Attack of the Dreaded Aster Yellows

 If your purple coneflowers look like this, go get your shovel.

The first Purple Coneflowers just started to bloom a few days ago. I saw that on one plant the flowers were discolored and the ray flowers were undersized. I have lost a number of Purple Coneflowers to the viral disease Aster Yellows in the past. However, the symptoms were misshapen disk flowers and seed heads, so I hoped this time it was something less deadly. The thing about Aster Yellows is that it can’t be cured, and it will spread by sucking insects to other plants in the Aster family (though in my experience, Purple Coneflowers are particularly vulnerable).

However, a check on Google Images confirmed that this was indeed Aster Yellows. So out went a particularly large clump of Purple Coneflowers. So far it doesn’t look like any other Echinaceas are infected, but I’ll keep a close eye on them.

There are two silver linings in this situation. The first is that I will never run out of Purple Coneflowers. Even if I had to pull out every single mature plant in this border, new seedlings would come along and in a year or two I’d have just as many as ever.  Also, this was of course an opportunity to buy replacements! In fact this very day I stopped at Gethsemane nursery and bought two plants I’ve wanted for a while, Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata – not an Echinacea) and Coreopsis ‘Star Cluster’, a tall, cream-colored Tickseed.

Yellow Coneflower – Ratibida pinnata

So I suppose I  have emerged from the latest Aster Yellows crisis without being completely crushed.

6 Comments on “Attack of the Dreaded Aster Yellows

  1. I did not know about Aster Yellows. And I did not know yellow coneflower was not an echinacea. My favorite coreopsis is ‘Jethro Tull’ – the petals are fluted. Heh.

  2. Thank you for diagnosing my Echinacea. But I thought I had to dig it out and replace it with something not in the aster family? I was thinking about a tall salvia. Any other suggestions?

  3. It would be smart to plant something not in the Aster family. I’m just not always that smart. Actually, I’ve never had the Aster Yellows spread to anything other than Echinaceas, not sure why. How about Phlox paniculata, one of the mildew resistant varieties? Or Anise Hyssop?

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