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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Lichens, yellow cucumbers and odd, flat growth called fasciation

Therea Graff s yellow cucumber is probably a

Therea Graff s yellow cucumber is probably a squash. Credit: Theresa Graff

DEAR JESSICA: This summer, my cucumber plant, grown from seeds, produced yellow cucumbers instead of green. What makes them turn yellow?

— Theresa Graff,


DEAR THERESA: Cucumbers left on the vine too long often turn yellow. This is because when overripe, the fruits lose chlorophyll, which is what makes them green. Other times, viruses, improper nutrition or too much water can cause cucumbers to turn yellow. When this happens, they typically become bitter and inedible. But, to be honest, the fruit in your photo looks like a yellow squash, not a cucumber. Might you have gotten your seeds mixed up?

DEAR JESSICA: This picture is of a growth on two trees in front of my house. I assume this is a fungus that is attacking the trees. The holes showing in the picture are a result of recent trimming when the men climbed the tree. Is there anything that we can do to remove or prevent this problem?

— Barbara Sheahan,

Lake Ronkonkoma

DEAR BARBARA: Those growths on your tree trunk are called lichens. Although they are unsightly and look menacing, the organisms pose no harm to you or the tree. In fact, they’re an indication of good environmental air quality because they will not grow in polluted areas. You can leave them be.

I do want to point out, however, that oftentimes, lichens grow on trees that are already stressed or declining. So I advise you to water the trees and aerate the soil around them, then apply mulch beginning four inches away from their trunks and extending as far as the canopy above reaches.

The holes created by your trimmers may or may not cause a problem. It’s impossible for me to assess how deep they are from looking at your photo. Deep holes, such as those left by woodpeckers, do indeed endanger tree health and can even be fatal. If the tree-trimmer-caused holes are shallow, only extending to the inner bark or even cambium layer, the tree should be fine.

DEAR JESSICA: We have a 21-year-old euonymus plant in our front yard. It’s about 5 feet tall; we’ve rarely trimmed it. I recently noticed this new growth. The other new stems are normal, but this one is very wide and the leaves at the top look like a little bush. Why did it grow this way? Should I cut this branch off?

— Kim Hines,

East Northport

DEAR KIM: The abnormal, flat, wide stem you’re seeing on your golden Euonymus is called fasciation, a phenomenon that can be triggered by injury, cold damage, a viral or bacterial infection, a genetic mutation or an infestation.

See the brown specks on that flattened stem? They are likely scale insects, and my guess is they are the culprits that forced your plant to respond this way.

Go ahead and prune away the flattened stem, all the way back to its base. Then, for good measure, apply dormant oil during winter and horticultural oil next spring and summer to eradicate the insects.


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