Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Lupins (18 JUL 2012)

In April, I lamented that lupin aphids had attacked one of my plants. The infestation wasn’t obvious at first sight, they were only discovered when the leaves were parted to check for buds. Disappointed to discover new life of a different sort, I thought that if the leaves were cut down to the ground, the lupin might resurrect by drawing energy from special storage sacs in its roots usually saved to attract microbes which exchange nitrogen fertiliser for carbs. There was a glimmer of hope initially when tiny leaves poked out amongst the severed stalks but they soon withered away and all that's left now is a brown, soggy patch.

 

There were two more lupins a couple of meters away which were not affected at the time. I debated whether to cut those down too, just in case to protect the surrounding plants, finally deciding not to. Surely enough the same fat, jade aphids made an appearance in May, braver this time, crawling over the spoked leaves and conical buds.



I counted those plants as lost, not even bothering to spray them with water.  However, the non-stop summer rain must have washed them away because in June the lupins started to flower continuously as I pruned off each flower stalk before it set seed.

 

I rejoiced prematurely at what seemed to be a happy ending.


At first I wasn’t sure what was happening, the bottom florets of the lupins looked slimy and chewed, but it wasn’t clear what the culprit was until a trail of excrement suggested that the creature was bigger than an aphid.  Evidently, the rain which has washed the aphids away has also bloated up the snail population. They’re everywhere, not even hiding behind pots and under leaves in the day-time, but out there stretching themselves, soaking up the moisture, and munching my lupins sloppily. Not really annoyed, more curious, I wondered why a snail would put itself in a vulnerable position by climbing up a lupin stalk when lush vegetation lies abundant below.




If I chose to give the snails the benefit of the doubt ...
Malachophily or snail pollination syndrome is when a flowering plant develops traits, as it evolves, which make it attractive to snails with the intent that it will form a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Arum lilies are given as an example, they exude a primitive scent of rotting carrion to attract flies and beetles. I suppose that snails, not averse to a rat dropping or two, wouldn't deflect their tentacles at an arum.

However, I question if this word exists because not all dictionaries list it; it’s not even included in Wikipedia.

On the other hand it is well documented :
Sweet lupins with lower-levels of poisonous lupinine have been specially bred for the livestock industry as lupin seeds contain almost as much protein as soyabeans.
(More worryingly ....) 
The body-building supplement Arginine was first isolated from a lupin seedling extract.




Maybe this is the end of the story, maybe not ...




Beautiful photo of a snail on an arum lily (unfortunately the snails in my garden aren't so cute) :
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/snail-lily-jake-johnson.html

Interesting information about lupins :
http://gardenseyeview.com/2012/04/30/simply-the-best-april/


Please visit Carol's MayDreamsGardens blog on the 15th of every month to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

©Copyright 2012 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2012/07/lupins-18-jul-2012.html

21 comments:

Mark and Gaz said...

Interesting post, that's a new word to me. Sorry to see that your Lupins haven't done well this year. Keep persevering though as they are such nice plants.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I always learn something here that I did not know. Snail pollination syndrome... still it seems that snails are nothing but a garden nuisance. Especially those tiny ones you can barely see.

scottweberpdx said...

Ugh...I feel your pain...it always seems like the aphids discover my Lupines just as the start to bloom...and soon the whole plant is covered with them :-(

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

my mother calls the tiny ones, garlic snails (but she doesn't EAT snails, not that French!)

Crystal said...

Sorry to hear about your lupins. At least you got some flowers. I knew about the lupin aphid, but I didn't know that snails were attracted to lupins to pollinate them. Bees would have been much nicer.
When I first started gardening, I grew a lot of lupins and delphiniums. Thanks to the snails and the lupin aphids, I can't grow either now.

HolleyGarden said...

And I would have just thought the lupins tasted better! Sorry to hear about your aphid and snail problems. Your lupins are very pretty, otherwise.

b-a-g said...

Thanks all for your comments - I may have misled some readers. I don't think the snails were really pollinating the lupins, I was just musing about what they might be doing. I finally concluded that they were body-building.

Casa Mariposa said...

I love all the science in this! Aphid eating snails are the only snails I would enjoy. At least the lupins bounced back. Hooray for that!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I am so glad to see that some survived those nasty aphids as there was a rainbow with all that rain...the colors of the lupines are a lovely pastel. I found the snail part fascinating and thought maybe they were indeed getting some sort of protein from the lupines. I am glad I only have slugs and not snails...snails seem to be more destructive.

Masha said...

Great post, I never thought of snails as pollinators :). I used to have lots of aphids when I started growing roses, but gradually a population of beneficial predators developed and I hardly have any now.

Alistair said...

We have given up on the Lupins b-a-g, too many slugs and snails in our garden. If only you had been around thirty years ago to tell about the Arginine.

Stacy said...

Those are certainly some beefy-looking snails you have there, b-a-g. Aren't they basically one big muscle to begin with, even before they start doping on lupines?

(I'm no expert, but I'd have thought your initial strategy of cutting the leaves back was a sound one.)

Pam's English Garden said...

Interesting posting. I love lupins and planted some two years ago. They were healthy looking then, but they didn't come back this year. They've mysteriously disappeared. I'm so disappointed.

Crafty Gardener said...

Very interesting read. Too bad those aphids got to some of your lupins. My dad always had spectacular lupins (we lived in Essex) and he said it was because he always emptied the tea pot at the base of them. :)

Malar said...

Very useful post! Hope you can get rid of the pest!
I have given you an award. Feel free to take from my blog!

debsgarden said...

A friend returned from England with lupine seeds for me! I suspect they may not like my hot summer, so I intend to plant them this fall. Hopefully, the lupine aphids stay on the other side of the Atlantic.

linniew said...

Who knew snails would go to such lengths for exercise? Do you think they are building upper or lower body strength? Or do they only actually have a mid-body?

Anonymous said...

You got a really useful blog. I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

Carolyn said...

Aphids are so easy to control by just washing them off or spraying with soapy water using dish washing liquid. Sorry your got so infested and then the snails attacked.

Matt said...

I'm still strying to master the larger hybrid lupins here in the states. Growing them in loam and not peat, sterilizing the soil, and such, but still never long success except with self sown seedlings. Love your site! Just discovered it!

b-a-g said...

Thanks all for your comments :

Mark, Gaz, Holley, Alastair & Casa Mariposa - At least the lupin aphids didn't spread to other plants, so I'll keep trying.

Donna GWGT & Diana - I assume that the tiny snails are too small to do any damage, but then aphids are tiny too.

Stacy & Linnie - I try to avoid web-sites about snails but I believe they are made of one big muscle called a foot.

Scott - Yes, I wonder where they come from because there are no other lupins as far as the eye can see.

Crystal - I've got half-eaten delphinium seedlings too.

Donna GEV - I never thought about the rain diluting the colour of flowers.

Masha - I'm not convinced about snails pollinating except where the petals are leathery like arums.

Pam - I'm still not sure if you're supposed to cut them down for the winter. The two shown here were not touched after they were planted a year ago.

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