Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Difference and I knew the answer

I was doing a Camellia workshop yesterday, it was going along well, until.......I was asked the question "How can you tell the difference between Virus Variegation and Nutrient Deficiency"?
I stumbled my way through the answer about getting a sample checked and if it is being fed correctly there would be no question. I know the questioner did not mean to, nor was he trying to, put me on the spot and trip me up. It was definitely a legit question. Like I said, I stumbled through an answer, but it never felt right.
SO, I made it a point to research it, the sad part is, I KNEW THE CORRECT ANSWER!!
It is the same difference that Citrus has with nutritional deficiencies and Citrus Greening, it's all in the pattern.
Let me explain.
Virus variegation destroys color (in blotches) on either leaves or flowers. Flowers show varying degrees of white, sometimes in unusual patterns, while leaves show a yellow mottling at random. There is the answer, a yellow mottling at random.
Similar to this:

Notice how the leaves are all relatively different?
It is believed that the viruses infecting camellias cause little if any damage to the plant. Some reduction in plant growth and hardiness may be observed, but it is usually insignificant. The main damage to camellias from virus infection is that it becomes systemic within the plant and may not be eliminated once infected. 
As opposed to them being similar to each other, and being like the old inkblot test, the leaves being a mirror image of itself, such as this:

This deficiency starts as a gradual discoloration of the young leaves at the tips of the branches. They tend to turn yellow but the main veins remain fairly green. The oldest leaves are usually spared.
Here are a couple more examples:

Variegation Virus

Iron Deficiency

As many times as I have given my citrus talk, this should have been obvious, but it just never occurred to me. Now, if you want to throw a little monkey wrench in the mix, this is what winter injury can look like:

Winter damage or freeze damage takes many forms, from the more common burnt look on leaves to odd patterns appearing in the leaves.  In many cases, freeze damage can mimic disease and/or nutritional problems. When the moisture freezes inside the plant tissue, ice crystals are formed and plant cells are damaged. Usually, these leaves will fall off. If the leaves look like this after a cold spell, you can pretty much rule out the variegation and nutritional issues.
I know it is a little late now to inform those that were at my workshop and for that I am sorry. I actually had not been asked that question in all of the times that I have done this talk. At least now I know and my future attendees will be informed.
If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to e-mail me at
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge with us, Darren. I hope you have a wonderful, blessed Christmas and holiday season.