2012 in review

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Merry Christmas!!

The collection campaign of 2012 has nearly drawn to a close.  The list of species below describes the samples collected this year.  We will be adding Cupressus nootkatensis from the British Columbia Forest Service and Thuja plicata from Yellowpoint Propagation when the final processing of their seeds is complete and they are able to send us the discards.

The third x-ray round yeilded no new findings of infested seeds, but it did reveal three more potential larvae in the infested sample of Juniperus virginiana from New York Botanical Gardens when we x-rayed the remaining cones from the original sample.

This week marks the end of my contract with the project, so any questions should be forwarded to Jean-Noel.Candau@nrcan.gc.ca, otherwise you might just be waiting an awful long time for a reply!  This project has taught me that there is always more going on than we think.  I never even knew about the Megastigmus ‘world’ until summer 2011 and now I am the woman who buys decorative pinecones, cannot resist the urge to examine them for signs of chalcid parasitisation, and enthusiasticly proclaims to the world that she found exit holes in some of the seeds still remaining in the cones.  I would have missed that joy had I not stopped to look.  Take time to slow down and look for the holes in the lives of those around you that maybe, just maybe, you can help to fill. 

Merry Christmas 🙂

Ashley

2012 Samples

  • Callitropsis nootkatensis – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Calocedrus decurrens – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana – DorenaGeneticResourceCenter
  • Chamaecyparis nootkatensis – University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – New YorkBotanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera – New YorkBotanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides – Holden Arboretum, Longwood Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Gardens, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cryptomeria japonica – University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Fort Worth Botanic Garden
  • Cupressus arizonica – University of California at Davis Arboretum, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus bakeri – Holden Arboretum, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus chengiana – QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Cupressus duclouxiana – QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Cupressus himalaica – QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Cupressus formosana – QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Cupressus goveniana – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus nootkatensis – Sannich Forestry Centre, Holden Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus sempervirens – Boyce Thompson Arboretum
  • Juniperus ashii – Fort WorthBotanic Garden
  • Juniperus ×pfitzeriana – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus chinensis – New YorkBotanical Gardens, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus communis – Kalmalka Forestry Centre, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus ‘Emerald Sentinal’ – Holden Arboretum
  • Juniperus formosana – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus ‘Grey Owl’ – Holden Arboretum
  • Juniperus horizontalis – New YorkBotanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, PancakeBayProvincialPark
  • Juniperus occidentalis – Wilbur D. May Arboretum
  • Juniperus pingii – QuarryhillBotanical Garden
  • Juniperus rigida – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus sabina – University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus scopulorum – Kalmalka Forestry Centre, USDA-NRCS Bridger Plant Materials Center, University of California at Davis Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Juniperus sp. – Fort WorthBotanic Garden
  • Juniperus squamata – University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus virginiana – Longwood Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Gardens, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Holden Arboretum, LongwoodGardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Platycladus orientalis – Holden Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Boyce Thompson Arboretum
  • Sequoia sempervirens – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Taxodium distichum – Holden Arboretum, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Fort Worth Botanic Garden
  • Thuja occidentalis – New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Thuja plicata – Sannich Forestry Centre, New York Botanical Gardens, British Columbia Forest Service, Mount Newtwon Seed Orchard – TimberWest, Beaver Creek Seed Orchard
  • Thuja standishii – University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Thujopsis dolabrata – Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University 

Larvae Found on Recent X-Rays

After x-ray round 2 we have found larvae in six seed samples, which is exciting for the project:

  • Chamaecyparis thyoides from LongwoodGardens in Kennett Square, PA were infested with larvae.  One sample had 5 infested seeds of a total of 175 (2.9% infestation rate) and another had 1 of 161 seeds infested (0.6%).
  • 1 of 173 seeds were infested (0.6%) in a sample of Chamaecyparis thyoides from North Carolina Botanical Gardens.  We processed two infested Chamaecyparis thyoides samples from this location last year.  This result was expected both because of the findings from 2011, but also because Megastigmus thyoides was first discovered by Turgeon in North Carolina in 1994.
  • Two samples of Cyrptomeria japonica from New York Botanical Gardens were infested, 10 of 980 seeds (1.0%) for one sample and 181 of 1185 (15.3%) for the other.  We received an infested sample of this species last year, but from another location.
  • Finally, 2 of 16 seeds (12.5%) from Juniperus virginiana from New York Botanical Gardens are believed to have larvae in them, but we are less sure of this result. 

