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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

What are the water drops on my plant? A lesson in transpiration and guttation

Xylem sap droplets can come from a plant's

Xylem sap droplets can come from a plant's leaves in a process called guttation. Photo Credit: Marilyn Von Braunsberg

Dear Jessica: Can you please tell me what these droplike things are on the leaves in the picture? If it’s a disease, how do I treat it? — Marilyn Von Braunsberg, Oceanside

Dear Marilyn: Those sticky droplets you’re seeing on your dracaena, Song of India, plant aren’t a sign of disease. Your plant is simply guttating, which means it’s secreting excess moisture from its pores, or stomata, as it moves water through its stems and leaves in a process called transpiration.

Plants draw water from their roots and circulate it up through their systems, 24-7. But they only release excess water during daylight. This means that water is taken in with no opportunity for release overnight, and all that pressure can build up within the plant, especially when temperatures are low or humidity is high. Rather than explode, the plant, then, has no recourse but to ooze excess moisture, which is why you’re waking up to those droplets.

Guttation is completely normal and no cause for alarm. Just be sure you’re not overwatering — or overfertilizing, which could result in leaf burn when the droplets eventually evaporate.  

Dear Jessica: Can you help us identify this weed? It seems to generate from one root system but spreads flat across lawn. — Lori Stitt, via email

Dear Lori: It appears you have a purslane problem, and the only solution is to pull it up before it goes to seed and dispose of every last bit of it — in the trash.

The succulent weed puts forth little yellow flowers, typically three weeks after it emerges during spring. Those flowers soon produce seeds, and that’s where the trouble begins: Their seeds, which drop onto the soil, can remain viable for as long as 40 years. Some may germinate next year, others the year after, and some not until long after you’ve pulled out your hair.

To eradicate purslane, your best bet would be to pull it up by its taproot early in the season, taking great care to remove the entire root system. Even a fragment of neglected broken root will develop into a new plant, as will errant stem pieces left behind, as they’ll root where they lie. That means tilling the soil is the best way to ensure a steady supply of new purslane plants for years to come.

Janet Hart, a legacy contestant of the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, is participating for the 12th straight year, growing tomatoes as well as cucumbers and beans, in what she describes as her “very pathologically neat” garden in her Lindenhurst backyard. 

Tony Corsentino, of Mineola, is at it again, too, this year growing Italian Finesse tomatoes with a “new secret formula.” Looks like it’s working, Tony!

Are you in?

There is no need to register; just bring your biggest (or smallest or ugliest) tomato to Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30. Newsday garden columnist Jessica Damiano will weigh (or otherwise judge) your tomato personally, and you could be named the 2018 Tomato King or Queen.

As you await the big day, send a photo of yourself with your tomato plants, along with details about your growing techniques and the varieties you’re growing, to jessica.damiano@newsday.com, and you might be featured in an upcoming issue of Newsday and on Newsday.com.

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