Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nicotiana glutinosa

Nicotiana glutinosa (glutinosa = sticky, glutinous)

There are many beautiful Nicotianas out there in the world and this is one of them. This plant grows like N. slyvestris; it is tall, with big leaves and long arching branches that are covered in small pink flowers.  Nicotiana is Tobacco and is in the Solanaceae family, the nightshades, which includes the beloved tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato and petunia. Because of their close relations, they share quite a few diseases, such as the tobacco mosaic virus. At a farm down the road smokers are not permitted to work in the tomato greenhouse because the virus spreads from tobacco, to hands, to tomato plants.  This virus does not kill the plant, but it does reduce crop yields and since an organic tomato sell for quite a lot around here, that can be fairly damaging. The other nasty pest that these plants share is the dreaded tomato hornworm and we recently found them chowing down on the above Nicotiana specimen. These caterpillars are crazy horned creatures and the moth that hatches is the one that looks like a moth hummingbird- wild stuff! There does happen to be a natural fighting agent, a parasitic wasp that lays eggs on the living bug (eventually killing it), which adds to the the horror of the hornworm.


  1. I am more than a little distressed by the sight of those amazing caterpillars being attacked by parasites! That Nicotiana is beautiful.

  2. Hi Helen! Growing up among the Amish of Pennsylvania, where tobacco was at one time a huge cash crop, I remember how serious everyone took the tobacco mosaic virus. In April, all the seed beds would be sterilized by steam, generated by huge steam engines, that looked very much like train locomotives. These behemoths, with their enormous steel wheels, and their loud huffing and puffing, would be shared, and moved from farm to farm throughout the county. Once the machine did its job, the tobacco seed would then be sown in the sterilized beds and, in May, the young plants would finally be transplanted to the fields. My grandfather was a tobacco buyer and would take me along with him to many of the farms. And, even though I didn't know much about the tobacco virus at the time, seeing these giant machines in action was pretty cool for a kid! --Joe