We have placed the infested seeds, along with any cones and seeds not used in processing the sample for x-rays, outside in our insectarium in hopes of rearing insects.  In the case of Juniperus virginiana, the extra cones have been processed and we will x-ray these additionally to try and confirm larval presence.

There are 16 samples that are now prepared for the final x-ray round, as well as seed discards from 2 seedlots.  We hope to acquire the discards of 4 more seedlots in the coming weeks and x-ray those as well.

Infestation of Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan-sugi' from New York Botanical Gardens

Infestation of Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi’ from New York Botanical Gardens

Infestation of Chamaecyparis thyoides from Longwood Gardens

Infestation of Chamaecyparis thyoides from Longwood Gardens (one larvae inside a seed in the centre sample, 5 in the bottom left sample)

X-Ray Round Two!

We have recieved almost all of the seed shipments for the 2012 collection campaign.  We will still be recieving cones from Quarryhill Botanical Gardens and Fort Worth Botanical Garden, as well as additional seed discards from the British Columbia Forest Service and from Yellowpoint Propogation, but the majority of our seeds are either processed or ready for x-raying tomorrow.  The following species have been sampled from the indicated locations across North America:

  • Callitropsis nootkatensis – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Calocedrus decurrens – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana – Dorena Genetic Resource Center
  • Chamaecyparis nootkatensis – University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera – New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides – Holden Arboretum, Longwood Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Gardens, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cryptomeria japonica – University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus arizonica – University of California at Davis Arboretum, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus bakeri – Holden Arboretum, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Cupressus goveniana – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus nootkatensis – Sannich Forestry Centre, Holden Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus ×pfitzeriana – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus chinensis – New York Botanical Gardens, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus communis – Kalmalka Forestry Centre, University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus ‘Emerald Sentinal’ – Holden Arboretum
  • Juniperus formosana – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus ‘Grey Owl’ – Holden Arboretum
  • Juniperus horizontalis – New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, Pancake Bay Provincial Park
  • Juniperus occidentalis – Wilbur D. May Arboretum
  • Juniperus rigida – New York Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus sabina – University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus scopulorum – Kalmalka Forestry Centre, USDA-NRCS Bridger Plant Materials Center, University of California at Davis Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Juniperus squamata – University of Guelph Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Juniperus virginiana – Longwood Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Gardens, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, Wilbur D. May Arboretum, University of Guelph Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Holden Arboretum, Longwood Gardens, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Platycladus orientalis – Holden Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Sequoia sempervirens – University of California at Davis Arboretum
  • Taxodium distichum – Holden Arboretum, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, University of California at Davis Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens
  • Thuja occidentalis – New York Botanical Gardens, University of Guelph Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Thuja plicata – Sannich Forestry Centre, New York Botanical Gardens, British Columbia Forest Service, Mount Newtwon Seed Orchard – TimberWest, Beaver Creek Seed Orchard
  • Thuja standishii – University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Thujopsis dolabrata – Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

Insect Identification Takes Flight

During the 2011 collection campaign, we collected several live insects from samples and also removed the larvae from the infested seeds once no insects had emerged from them by July 2012.  We have sent these samples away to be identified.  The larvae have been sent to a colleague in France for, Dr. Marie-Anne Auger-Rozenberg, who will compare the larvae phylogenetically to databases that she has complied for species of Megastigmus to see if there are any similarities or matches.  Identifying insects using only larvae morphology is nearly impossible for this project, especially because processing causes the larvae to become very dry. 

