Issue: February 16, 2008

Bronze fennel doesn't make bulbs/Is moss killing the pines?


A friend asked me a question about fennel I couldn't answer. She has bronze fennel and wants it to grow bulbs she can eat. Will it do this? How would she encourage it?

Peggy W.


Bronze fennel does not make "bulbs" as readily as Florence fennel. They are different varieties. Perhaps your friend will find the leaf bases (the part that makes the bulb) adequate, but if she wants bulbs, she should plant Florence fennel. However, the bronze fennel leaves and seeds can be used to flavor teas and salads.


While visiting a friend at her house in the mountains, I noticed that their pine trees are looking ill. They do not have many needles and there is a gray-green moss-like plant growing on them. Is this moss killing the forest?

Lea M.
Santa Fe


You are probably describing lichen instead of moss. This is an interesting symbiotic combination of fungus and algae. There are other colors ranging from yellow to orange to various shades of green.

Even though this includes a fungus, it is not what is harming the trees. Lichen can grow on rocks and telephone lines. They need a suitable environment. This environment involves moisture and adequate light. The fact that they are prospering on the pines you described is because the environment is appropriate. As other factors weaken the trees, the leaves thin out and the lichen grows better. They did not cause the problem, but they exploit the improved environment.

So, do not worry about the lichens. Your friend should consider the cause of the trees decline that brought this to your attention. Perhaps the trees have been injured by drought or by insects.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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