Each month V.D. Kaviraj will answer selected questions about plants and plant problems. Kaviraj is one of the foremost pioneers of Agro-homeopathy and author of the book, Homeopathy for Farm and Garden.
Send your questions with sufficient detail and pictures when possible (JPG or GIF format) to [email protected] with the subject “Plant Doctor”.
Note: When I refer to treating plants with homeopathic remedies, this is the standard dosing procedure:
Put 20 drops of a 6X potency in a litre of water. Succuss* the bottle 50 times. Put this litre in the watering can, fill it up with 19 litres of tap water and stir. If the watering can is smaller, the amount of remedy put in must be proportionally smaller. Thus a 10 litre can needs only ½ litre and just 10 drops of the remedy. Apply the contents of the watering can to the roots of the plants to be treated.
*Sucussion : Shake vigorously with powerful downward strokes on a flexible but firm surface.
I have 2 problems:
1) My Palms were attacked by moths recently. I removed 3-4 leaves which seemed to have the eggs in them. The leaves were literally stuck together with the eggs. I seem to have missed a few leaves and I find that they have been literally eaten up over night, though I cannot find any caterpillars. What was once a lush green palm, now has become quite gaunt looking and dull.
Can you help? Thank you!
Moths can be gotten rid of by using Sambucus nigra in the 6X potency. For dosing see above. It’s a general insect repellent, particularly against caterpillar. It also works for Bud worm, Army Worm. Saw flies, Diamondback moth, Web worm, Cut worm. Potato moth, Cluster caterpillar, Spitfire, Fly strike, Rot in sheep, Aphids.
Sambucus grows in hedges in moist places. The leaves have an unpleasant odour when bruised, which is offensive to most insects, and a decoction of these leaves is sometimes used by gardeners to keep caterpillars from delicate plants. It was the favourite medicinal plant of Hippocrates. The active ingredient in the crude is hydrocyanic acid.
Sambucus was confirmed in the field after its description in the companion plant manuals. If that remedy should fail – (which is not very likely, but one is better safe than sorry) – it is also possible to use Bombyx processiona 6X.
2) My frangipani blossoms were attacked by a white fungus that caused clumps of white fungus on the leaf margins and curled up margins as well. I also see that the middle part of the leaves have lumps on them. Are these due to the fungus or something different? There have been no new flowers, and the stem of the plant itself seems to have dried up and lost its robustness. Help! These are expensive, beautiful plants. I want them to survive into tree-hood.
Well Priya, the Frangipani blossoms seem to suffer Phytophtora fungus. This can be due to Potassium deficiency. Have your plants suffered possibly from a lack of fertiliser? Use dried and old cow dung, which you put in water and that water is used to feed the plants. If that does not help, use Ferrum metallicum 6X. Indications: Chlorosis – Pale, sickly plants that nearly fall over. Imperfect assimilation, impaired photosynthesis, protein content low. Fruit and vegetables have no taste. Bacterial blights, waterlogging, head-tipping, blasting, orange bug.
Iron is a component of the many enzymes and light energy transferring compounds involved in photosynthesis. Ferrum is present in the blood and much of the food we eat daily. When Ferrum is given in potency to humans or animals, its first effect is to increase the amount of iron in the blood, stimulate the appetite, and augment body vigour. In green vegetables especially, it requires careful monitoring, as this is another elementary remedy. Its secondary effects are opposite and give rise to its homoeopathic use.
Ferrum is needed for the process of photosynthesis. If there is an iron deficiency plants become chlorotic, with a lack of chlorophyll. Iron is not a constituent of chlorophyll, but is its catalyst. Ferrum inactivates Calcium in favour of Magnesium, which is an important constituent of chlorophyll.
Or, Silicea 6X can be applied. Silicea is an elemental substance not even considered in conventional agriculture. It is a formative substance. By “formative” we mean the development of the plant, which is entirely regulated by the moon. In this connection it is important to remember that Silica has its aggravations at the new- and full-moon phases generally, while in some it may have an influence during the first and last quarters also.
Without Silicea, no plant stays upright and it is of equal importance for germination and maintenance of the plant during its entire lifecycle.
Silica protects against fungi, bacteria and viruses, gives strength to the plant and makes it flexible. Together with calcium and carbon it forms the backbone of the entire construct. Cell walls, cambium, hardwood in trees and pulp are all dependent on Silicea as their connector and outer sheet. Silicea is the “cement” in the building of the plant whereas carbon and calcium are the building blocks. Without Silicea the combination of Carbon and Calcium is of course possible – Calcium carbonate is a well-known compound – this cannot function as it does in plants without the aid of Silicea. In this manner Silicea gives shape to plants and is therefore a formative element.