The insects, all from samples taken in British Columbia, have been sent to the National Identificiation Service (Entomology) at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, from which we have heard that the specimen are not Megastigmus. One sample, found on Thuja plicata from the Saanich Forestry Centre, has been identified as belonging to the Torymus sp. (Torymidae) bedeguaris species group. Torymus is a very large genus and, as such, the CNC does not have authoritatively identified specimens in the collection for comparison to make confident identifications for most species.  They have arranged for the specimen to be sent to a torymid expert in Europe, who would be more likely to be able to provide a reliable identification, particularly if it is an introduced species. The other two species of insect samples emerged from Juniperus communis/horizontalis collected at Shorts Creek Canyon by Ward Strong of the Kalamalka Forest Research Centre.  They were broadly identified as Eurytoma (Eurytomidae) and Tetrastichinae (Eulophidae).  In an effort to identify the species, some of the Eurytoma were taken to Washington to a Eurytomid specialist.  They have now been more specifically identified as Eurytoma sp. near juniperana (Eurytomidae) and Aprostocetus sp. 1 (Eulophidae).

Protected Cupressaceae in North America

It is unlikely that Megastigmus is responsible for any Cupressaceae species being on the threatened or endangered species in North America.  The causes are more likely loss of habitat, introduction of other alien pests or diseases, or climate change.  However, when a species becomes threatened or endangered, native seed insect species or the potential introduction of an alien seed insect can become a critical factor in the survival of the species.  For this reason, we have researched the Protective Status of the Cupressaceae in North America.

In Canada, no Cupressaceae are listed on the Species at Risk Public, however, according to Wild Species (http://www.wildspecies.ca) there are several species that have a less drastic status:

  • Juniperus maritime is listed as having a Sensitive status both at the federal level and in British Columbia
  • Juniperus horizontalis is listed as Sensitive in Nunavut and May Be At Risk in PEI
  • Thuja occidentalis is At Risk in Nova Scotia and Sensitive in PEI
  • Juniperus virginiana is listed as May Be At Risk in Quebec
  • Juniperus scopulorum is listed as May Be At Risk in Saskatchewan
  • Thuja plicata is listed as May Be At Risk in Alberta

There are 16 species of Cupressaceae in the United States that have protected status.  From the federal government, Cupressus abramsiana has endangered status and Cupressus goveniana ssp. goveniana has received a threatened status.  The following species have received some level of protected status from at least one state:

  • Calocedrus decurrens
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides
  • Cupressus arizonica
  • Juniperus californica
  • Juniperus communis
  • Juniperus communis
  • Juniperus occidentalis var. australis
  • Juniperus horizontalis
  • Juniperus occidentalis var. occidentalis
  • Juniperus osteosperma
  • Juniperus scopulorum
  • Taxodium distichum
  • Thuja occidentalis
  • Cupressus abramsiana

X-Ray Round One

Since we received around half of the cone samples that we anticipate for this fall, we have x-rayed the first round of our seeds; all 18638 of them!  From these samples, we have collected many midge larvae and some insects of interest, which we will identify if further examination directs us to pursue identification.  In total, 28 of the 113 trees sampled displayed evidence of some form of parasitisation, either infestation of the cone, insects found with the cones, or possible exit holes on the cones or seeds.  However, none of the x-rays showed that any of the seeds were infested with larvae or nymphs.  Megastigmus emerge in the spring, so their larvae would be visible now and triggers for emergence are not present in fall.  This means that there is likely not an infestation of Megastigmus in any of the seeds we processed.  It is always a challenge to determine how we should feel at this realization, because an invasion would be unfortunate, but a novel scientific discover is always exciting!

2012 Collection Campaign

We are well underway with our 2012 collection campaign.  To process the cones and seeds we have been graciously sent by many seed orchards and arboretums, the project has welcomed myself, Ashley Clingen, back for the fall. We have already recieved shipments from:

University of Guelph Arboretum
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
University of Wisconsin at Madison Arboretum
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
Dorena Genetic Resource Center
Beaver Creek Seed Orchard on the Siuslaw National Forest
Western Forest Products – Saanich Forestry Centre
Mount Newton Seed Orchard
Kalamalka Forestry Centre

We also have many shipments coming in soon from:

Longwood Gardens
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Wilbur D. May Arboretum
New York Botanical Garden
North Carolina Botanical Gardens
Holden Arboretum
University of California at Davis Arboretum
Quarryhill Botanical Gardens
Crosby Arboretum
USDA-NRCS Bridger Plant Materials Center
British Columbia Forest Service Tree Seed Centre
Yellowpoint Propagation

Several other arboretums are working to determine whether their accessions are suitable for sampling for our project or whether or not staff will be allocated to the sampling effort.  We thank these seed and cone sources for their support!

