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Leaf Miners & Snakeroot

The fall blooming plant called White Snakeroot, mentioned in previous posts, is one of the latest blooming flowers that hungry insects use as source of nourishment before winter sets in. Ironically this same plant that poisons milk from a cow is actually baby food for a tiny fly! What?

white snakeroot flower (1)

Besides being able to identify this plant by its white fluffy flowers, look closely at it’s leaves. Many of them look like a beginner tried to write cursive letters on them. What caused this “leaf art”? 

white snakeroot with leaf miner

This is the work of a species of fly (Liriomyza eupatoriella) that makes white snakeroot its host. This leaf miner adult female fly lays it eggs on the leaf. Guess what the babies eat? The larvae eat the leaf tissue. While they are tunneling around inside the leaf, they create the beautiful pattern.

leaf miner adult

Look closely at a leaf and find the smallest and largest end to the tunnel. The smaller end is where they start and the largest end is where they emerge after eating. Leaf miners are prevalent in our vegetable gardens too and attack our chard, beet, spinach and tomato plants the same way.

What other "leaf art" can you find in the parks? Remember not to disturb the plants or wildlife and leave everything the way you find it.