Mysterious holes…

Learned something interesting earlier this spring. A man came into the nursery, and asked if we could help him identify what was wrong with his Hosta leaves. They had holes, but there was no sign of anything eating them. Instead, they were shredded along the veins, like in the photo below.

See how they are shredded along the veins? We were mystified... (Photo from Missouri Botanical Garden.)

See how they are shredded along the veins? We were mystified… (Photo from Missouri Botanical Garden.)

Long story short – we’re not one to turn down a good mystery. We eventually learned that in springs where temperatures yo-yo up and down a lot like it did this past one, this might happen. During warming periods, plants are encouraged to grow, only to be hit by a hard frost once they get started. If they – like these Hostas – were still in their bullet stage (as in rolled up tight, as they emerge) when the hard frost hit, the fluids contained within the leaves might freeze, which causes them to expand. If this happens when they are in their tightly rolled up state, causes them to rip the leaves apart along the veins. So, when the leaves finally open, they have this shredded look.

Hostas in their bullet stage.

Hostas in their bullet stage.

This discovery made a bit of an impression on me. I’d never have expected that something like that could happen, but it really does make perfect sense, so why not? Soon after, I discovered a similar phenomenon in my own garden. It was the large leaves of my Podophyllum pleianthum, which when they unfolded yielded a similar thing…

Podophyllum pleianthum with holes

After the yo-yoing temperatures of his spring, the umbrella foliage of my Podophyllum pleianthum opened up with these odd holes randomly strewn throughout its large umbrella leaves.

Odd, aren't they?

Odd, aren’t they?

After the yo-yoing temperatures of his spring, the umbrella foliage of my Podophyllum pleianthum opened up with these odd holes randomly strewn throughout its large umbrella leaves.

Here’s another close -up.

At least I think that is what these are – freeze damaged as a result of temperature fluctuations. One of the greatest things about this obsession is that you keep learning new things – there is something to marvel at just about every day. For now, I’m going to believe that this is what caused my shredded leaves. If you have a better answer to this mystery, please let me know. I’m all ears…

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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15 Responses to Mysterious holes…

  1. I didn’t know this! Thank you!

  2. Hmmm…that makes sense…I have them too and well, I’ll take that over a mystery bug in the middle of the night. I like it!

  3. rickii says:

    Always fun to learn something new. I like that hostas have a “bullet phase” before they unfurl and become totally non-threatening.

    • annamadeit says:

      Isn’t that funny? I had some vague memory of there being a term for it, but couldn’t remember what it was, so I looked it up. Maybe next time, I’ll remember… it is a rather striking term.

  4. mattb325 says:

    Amazing – I would never have guessed that. But it’s akin to cutting up the edges and centres of folded paper to make little patterns when unfolded. Nifty!

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh absolutely! Maybe there is a way to control where the holes are and what they look like – you know like control joints in concrete? Now you got an idea into my head… 😉

  5. Good sleuthing 😊 I never thought about that sort of damage to leaves, but it makes perfect sense . Glad to know it wasn’t insect damage .

    • annamadeit says:

      Yes, that’s for sure – for as sad as any damage is to such fabulous leaves, this kind is much more tolerable than the snacking of insects.

      • True, but you are right that it is sad to see, and the damage is there for the season. These late frosts really wreck havoc with so many plants. A great post 😉 WG

  6. Kris P says:

    Interesting finding (even if I’m lucky enough not to have a problem with frost).

  7. This is really interesting. I’ve had holes like this before but always thought it was some weird bug. Now I know!

  8. annamadeit says:

    Pretty cool, isn’t it? No bug – just physics!

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