By Mengmeng Gu, Ph.D.
Catch Them Early — Kids and Bugs I STARTED TEACHING my kids horticulture at an early stage. When I was pregnant with my last child, I climbed on a rainbow shower tree (Cassia javanica) during the annual American Society for Horticultural Sciences conference in Hawaii. We live across a low-traffic street from Lowe’s. Before my daughter could walk, my parents pushed her in a stroller to visit the garden center almost every day. One of the first words she could say was flower in Chinese. Now my children know many Latin names of plants, including Lagerstroemia indica, Callicarpa americana, and more. You can test them at EXPO. I teach by example. We visited Miami Tropical Botanic Garden during Christmas in 2016. I was in paradise among all sorts of tropical plants and took pictures like crazy. My daughter, just 27 months old then, took photos of her own with a point-and-shoot camera.
TNLA Green July/August 2019
She followed my steps and took pictures of every plant that she saw on our path (See Photo 1). Recently, I was happily surprised when she shouted out “pomegranate” when we passed by several big redflowered bushes on the edge of Texas A&M University’s golf course. At 4 years old, that is very good. Now let’s move on to bugs. Three years ago, my front yard landscape had an “explosion” of bagworms. I don’t
know which plant they started with. It could have been the juniper or the Indian hawthorn. I didn’t do anything to treat it, hoping Mother Nature will take care of it. She did not. The bagworms got on everything, even Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’) and sago palm plant (Cycas revoluta) (See Photo 2). They must have been very hungry to chew on those sago palm leaves. It was not surprising that bagworms defoliated almost all the plants in my front yard. The only good that came out of the bagworm incident was that I taught my kids about them. They had a lot of fun handpicking the bagworms, just like I did as a child. They also got tired, especially the little one, because the big bagworms were not easy to pick. And it was May and starting to get hot. This past May my kids shouted “Bagworm!” with excitement while playing in the front yard. And they got busy on the seemingly-nothing-wrong juniper bush (Photo 3; Burford holly and Indian hawthorn on the right were