Cut It Out

So, this weekend as I was checking on the plants, I found this baby. The pitcher looked good however, much more was going on than I really wanted.

Cut It Out
[Sarracenia ‘Wilkerson’s Red’ – OP]

So, my S. ‘Wilkerson’s Red’, OP (OP, by the way,  is just a shorthand for Open Pollinated as we don’t know who the pollen parent plant was) looked as if it was just fine — yeah, fine only for that one growpoint. I caught some fungus rhizome rot action going on below. This stuff is nasty and can spread, so it is important to deal with it as soon as it is noticed.  I began to notice this as I saw that some of the new pitchers that were coming up looked rather crappy and withered looking. Once I noticed it I knew I had to do some surgery.

This rhizome rot is caused by fungus, most common I believe is Botrytis.  You’ll see rhizomes turn mushy or brown and that’s stuff is just butt ugly and you do NOT want this crap in your collection.  Again, once you notice it, deal with it, ASAP as it can spread.

The below photo is a shot of the infected rhizome.

Cut It Out

Rhizome with the growpoint left is still good. Middle is crashing. The growpoint on the right is gone. This sucks, but I hope I did enough to save it in time.

I pulled this plant out ASAP from the collection.  So to deal with this problem, This is what I do:

-Separate the plant away from the rest of the collection
-Unpot
-Get rid and wash all old media off, dispose of accordingly (as it’s infected!)
-Cut away all crap rot infected areas
-Transplant the healthy stuff in fresh media and a fresh pot
-Quarantine the plant, monitor, let it grow back.

Cut It Out
[Time to do some surgery!]

So here we go. I unpot the plant by gently squeezing the pot which wil then allow me to slide the plant out.
Cut It Out

After I get the plant out of there, I *gently* took as much of the media off the roots as I could.  I then  *gently* washed the remaining media way from the root/rhizome in a bucket so that the water wouldn’t spread any infection anywhere else.  I dumped the water far away from any plant in the garden.

Cut It Out
[Getting rid of the nasty dirty media stuff]

So after getting rid of the planting media, here’s the base of the rhizome. I will keep the healthy rhizome on the left. The rest of this is pretty much gone.

Cut It Out

Next, I take sharp trimmers and carefully cut away.
*Important* It is very important to maintain good hygiene with your tools. Since I am dealing with an infected root, I made sure I cleaned that clipper. Rubbing alcohol works, or Lysol and some old rags are a few things you can use, for example. You could also let your clippers sit in an open flame for a while so that you can go brand your plants. (Just kiddin’…) but I think running the tools in an open flame should work though! (Anyone care to comment? I’d like to hear your feedback). I also hear using a 1-5 bleach solution and some old rags to wipe down the tools works as well.

Cut It Out
[Making the cut!]

After I made the cut, the infection in the rhizome was visible.  Healthy rhizome should be white, the nasty stuff is brown. The brown dead rhizome is what you want to get rid of.

Cut It Out
[NASTY!]

I cut far back into the healthy tissue to salvage the plant. Healthy tissue should look like the below.

Cut It Out
[Healthy stuff.]

And the bad stuff is below. Here’s the cross section of the infected and dead rhizome. EW! FUGLY!

Cut It Out
[Ew! It gots cooties!]

And the rhizome that I am going to salvage is small, kinda sorry looking but is my only hope right now for keeping a genetic representation of this plant.  Notice the stub-for-root on the right.  I’ve managed to save plants in worse condition that this though. I am hoping this plant pulls  through.

Cut It Out
[Hope.]

So, when rescuing the plant in this condition, I actually use long fiber sphagnum moss. The stuff below is what I pick up for a reasonable price at my local hardware store. I do NOT use that green moss, sheet moss, or forest moss that other stores carry.  Orchid moss (as it’s called on this packaging) is that blonde sphagnum moss. To me the stuff smells kinda rubbery when you first open the package.  It is typically dry when packaged up. So I grab a handful and let it soak in some water.

Cut It Out
[Da Moss!]

I then get a new pot, fill it PURE of this stuff, and then let it sit in a quarantine water tray full of water. I will make sure it’s always moist.  I plant the rhizome deep enough to make sure it’s snug , but yet not too far away from the surface of the pot.  I like this stuff because it’s light and breathable for the plant and root.  I’ve saved many a rhizome this way, and propagated plant rhizomes that break off in this way as well.