Results of the 2011-12 campaign

This post summarizes the results of our 2011-12 campaign.

Let’s start with the visual examination of the cones and berries:

  • As reported earlier, Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) cones received from the Saanich Forestry Centre (British Columbia) showed insect damage. Papery cocoons between the scales, in places where the seeds should have been are likely traces of the red cedar cone midge, Mayetiola thujae (Diptera, Cecidomyiidae). This insect is the most serious pest of Western red cedar in BC, Washington and Oregon. Mayetiola larvae feed inside the cones from May through late summer. The cones were collected mid-August. By that time, mature larvae have constructed a cocoon within which they will overwinter. We didn’t get any emergence from these cocoons so we can’t confirm that it was indeed M. thujae.  One bag of cones also contained a metallic green chalcid that resembles Torymus azureus, a parasite of the galling midge Kaltenbachiola rachiphaga in spruce cones. Could this be a parasite of M. thujae?
    The same cones had also holes previously described as “exit holes” but could also be puncture holes from pentatomid feeding, as suggested by our colleague Ward Strong.
  • Other traces of infestation in the form of almost perfectly circular holes (see picture) were found on cones of Juniperus virginiana, J. horizontalis and J. communis from British Columbia (Shorts Creek Canyon), Ontario (Guelph Arboretum) and Northeastern US (Boston, MA). This damage looks like exit holes of a seed chalcid, possibly Eurytoma juniperina. In their review, Chambers et al (1999) listed several insect species affecting Juniperus seed production in Western North America including the chalcidoid wasp Eurytoma juniperina on J. horizontalis. This insect is also found on the Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum).

J. horizontalis from Guelph showing exit hole

J. communis from Shorts Creek Canyon (BC) showing exit holes

  • Several insects were also found in the bags containing the juniper berries collect by Ward Strong at the Shorts Creek Canyon (BC). The determination of these insects is in progress.

After visual examination, all samples were processed for seed extraction, cleaning and x-raying. In total, more than 51.000 seeds from 34 species sampled in 35 locations over 2 sampling dates were treated last year. Seeds that were identified as potentially infested on the x-rays were picked from the samples and put in rearing in emergence boxes outside in Great Lakes Forestry Centre (Sault Ste Marie, ON) insectarium. Reading x-rays can be challenging, particularly for smaller seeds, so a conservative approach was taken and seeds were picked out even when there was only the smallest indication of a possible infestation. No emergence had occurred by mid-July so we decided to dissect some seeds from each sample to confirm the presence of larvae in the seeds. We will present the results by host species:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa: infested seeds were found at the Arnold Arboretum (28/345 infested seeds) and the Morris Arboretum (359/1842 infested seeds). Samples from the New York botanical garden were not infested. The dissection of the Arnold and Morris samples confirmed that the seeds were infested. Seeds of C. obtusa are infested by Megastigmus chamaecyparidis  and Megastigmus cryptomeriae in Japan but to our knowledge, these Megastigmus species have never been recorded in North America.
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides: infested seeds (4/250 on x-rays, 3/251 confirmed after dissection) were found in samples collected at the University of North Carolina Botanical Garden. Interestingly, none of the other C. thyoides samples collected at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (GA), Arnold Arboretum (MA), New York Botanical Garden (NY), Cornell Plantations (NY), and Morris Arboretum (PA) were infested. Dissection confirmed that 3 seeds were infested, the other was empty. Infestation is likely due to Megastigmus thyoides. This chalcid was first found in seeds of C. thyoides collected in 1994 in North Carolina (Turgeon et al., 1997).
  • Cryptomeria japonica: among all the C. japonica seed samples we received from the Arnold Arboretum (MA), Atlanta Botanical Gardens (GA), the UC Davis Arboretum (CA), and the Morris Arboretum at UPenn, the latter was the only one showing some level of infestation (29/413). The presence of larvae in these seeds was confirmed by dissection. Cryptomeria japonica seeds are known to be infested by Megastigmus cryptomeriae in Japan, China and Taiwan but this species has never been recorded in North America.
  • Juniperus communis or horizontalis: only one seed out of 664 collected by Ward Strong at the Shorts Creek Canyon (BC) appeared on the x-rays as being infested. The dissection of this seed confirmed the presence of a larva.

