Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 32
I've been attacked!
I had a quick answer to my question last week about the unidentified moth.
It is called "The Amah", Dysauxes famula, and it is found from Iran to Corsica. Thanks to Steve and Mike for their identification.
After the rain of last week, I have been busy in the gardens and orchards getting rid of weeds before they run to seed. I have a lot of a type of Euphorbia, but the variety is unusual.
I have been told by several local people that this plant is cut and eaten in salads or is cooked like spinach. However my books suggest it is the Euphorbia peplis a beach plant which is listed as poisonous. But mine is not this, it has no white sap, a characteristic of the Peplis and also the flowers are yellow.
Clearly it is a near relative, but as it is growing and thriving across a lot of the open soil, I have been removing it before it sets seed.
Around my Budleija several plants had taken root and grown quickly after the rain.
But after removal, the area looked like this.
I have been over to Hvar town this week for a meeting with my Architect and we are a bit further forward on the plans for the extension.
Any movement is a step in the right direction! So I need to get on with demolishing the old buildings. It has been a little too hot recently to do the hard physical work of lifting, cleaning and removing stones, but I need to get back on with it.
Hvar town was buzzing and there were some extremely large (and extremely costly) ocean going yachts moored to the quay.
Not as old as Stari Grad, it is a place for partying and fun. There is an interesting mix of buildings and styles, with the 16th century Tvrdava Španjola "Spanish Fort" on the top of the hill above the town
giving commanding views of the town, bay and outlying Pakleni islands.
Old churches, an opera house, modern hotels and shops, and piazza cafes all seem to sit quite comfortably side by side. Inside the 13th century walls of the town, reminiscent of those in my home city of York,
the narrow streets are paved with limestone blocks and feel cool even in the middle of the day, shaded by the façades of the buildings, while on the water front, equally tall palms gently sway in the light breeze.
The nights have cooled a little as we move towards autumn. Leaves on my vines are starting to turn from yellow, through gold to brown,
before dropping off and ending up in little piles in any corner where the wind eddies blow them.
There has also been a noticeable change in the quality of the light. The cloudless sky is no longer the limpid powder blue of summer, instead it is now an intense Lapis lazuli with little dust or pollution to obscure the detail of surrounding islands and the mainland mountains.
The change in the colours of the leaves is not all natural however.
Whilst weeding in the citrus orchard, I noticed that a lot of new leaves on my young lemon and grapefruit trees were showing signs of chlorosis, turning brown at the edges, with mottled yellow patches and silver lines.
Some citrus varieties, mainly the lemons and grapefruit, seem to have been more badly hit than others. Clearly, I've been attacked by something.
Delving into my books, one suggestion was the Citrus Leaf Miner, Phyllocnistis citrella, the caterpillar of a small, dainty night moth with feathered wings.
But examining the leaves under a magnifier and then my digital microscope, I could see none of the characteristic double track markings of the miner. This is appeared to be something else.
I'm not alone, as I saw that my neighbours on the other side of the road have also had their lemon trees similarly attacked. That helped to eliminate one or two other possible causes, for example magnesium or mineral deficiency and over or under watering, however it did not solve the problem.
Further on-line research found leaves which look the same as mine, with a diagnosis of Citrus Bacterial Canker. However reading some research papers about this disease, it has not (until now) been found in the Mediterranean basin. So I was back to square one.
I did another close inspection of the saplings and under a couple of leaves, I thought that there might be grubs. Looking under the microscope again, they are there. Several translucent grubs with black eyes, here magnified 200 times.
More reading followed. Most North American universities have what they call their Extension Programme. This is where the colleges of agriculture do outreach work with local farming and growing communities, continuing education and furthering research together with publishing advice. There are many excellent resources online, and picking one in Southern California, a key citrus growing area, I was able to find considerable research into this moth and the disagreeable habits of its larvae.
Originally found in Asia, it has now spread round the world as an invasive species. There is no known treatment for the condition, because the moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, where sprays and treatments cannot reach. I suspect that I may have perhaps more than one condition, as not all the leaves show the tell tale tracks, some just have round brown patches which are perhaps where fungal spores are released from and there is definite evidence of whole chunks of leaf having been eaten.
Unlike bacterial infections, which are often systemic and slowly kill the host tree or plant, the grub eats its way through the sub-surface of the leaf before reaching an edge and curling it over for protection as it pupates. The entire life cycle can be as short as three weeks. Whilst it is unsightly, leaves continue to photosynthesise. There are natural predators, but I am not sure if we have them here in Dol. One recommendation for the home gardener is to regularly check under leaves, and squash any grubs which you find. I have an awful lot of leaves to check.....
More figs are starting to ripen.
It will be another couple of weeks before the main crop is ready, but there is something delicious (and healthy) about picking a few figs from the tree, cutting them open and eating them for breakfast.
This week has been the annual Puhijda Festival in Dol.
Saturday night is the culmination, when singers and a live band keep the village awake for the entire night. The sound stage has been erected and is ready. The barbecue's are in place and someone will have been trapping the Puh, Glis glis - Edible Dormice - which are roasted and served to visitors, along with traditional barbecue fare.
The village Magazine, Tartajun is ready (and here a bit a shameless advertising, there is one of my articles about the natural year in Dol in this issue).
Cultural differences are interesting.
In the UK, where the Puh has naturalised around the Chiltern hills of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, they are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, whereas in Slovenia and here in Dol, they are caught and eaten!
There is no accounting for taste.....
I think tonight will be a long night.