The Q&A Archives: Identifying Cottony Growth on Bay

Question: My bay tree is flourishing except that, around the base of the plant, small oval pieces of the skin are lifting away and have stuff that looks like a cross between candy floss and cotton wool underneath. What is it? Is it a problem or a natural if unusual thing? Ursula Boyle London, England

Answer: It's hard to say for sure, but it sounds like you may have a scale infestation. According to my references here, nine different types of scale insects infest sweet bay, including one called cottony-cushion scale. You may be on the edge of the hardiness zone for your bay tree. It normally prefers warmer temperatures--the plant originates in the warm Mediterranean region. Perhaps the plant was stressed by the cold, which made it more susceptible to insect attack. I would contact local nurseriesfor their opinion about this problem. Perhaps you can bring them a sample so they can make a positive identification, and recommendations for control.

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