It’s important to use a new fresh pot as you don’t want your plant infected again.  If you were to use your old pot, I would suggest to sterilize it first by soaking in a 1:5 or 1:10 bleach solution.

Cut It Out
[Hope, transplanted]

I hear that some that people use at this point of slicing/transplanting would use something like a sulfur based fungicide to clean the rhizome, and to help prevent any of that fungi stuff from taking hold again.

For prevention, I have been hearing very good things about Trichoderma (beneficial fungi). I actually bought some of this beneficial fungus to fight off the nasties. I’ll only try it on some test plants to see if there’s any adverse affect, however I am being told by a couple fellow growers that the stuff works in prevention. Might was well try it… this is blog material for another post though.

I’ll continue to monitor the plant over the course of the year and watch for new growth. Sarracenia rhizomes can be tougher than what people give them credit for. Although there may not be much root on the surviving rhizome, I’m hopeful that it will survive.   I’ve even witnessed a Sarracenia growpoint that was broken off that was actually taking root in a water tray and the only thing it was growing in was some Utricularia!  (Utricularia is a genus of carnivorous plant. Some species are terrestrial, and some are aquatic.)  This broken off growpoint was growing in an aquatic mass of Utricularia…   Pretty amazing.
I’ll fill you in from time to time to keep you updated on how this baby will fare. I’m hopeful that it will send down more root and grow.

For now, all can do is watch, hope, and pray this baby gets better soon…

Cut It Out

10 responses to “Cut It Out

  1. I really appreciate the detail of this. I’m about to transplant my first sarracenia which flowered and did fine for two years. The pitchers began to get really small, and some browned off before development was complete. I was apprehensive before the procedure and have more confidence now. I was vacillating between sphagnum moss and peat—now I’ll use sphagnum, which my intuition says is more suitable. Other “forest” mosses seem to thrive on the surface. I use distilled water, a pool of which the pot always rests in. I have visited a reserve of them in CA and I believe the info signage said they were often quite dry. Had a bug IN one who ate his way out! Thanks

  2. Nice article, but I would have tried to save a few more roots. Sometimes that can be done by shaving off thin slices of the rotted rhizome until you get to good material. The cuts do not have to be straight.

    One thing to keep in mind – just because a rhizome is brown does not mean that it is diseased. I have many older plants with sections of dead rhizome. As long as it is all solid, it is OK. You only need to take action if spots become soft.

    • Thanks Bill! I agree. If there were more roots to save I would of. On the flip side of things, I’ve successfully rooted many grow points without roots present. And yes, old rhizomes can be brown and just be old stock. The rhizome in this article was mush and definitely something not to keep around.

  3. Also, you do NOT want any type of moss growing in your pots except sphagnum. If they do, repot them in the spring and get rid of it.

  4. Good article, I lost a purpurea few months ago and my flava cutthroat just started weakening. I found the brown rotted part which I cutoff. I didn’t remove all of the soil just some. I think I waterlogged the plant because sits in a tray. I see you using the orchid moss which is available at home depot. I am going to let the trays dry out and try the physan 20 fungicide.

  5. Maybe if you soaked the rhizome in some willow tea it would help it to put out new roots? Willow tea has added fungicidal benefits also, plus it’s au naturelle and totally safe. Trichoderma is the bomb – use it on almost all my plants, in combination with mycorhizae!

  6. Since the rhizome has essentially zero roots, you would probably be better off if you cut off that large pitcher. That way the rhizome could put all its energy into growing some roots. There is enough energy stored in the rhizome to do that, it does not need photosynthesis.

  7. After 30 years growing sarras ive had a problem this year along the lines you’ve described, mainly with flavas grown in a polytunnel. Never struck it befor, but this season has been warmer, longer and more humid than I’ve struck before. Just pulled a flava apart and while the pitchers were firing back, the rhizomes looked fine and there were new pitchers coming. I’ll repot the 10 or so plants from the original into a large tub in the usual 50:50 peat/perlite I uses and see what happens. Tempted to spray with a funcicide to be cautious, then cover with long fibre sphagnum.

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