Poison sumac is not common in Georgia

Staghorn sumac berries are densely covered with red fuzz, which makes them easy for birds to spot and consume. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Staghorn sumac berries are densely covered with red fuzz, which makes them easy for birds to spot and consume. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I purchased property in Union County and had a guy give me a quote for clearing it. He said it’s full of poison sumac. Any idea if poison sumac has been reported here? Thad Weed, Blairsville

A: The field might be full of staghorn sumac, winged sumac or smooth sumac, but it’s not full of poison sumac. Poison sumac is only found in very wet or swampy spots. That’s not common where you live. Staghorn sumac is common in North Georgia. The conical, erect, maroon-red seedheads are eye-catching to humans and birds. Poison sumac has red stems and drooping berries, and the leaves have smooth edges. I’ve collected pictures of poison sumac and staghorn sumac at bit.ly/GAsumac.

Q: A few of my American boxwoods have a small, triangular white thing on some leaves; when magnified, there is a small pink dot near the top of the triangle. It can be scraped off with a fingernail. Marion Smith, Atlanta

A: I bet it is false oleander scale. This sap-sucking insect attacks boxwood, magnolia, aucuba, oleander, ivy and many other plants. Heavy infestations can cause leaf loss and general decline of the infested plant. Since immature crawlers are present throughout the year, this scale does not have an optimal timing for insecticide applications. Several applications of horticultural oil or other insecticide may be necessary to reduce heavy populations. My advice is to be hawk-eyed and prune out any affected branches on your boxwoods. With luck, you can control the pest without resorting to spraying.

Q: I planted some dahlia tubers late in May. They came up but were leggy and fell over. I staked them but wondered if I planted too shallow. John McIntosh, Atlanta

A: Dahlia tubers have a remarkable ability to anchor themselves even if planted too high. The question now, though, is whether they survived the cold weather this winter. Wait until mid-April to see if any growth appears. If you see greenery, you can stake them or replant a bit deeper.

Q: I planted four hibiscus sabdariffa plants last year. They got much larger than I expected but I propped them up with stakes and twine. They are now either dead or dormant. Do I pull them up? Sherry Bilodeau, email

A: Hibiscus sabdariffa, aka roselle or Red Zinger hibiscus, is not cold-hardy in Atlanta. Our cold weather has probably given the stems a big whack, but they MIGHT sprout again from the roots. Cut them back to a foot tall and cover each one with a cardboard box. Put a rock on the box to hold it down until things warm up in late March. Uncover the plants and see what happens.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener.

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