Surely I can Spray for This, Right?

Chewed Witch Hazel Leaf

This looks really bad–leaves stripped right down to the mid-rib. Even I was kind of shocked to see this in my yard. I’ve never had this kind of damage on my witch hazel before.

So what did I do? I whipped out my trusty computer to figure out what might be going on! As it turns out, not much eats witch hazel leaves, so I don’t have to worry about too much mis-diagnosis.

This is pretty clearly caterpillar damage. I’d rank this right up there with what a tomato hornworm can do to a tomato leaf in the blink of an eye if the gardener isn’t paying attention.

And there are only 2 caterpillars that bother the witch hazel (hamamelis species and cultivars)–the eastern tent caterpillars, which I ruled out pretty quickly because there are no “tents” or masses of caterpillars in web-like structures between the branches, and the saddled prominent, a green caterpillar that turns into a sort of dusky moth.

By the time I noticed this damage, the caterpillar was gone–because as we know, caterpillars are just one stage of development in the life of a moth.

Further reading told me that saddled prominants have an outbreaks every 3 years or so in the Northeast–so this isn’t something I’m going to have to worry about for another couple of years.

And since it’s not as if the tree were completely defoliated, I’m not going to worry about it even then!

2 thoughts on “Surely I can Spray for This, Right?

  1. thomas rocco May 31, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    My damaged witch hazel looked quite a lot like yours, but this posting and picture just helped me determine that my witch hazel damage was not from a caterpillar but almost surely from a terrific hail storm that we had a week or so ago (we were away for a number of days afterwards). I notice in the photo that the host just below the witch hazel are undamaged, while our host, just as close, are shredded and generally damaged as much as the witch hazel. I too will not have to spray, not even the horticultural oil or soap I was thinking about. Thanks for posting.

    • gardendaze May 31, 2014 / 2:42 pm

      I’m so glad to hear this was helpful. We’re fortunate that we don’t get too much hail here but it can surely do a number on the plants. After one of our storms a few years ago, I just wanted to rip up the garden & begin again. But of course it came in mid summer and that wasn’t even a remote possibility, even if money were no object.

      You sound like quite the garden detective. Great work. It’s so discouraging to find damage on the plants, particularly a lot of damage. If you know it’s temporary problem, however, it’s somewhat easier to tolerate.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


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