Agapanthus Disease Unlikely To Threaten Scilly

st martins cottage agapanthusA disease that’s affecting agapanthus plants on the mainland is unlikely to be a threat here in Scilly.

That’s the view of Tresco Abbey Gardens curator Mike Nelhams, following advice issued last week by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Although the large blue-flowered plants aren’t native to Scilly, coming originally from South Africa, their abundant growth in the islands has made them an iconic species here.

But a bug, which the RHS is calling the ‘agapanthus gall midge’, is causing the flowers to become deformed and stopping the buds from opening.

The organisation first detected it last year but they think it’s been in the UK since 2013.

They’re urging any gardeners who find the tiny, cream coloured maggots in the flower heads to send them samples so they can find out more about the bug.

But Mike Nelhams says Scilly tends to be very lucky because of our island position and prevailing winds, which blow towards the mainland.

He says it was a similar situation with Dutch elm disease, which never infected trees in the islands, even though the species was devastated on the mainland.

And he says it’s not unusual for these types of disease to affect a single plant or tree. He’s recently been to the South of France where he saw the effects of a beetle that’s boring into palm trees, leaving “just very tall stumps all across the Riviera.”

And even if we are unlucky and it does manage to get here, Mike says it’s likely to die out over time.

The midge only affects the flower head, so simply cutting these off and burning them should destroy the bug without affecting the plant long term, he says.

Mike says a similar insect got into the Abbey Gardens’ glasshouse a few years ago, and caused significant damage. But he says it died out after a couple of cold winters.

If you do spot the disease, you can find out what to do at the RHS website.