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!

Curry Leaf, or Curry Tree

white flower

Murraya koenigii, commonly called Curry Leaf, is found in the Rutaceae (Citrus) family.

The Curry Tree or Curry Leaf plant is very fragrant.  The flowers are fragrant, the leaves are fragrant, the whole plant is simply fragrant!  This tropical plant is native to the moist forests of south Asia. The fresh leaves of the plant are used as a flavoring in Indian/Asian cuisine.

For more information on the use of the Curry Leaf plant please check out

The Tucker Greenhouse Curry Leaf plant is located in the main hallway at the entrance to the greenhouse. When you find it, feel free to gently pull off a small leaf and crush it in your hands, or simply smell the flowers. The aroma is tantalizing.  If these flowers produce seeds, I’ll be planting them a.s.a.p.

The genus name Murraya, pays honor to Johann Andreas Murray, a Swedish professor of medicine and botany in the 1700’s.

Alpinia speciosa is blooming in the tropical room

The ginger lily in the tropical room has just begun to bloom.  It typically blooms in February in the Tucker Greenhouse.  If you’d like to find it, go in to the room with the pond and look just west of the deepest pond.  You’ll see several ginger inflorescences filled with whitish, yellow & orange orchid-like flowers.

white flower

Alpinia speciosa, commonly called ginger lily. This plant is found in the Zingiberaceae, or ginger family.

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

Colors on a rainy day

red flowers

Ixora coccinea, commonly called Jungle Geranium, is found in the Rubiaceae family (same family as coffee)

pink flower

Mimosa pudica, or Sensitive plant, found in the Fabaceae family, subfamily Mimosoideae

white flower

Plumeria sp., found in the Apocynaceae family

pink flower

Adenium obesum, or Desert Rose, is also found in the Apocynaceae family.

blue flower

Salvia azurea, or Blue Sage, is found in the Lamiaceae family.

Some of the insects who visit milkweed plants


Oncopeltus fasciatura (Hemiptera), or large Milkweed bug.  The picture above shows a group of milkweed bugs in various stages of growth on a milkweed seed pod.  These bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis.  The nymphs look just like the adults, but don’t have wings and are a different color.

Oleander aphids on milkweed pod

Oleander aphids on milkweed pod.

Oleander aphids, Aphis nerii, are bright yellow aphids that feed on several ornamental plants within the Apocynaceae family.  You may see an occasional brownish looking aphid in the bunch.  These have been parasitized by the parasitoid wasp, Lysiphelbus testaceips.

If you get a chance, look closely at a milkweed plant.  Chances are, it will be covered with insects of all kinds.