Silicea is also an antifungal remedy of the first order and in fungal diseases it is among the most used. It strengthens the plants and removes the fungus as if with a wrap-around shield.
On my property I have a bunch of poison ivy which also extends outwards to along the roadway. Can you tell me how to eradicate poison ivy? It is ever expanding in its presence. Thank you.
Using either of 3 acids can eradicate these plants very easily. These acids are Citric acid, Acetic acid or Oxalic acid*. These 3 acids are part of the Krebs cycle (respiration cycle of all living entities, but here that of plants)and if used at the right time, are capable of disturbing that respiration completely.
Here’s a bit of plant chemistry for readers who want background: Citric acid is the main component of the Krebs-cycle, also called the Citric acid-cycle. It enables the chemical transformation of glucose in the mitochondria of the cells, releasing energy. The Krebs cycle or citric acid cycle is a sequence of chemical reactions in which the acetyl portion of acetyl Co-A is degraded to carbon dioxyde and hydrogen atoms. (See Pyruvic acid for details of the previous stage of glycolysis)
Any disturbance or distortion of the citric acid cycle will severely influence plant life, since it breaks into the citric acid cycle and profoundly upset the glucose transformation and so impairs the plant’s energy. If repeated twice in two days, the death of the plant is certain and swift.
Potentized Citric acid is therefore a first-class weed killer with the additional advantage of not leaving residues. Sunlight, which contains Ultra-Violet rays, destroys any possible residue of it in less than 48 hours. Generally, it use on weeds does not necessitate waiting, since the remedy is absorbed by the plant’s root system, leaving no possible residue.
Citric acid is the first acid in the cycle, hence its name. It is evident that anything that disturbs this cycle severely affects all processes in the plant.Citric acid must be applied in the evening (for dosage see above) to destroy the plant’s ability to breathe. Acetic and Oxalic acid must be given in the morning to achieve the same effects. They need to be given repeatedly – 3 days in a row is recommended.
The acids from the Krebs cycle have little or no effect on grasses. It is better to use a different remedy to eradicate grasses that have become pests in different habitats, such as African love grass in Australia and diverse other types in Brazil, where they were introduced as pasture grass for cattle and sheep.
Respiration in plants is designated as the Krebs cycle. Oxal.ac. plays an important role in this cycle, which involve a series of chemical changes, in which Cit.ac. Pyruv.ac. Acet.ac. and Oxal.ac. all play an approximate equal role. A deficient uptake of oxygen reduces the rate and speed with which respiration takes place. This causes insufficiency and therefore consequent collapse of the plant. Increased uptake speeds up the respiration, causing too fast a metabolism and thus destroying plant life.
They may follow each other, or can be used twice in succession in 24 hours, causing collapse of the plant. If they follow each other, they must be given in reverse order of their natural occurrence, while as a single remedy, it is advisable to use them contrary to their natural occurrence as well.
Oxalic ac. is therefore also very useful as a weed killer, since 2 doses in as many days will destroy the Krebs-cycle and therefore the plant. From the above-mentioned example of respiratory insufficiency, it is evident that such will be more severe when several doses are given in short succession. It is possible that repetition in a shorter time-span than indicated above may either speed up the process or slow it down.
If there is no effect – which can happen with certain plants – Phosphoric acid can do the trick or one can resort to Juglans nigra.
Phosphoric acid has been used on a few weeds with success, but only after repeating it twice. It was noted that the chickweed plants treated were completely decomposed, with only yellow skeletons of veins and branches left. As with all remedies used for the eradication of weeds, this remedy must be used with caution, since insufficient tests have been conducted.
Photosynthesis is the process whereby light energy is converted into chemical energy, enabling carbon to be fixed into organic compounds, like starch and protein. The usual equation runs as follows: CO2+2H2A+light=CH2O) +H2O+2A.
Where Citric acid acts better in the morning – not in weed control but in treatment of disease – Pyruvic acid acts better around the middle of the day, when the sun occupies the 20 degrees covering either side of Midheaven.
Oxalic and Acetic acid act better in the later hours, when the sun is in the last quarter of the sky before sundown.
The latter two and Citric acid have a different relationship to eradication of weeds. There, it is better to give Citric acid in the eveneing and Oxalic or Acetic acid in the morning, the opposite times of their normal activity. Pyruvic acid can be given morning or evening – also outside its normal active time.
Because the energy levels are increased during the action of the remedy, the glycolysis is also sped up, causing collapse of the cell membranes and the death of the plant.
