Fuchsia gall mite
Just the other day I was handed some photos of a very miserable looking fuchsia by a very miserable looking friend. Sadly I was left with the miserable task of telling him that yes, this was yet another case of a fuchsia gall mite (Aculops fuchsiae) infestation.
This relatively new pest was first noted in the UK in 2007, initially along the south coast but now spreading further and it is now rearing its head with monotonous regularity. It is is certainly causing a lot of grief amongst fuchsia owners and there is also a fair amount of debate about how best to deal with it !
This microscopic mite infests the shoot tips, producing toxins as it feeds (by sucking the fuchsia’s sap) and so causing extreme distortion and discolouration – yellowish, pinkish, greenish or reddish distorted tissue is seen in place of leaves and flower buds and the tops of the plants look somewhat thickened and ‘scrunched up’. The mite overwinters beneath the bud-scales and so greenhouse fuchsias are likely to suffer repeated attacks. The exact level of winter cold they can survive is still unclear, but it is believed that 5°C may be their lower limit – in which case the mites living on hardy varieties outside may well be killed off over the winter if temperatures fall low enough.
So what can you do ? Ideally infested plants should be disposed of because this mite can do so much damage that we should all be trying to limit its spread. If you really don’t want to do this then you could start by trying to cut off all infested growth, cutting into seemingly perfect growth and disposing of the prunings with great care. Unfortunately new growth may still show the symptoms, even if you do a really thorough job!
Treating with most garden pesticides seems to have little if any effect and so is not regarded as worthwhile. Fuchsias vary considerably in their susceptability to attack and in the extent of symptoms the mite causes. Some, such as F.procumbens. F.magellanica and F.arborescens (and their varieties/cultivars) should be avoided as they are especially prone and conversely you could also try to grow some of the fuchsias which seem to show some resistance eg ‘Baby Chang’, ‘Space Shuttle’, Mendocino Mini’, ‘Mini Jewels’ and Fuchsia venusta and F.thymifolia.