In summary, without being able to attribute any infestation to a species or even a genus at this point, we can confirm that we have found seed infestation in 4 species of Cupressaceae: Chamaecyparis obtusa, Chamaecyparis thyoides, Cryptomieria japonica and Juniperus communis or horizontalis.

Species sampled in 2011

Well, looking back at our 2011 campaign, the list of species that we sampled doesn’t look to bad indeed. We managed to sample 34 species, including 18 native. The list with sampling locations is given below (native species are in bold):

  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana: Dorena Genetic Resource Center, Canadian National Tree Seed Centre, UC Davis Arboretum, Morris Arboretum
  • Chamaecyparis nookatensis: Arnold Arboretum, Guelph Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa: Arnold Arboretum, Cornell Plantations, New York Botanical Gardens
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera: Cornell Plantations, Arnold Arboretum, New York Botanical Gardens
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides: New York Botanical Gardens, Cornell Plantations, Arnold Arboretum, North Carolina Botanical Garden
  • Cunninghamia lanceolata: Morris Arboretum
  • Cryptomeria japonica: Arnold Arboretum, UC Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus arizonica: Arnold Arboretum, UC Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus bakeri: Arnold Arboretum, UC Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus forbesii: UC Berkeley
  • Cupressus glabra: Morris Arboretum
  • Cupressus goveniana: UC Davis Arboretum
  • Cupressus macnabiana: UC Berkeley
  • Cupressus sempervirens: UC Davis Arboretum
  • Juniperus bermudiana: Huntington Botanical Gardens
  • Juniperus chinensis: Morris Arboretum,  UW Arboretum, Cornell Plantations, Guelph Arboretum, New York Botanical Garden, Great Lakes Forestry Centre Arboretum
  • Juniperus communis: Canadian National Tree Seed Centre, Morris Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum, Guelph Arboretum, Bluenose Mountain
  • Juniperus horizontalis: Guelph Arboretum, Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Cornell Plantations, New York Botanical Garden
  • Juniperus phoenicea: JC Raulston Arboretum
  • Juniperus rigida: Cornell Plantations, New York Botanical Garden
  • Juniperus sabina: Arnold Arboretum, Guelph Arboretum
  • Juniperus scopulorum: Canadian National Tree Seed Centre, UC Davis Arboretum, Ellison Provincial Park, Guelph Arboretum
  • Juniperus squamata: Cornell Plantations, New York Botanical Garden, Arnold Arboretum, Guelph Arboretum, Morris Arboretum
  • Juniperus virginiana: Canadian National Tree Seed Centre, Arnold Arboretum, North Carolina Botanical Garden, UC Davis Arboretum Guelph Arboretum, New York Botanical Garden
  • Juniperus xpfitzeriana: New York Botanical Garden
  • Platycladus orientalis: Guelph arboretum
  • Sciadopitys verticillata: Arnold Arboretum
  • Sequioadendron giganteum: Arnold Arboretum
  • Sequoia sempervirens: UC Davis Arboretum
  • Taxodium disticum: UC Davis
  • Thuja occidentalis: Canadian National Tree Seed Centre
  • Thuja plicata: Canadian National Tree Seed Centre
  • Thujopsis dolabrata: Arnold Arboretum
  • Xanthrocyparis nootkatensis: Cornell Plantations