Advertisement

Garden Q&A: My clematis has spots and what is this blue worm-like thing?

Garden Q&A: My clematis has spots and what is this blue worm-like thing?
Spots on clematis doesn't mean you need to dig up the vine. It's a fungal infection that can be controlled. (Ellen Nibali / For The Baltimore Sun)

My clematis leaves have spots. My neighbor said I have to dig it up. It’s so beautiful when it blooms, is there anything less drastic I can do?

Digging up the vine is premature. Clematis fungal leaf spot mainly infects leaves and does not get into the root system. However, sometimes infections on stems cause cankers and wilting (clematis wilt) or fatally get into the crown. Bottom line is that with good sanitation measures, it can usually be controlled.

Advertisement

Prune out infected parts now if possible. You also can spray with a fungicide containing myclobutanil, propaconizole or chlorothalonil either now to stop spread or in spring preventatively. Improve air circulation around your clematis, so moisture doesn’t sit on the leaves. Some clematis varieties are resistant.

I knocked aside a decaying branch when I was clipping weeds the other day, and suddenly saw a bright florescent blue wormish-thing twitching in the dead leaves. I was so freaked out, I flicked it away with the pruners and then I couldn’t find it. Was it a worm? Or did I cut it off of something?

Not to freak you out more, but it was not a worm. It was the tail of a skink.

Skinks are our Maryland lizards. Several Maryland skinks have blue iridescent tails when young. And they have the, yes, freakish ability to drop off their tails when threatened. A twitching blue tails is so unnerving and distracting that it very effectively draws all attention, while the young skink makes its getaway. It’s a great defense mechanism, since the tail regrows in about a year.

It’s unlikely you cut off the tail. When a tail drops, it leaves a rough edge. Pruners would leave a clean cut. Common five-lined skinks are the ones most encountered in Maryland backyards, inhabiting moist areas with coarse woody debris and eating insects, snails, and even small vertebrates such as frogs and baby mice.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

Advertisement
Advertisement