Using Aspirin on Plants

Salicylic acid (SA)

Aspirin’s active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid. It is chemically similar to Salicin, which naturally occurs in willow bark. When dissolved in water, acetsalicylic acid breaks into acetic and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a plant hormone (phytohormone) which works as a defense mechanism against pathogens and environmental issues like drought, heat and chill stress, heavy metal toxicity and similar. Plants can also make the hormone signal reach nearby plants by producing volatile methyl salicylate.

Plant hormone

Plants produce small amounts of salicylic acid when stressed. The defense mechanism allows them to fight environmental stress and pest damage. It became evident that there are also other benefits of SA growth hormone, related to growth and plant development. Usually plant response is slow and SA levels are low, which means we can speed things up by activating plant’s immune system by exposing it to Salicylic acid. Possible reason of high concentrations of salicylic acid in willow is the fact that it usually grows in water logged conditions. SA hormone allows it to keep the stomates opened which allows transpiration.
Diluted salicylic acid is helpful when germinating seeds as it speeds up germination and boosts their resistance to pests and infections. Pretreating seeds with SA also improves germination rate.

How to use Aspirin?

As mentioned above, acetylsalicylic acid breaks down in water, making salicylic acid available to the plant. Usually it is applied as foliar spray. I use one Aspirin tablet dissolved in 4 liters of water. Some use stronger concentrations, but I’m trying to keep it safe, rather than burning my plants. I usually leave the water  with dissolved aspirin sit for a day, so it can hydrolysate completely. Positive effects should be visible a week or two after application.

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Bamboo fungal infection?

Dark brown bottom side of the leaf

Dark brown bottom side of the leaf

Temperature outside dropped considerably, and I’m afraid that some of my less hardy bamboos will get completely toasted this year. In late fall, I have taken my variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings inside for overwintering. In just a week or so, I have noticed dark spots on some of their leaves. All the plants seemed to have been affected, but the issue seemes to be a bit different on the greener seedling. The darker, less variegated seedling started getting larger spots on it’s leaves. These spots appeared on old and on new leaves, young leaves seemed to be much more affected than the hardened ones. This seedling is overall happy and started shooting vigorously. New shoots are affected, but at this time, it seems like the infection is slowly fading out as new leaves take longer to develop the spots.

Upper sides of leaf surface are holding much better

Upper sides of leaf surface are holding much better

Other two, more variegated seedlings, took the same time to develop tiny black spots all over the leaf. These are much less visible from upper side of the leaf and hit the bottom side first. New leaves appear healthy at first, but when they age to a month or two, they start getting dark brown. Bottom side of the leaf gets hit first with just a couple of brown spots, eventually, it spreads all the way to the leaf tip and through the leaf to the upper side of leaf. I have cut off all the leaves from the largest seedling at the very beginning, when I first saw the issue. It doesn’t show any issues for now, but it grows really slow. It shows signs of recovery. I thoroughly sprayed all the seedlings with insecticide and it didn’t do much good.

Bamboo grows vigorously despite the infection

Bamboo grows vigorously despite the infection

When I took the seedlings inside, they all started growing rapidly. All of them started shooting and don’t really seem to be bothered by their infection. Especially the greener form started acting like the super-aggressive seedling from last winter. I keep temperature around 21°C – 25°C, relative humidity around 45% and around 16 hour light cycle. They have a fan nearby, which makes sure there is always some airflow. I will leave the seedlings inside for the winter and keep an eye on them. If they start to decline, I’ll bath them in fungicide, if not, I’ll wait for the spring to come and thoroughly spray them before planting them outside the next season.

Did any of you ever noticed anything similar on any of your bamboos? Hopefully I can identify the bamboo fungal infection, so I can get rid of it before the spring.

In the end, leaf becomes almost completely brown, turns yellow and falls off.

In the end, leaf becomes almost completely brown, turns yellow and falls off.

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Recent photo

Recent variegated Phyllostachys arcana 'Luteosulcata' seedling

Recent variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling

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Feeding Sundews Fish Food

Each winter, when I keep my sundews inside during the cold part of the year, I try to keep them as strong as possible for the following summer. They are more than capable of catching it’s own meal outside, but when I bring them inside, they don’t get much more than occasional fungus gnat.

Why do I even bother?
Feeding Drosera capensis

Feeding Drosera capensis

Carnivore plants usually require only small amount of nutrients and can easily withstand periods without captured food. They slow down their growth and refuse to start flowering until they get enough nutrients. My goal is, to make them grow as much as possible before the following season, possibly inducing flowering at the time when they come out in the spring. I keep them under grow light, which enables them to start flowering in late winter. They are in their full health when fungus gnats strike in the spring, when I start sowing my vegetables.

Healthy diet
Fish food I use

Fish food I use

In the past, I tried feeding them different kind of food, but I soon realised that giving them fish food is the easiest option by far. I have given my plants live springtails, while they were seedlings. They multiply vigorously and are excellent source of food for tiny Sundews, but they soon outgrow their tiny food. At one point, I have fed the carnivores aphids. In the spring time, they suck on tender cherry tree leaves. I have picked the infested leaves and placed them into a bag and thrown them into a freezer. I ended up with almost unlimited supply of dead aphids which lasted until the next spring. I could not feed them as much as I wanted to, because it was really time consuming. And as I later realized, giving them fish food really makes a difference. They just love it!
The food consists 50% of common water fleas (daphnia), a bit of vegetable proteins and fish derivatives. I was afraid the food would be too much for them to handle, but it seems to be perfect for the job. I usually mix it with some distilled water, to make it thinner.

Feeding plants
Time to rock and roll

Time to rock and roll

To apply the fish food paste onto the carnivorous leaf, I use a toothpick or a screwdriver. I dip it into the paste and apply it onto the trap. In a couple of hours, leaves usually start folding and start the digestion. When the process of digestion is finished, traps usually die off. Tentacles that were used are damaged and cease mucilage production. Dew appears only on unused tentacles. That’s the reason, why I usually apply the food all over the leaf and I leave some leaves intact. I feed those later. 🙂

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