Awareness of black walnut toxicity dates back at least to Roman times, when Pliny noted a poisoning effect of walnut trees on “all” plants. More recent research has determined the specific chemical involved and its mode of action. Many plants have been classified through observation as either sensitive or tolerant to black walnuts.
When certain other landscape plants are planted near or under this shade tree they tend to yellow, wilt, and die. This decline occurs because the walnut tree produces a non-toxic, colourless, chemical called hydrojuglone. Hydrojuglone is found in leaves, stems, fruit hulls, inner bark and roots. When exposed to air or soil compounds, hydrojuglone is oxidized into the allelochemical juglone, which is highly toxic.
Several related trees such as English walnut, hickories and pecan also produce juglone, but in smaller amounts compared to black walnut. Juglone is one of many plant produced chemicals that can harm other plants in a process known as allelopathy.
Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, red pine and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees. The toxic zone from a mature tree occurs on average in a 50 to 60 foot radius from the trunk, but can be up to 80 feet. The area affected extends outward each year as a tree enlarges. Young trees two to eight feet high can have a root diameter twice the height of the top of the tree, with susceptible plants dead within the root zone and dying at the margins.
Not all plants are sensitive to juglone. Many trees, vines, shrubs, groundcovers, annuals and perennials will grow in close proximity to a walnut tree. Certain cultivars of “resistant” species are reported to do poorly.
The Source of Toxicity
Plants adversely affected by being grown near black walnut trees exhibit symptoms such as foliar yellowing, wilting, and eventual death. The causal agent is a chemical called “juglone” (5 hydroxy-1, 4-napthoquinone), which occurs naturally in all parts of the black walnut. Juglone has experimentally been shown to be a respiration inhibitor which deprives sensitive plants of needed energy for metabolic activity.
The largest concentrations of juglone and hydrojuglone (converted to juglone by sensitive plants) occur in the walnut’s buds, nut hulls, and roots. However, leaves and stems do contain a smaller quantity. Juglone is only poorly soluble in water and thus does not move very far in the soil.
*(Editor’s note: Oxalic Acid in crude form is quite poisonous. Use caution if preparing the potency yourself. )
I am trying to organically garden here in the Caribbean. I have most of my vegetable plants eaten by pests such as Cutworms and Mole Crickets. I have tried many biological treatments but with little or no effect. I now plant two for them, and one for me! What can you suggest for me please?
For cutworms you can use either Bombyx processiona or Sambucus nigra, in the 6X potency – dosage is given above. Mole crickets can be gotten rid of also by using Sambucus nigra, since this is an ancient insect repellent, but which may not work on crickets – I have not tried it for that purpose. Camphora 6X is another remedy that could be used. The toad is a voracious insect gobbler and the remedy made from it is equally effective – Bufo rana. Bufo for insect pests in general. Caterpillars, whitefly, aphids and scale. Repellent for voles, mice, rats and other rodent pests of the house and farm.
The use of this remedy is very ancient and goes back to Greek and Roman times. It was also mentioned in a book on pest control, dating back to the 1700’s. It recommends keeping a toad in a bucket with shallow water, which when diluted further, would provide even a repellent for voles, mice, rats and other rodent pests of the house and farm. On crops it was used against caterpillars and whitefly as well as aphids and scale. Of course, having a toad in the garden also helps to control insect pests, but the toad will be as indiscriminative as a pesticide and also kill other useful predators.
Procession caterpillar – Bombyx processiona. N.O. Lepidoptera. Tincture of the live caterpillars.
Caterpillars, vegetable loopers, sawfly larvae, army worms, cabbage moths and other caterpillars.
The true bombyx is not a very large caterpillar and is today known as the white cedar moth, Leptocheria reducta. It is about 45 mm long, dark brown, with yellow head and masses of long grey and black hairs, which on contact cause skin irritation.
Clarke mentions that: “it one case a boy shook a large number of caterpillars from a tree on his naked chest. It caused an itching so severe, that he had to run for assistance. Then fever, somnolency, delirium and finally death ensued.”
The caterpillars live in colonies at the base of the tree during the day and feed on the foliage at night. After denuding the tree, they walk in a single file to the next, which behaviour accounts for their name. They produce two generations per year.
Rodale’s periodical relates the case of a commercial peanut and soybean farmer (1976). He prepared a crude product from vegetable loopers. Control was very successful. Another report from 1978 mentioned sawfly larvae being used in a similar fashion.
Bombyx in potency has been used to treat most caterpillars on most crops as a generic remedy. Both as a spray and in the trickle system it is effective. In both cases the plants become immune to caterpillar infestations.