Extension News

Ask the ISU Experts

Note to media editors:

Got gardening questions? Contact the Hortline at (515) 294-3108 (Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-12 noon and 1-4:30 p.m.) or send an e-mail to hortline@iastate.edu. For more gardening information visit us at Yard and Garden Online at www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu.


What is the blue-flowering plant often seen along Iowa roadsides? 

The blue-flowering plant is chicory (Cichorium intybus). Other common names include blue sailors and coffeeweed.  Native to Europe, chicory has become naturalized in much of the United States and is commonly found along roadsides and in meadows and pastures. Chicory is a perennial plant that commonly grows 2 to 3 feet tall. The light blue flowers are produced from June to early fall. Chicory has large, fleshy taproots. The roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, hence the common name of coffeeweed. 


My cucumber plants are blooming heavily, but aren’t producing many fruit.  Why? 

Cucumbers and other vine crops are monoecious.  Monoecious plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Male and female flowers are similar in appearance. However, the female flowers have small, immature fruits at their base. Pollen is transferred from the male to the female flowers by bees and other pollinators.


When properly pollinated and fertilized, the female flowers develop into fruit. The first flowers to appear on cucumbers and other vine crops are predominately male. As a result, fruit production is poor when the vines begin to flower. The cucumber vines should start producing a good crop within a few weeks as the number of female flowers increases. 


Poor weather and the use of insecticides can also affect fruit set on cucumbers. Cold, rainy weather during bloom reduces bee activity. Fewer bees visiting the garden results in poor pollination and poor fruit set. Apply insecticides in the garden only when necessary to avoid harming bees and other pollinators. 


I have a purple-leafed chokecherry that sends up suckers in the yard around it.  Is there anything that I can do to prevent it from suckering? 

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) and several other trees will send up shoots (suckers) from their roots. Unfortunately, there is nothing the home gardener can do to prevent these trees from suckering. 


The best way to deal with sucker growth is to periodically remove them with a pruning shears as low to the ground as possible. Mowing them off with lawnmower is also effective, but the sharp-pointed stubs might be a safety hazard to children playing in the yard. The use of herbicides to destroy the suckers is not recommended. An application of herbicide to the suckers may damage or kill the tree. 



Contacts :

Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, rjauron@iastate.edu

Jean McGuire, Extension Communications and Marketing, (515) 294-7033, jmcguire@iastate.edu