ve read is correct, the Tucker greenhouse Titan arum could bloom in two more years!  Fingers crossed.

For more information on this amazing plant, check out this link from Kew Gardens

Tucker greenhouse blooms the last week of April

red, orange, yellow plant

Codiaeum variegatum, commonly called Croton, found in the Euphorbiaceae family.

This species has an unopened male flower on the left and a female flower on the right (note 3 styles).  A plant with unisexual flowers on the same plant is called a monoecious plant.  This plant has toxic white sap like most members of the Euphorbiaceae family.


Asphodelus fistulosus, commonly called onion weed or pink asphodel is found in the Asphodelaceae family, or Aloe family.

Asphodelus fistulosus, commonly called onion weed or pink asphodel is found in the Xanthorrhoeaceae family and the Asphodeloideae subfamily.

This species is native to the Mediterranean region, but is an invasive in the United States.  The flowers are diurnal (close at night or in low-light weather conditions.


pink flower

Side view of an Amaryllis flower found in the Amaryllidaceae family.

Note the white, three-lobed stigma, and the six yellow anthers filled with pollen.

Amaryllis flower, front view

Amaryllis flower, front view.


pink flowers

Mimosa pudica, commonly called the Sensitive plant. This plant is found in the Fabaceae family and the Mimosoideae subfamily.

This plant closes its leaves when touched.  Because of this, it has become the favorite attraction of Tucker greenhouse tour groups.  People visiting the greenhouse touch the leaves and shriek with joy.  Others video tape the leaves slowly closing.  This plant movement is called thigmonasty.


Adenium obesum or desert rose, is found in the Apocynaceae family.

Adenium obesum or desert rose, is found in the Apocynaceae family.

Several Desert rose plants are currently in full bloom in the succulent room right now.

Platycodon sp. or Balloon flower is found in the Campanulaceae family.

Platycodon sp. or Balloon flower is found in the Campanulaceae family.