Having a houseplant of your own can be an exciting adventure. Knowing how to take care of your new leafy friend is a part of being a responsible plant owner. Understanding potential viruses are also key. Did you know that there are over 2000 viruses known to attack crops and household plants? Out of all the diseases known to infect plants, these viruses make up about one-fourth of them. Mosaic Viruses are among those plant viruses that can cause havoc to your beloved houseplant.
In this article, we will explore what the Mosaic Virus is and how to correctly identify it before it becomes too late. Also, we will explore the different causes, preventative measures, and questions one may have about this the symptoms and treatments.
WHAT IS THE MOSAIC VIRUS?
By definition, a virus is a parasite that cannot be seen by the naked eye. They infect the living cells of an organism, continuing to multiply until they overtake the intended target. The Mosaic Virus works in the same manner, attacking plants on a molecular level until they can’t thrive anymore.
HOW DO I KNOW MY PLANT HAS THE MOSAIC VIRUS?
The Mosaic Virus or Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) affects a wide range of plants. It has its name due to the pattern on the leaves. They are often discoloured and mottled and you can see a mosaic-like structure. The colouration is mostly yellow, white or light and dark green. Some people have high hopes and think their plant suddenly became variegated before they find out that their plant infected and likely to die. It also reduces growth and stops plants form developing healthy leaves.
We have recently seen multiple Monstera Adansonii plants with the mosaic virus. As it quickly spreads to other plants you can see whole deliveries in gardening centres and plant shops infected with the virus.
Here is an example of a Monstera Adansonii where you can see that the leaves carry the specific mosaic pattern.
THE HISTORY OF THE MOSAIC VIRUS
Before going into detail on how to prevent this disease, you should understand where this plant got its roots – or rather when they started attacking them. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th century that bacterium was proven to be a culprit among many infectious diseases. The first known case of a mosaic Virus, known as Tobacco Mosaic Virus, showed scientists that bacteria can attack at the molecular level. Interestingly enough, it was also the first virus to be identified. Being able to study it for years later, we now know how to take action to keep crops and houseplants from meeting the same fate.
As the name suggests, this virus was given its common name due to the mosaic patterning located on the infected plant’s leaves. This is one of how scientists were able to identify the virus from other bacteria known about during that time.
But how does something so small attack our beloved foliage?
THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE MOSAIC VIRUS
As with any living being, there is an order of operations. How does the Mosaic Virus fend for itself? And how exactly does it riddle our plants with a disease? The answer is in the life cycle. The virus particle, which is where it begins, first thrives on a vector or living organism. For the Mosaic Virus tends to “hitchhike” on small insects such as aphids and grasshoppers. It then will come into contact with its eventual host, various plant species. Once in this position, the virus will continue to take over the leafy foe until it has withered away.
WHAT DOES THE MOSAIC VIRUS LOOK LIKE?
When you identify a plant, you often look for the shape of the leaves or how tall it grows, but how do you label what a virus looks like? The answer is still in the plant. The Mosaic Virus takes shape in the face of the leaves. Typically, you will know if your beloved houseplant has this virus due to yellowing or lighter stripes or spots located on the foliage. There are other physical markers for the Mosaic Virus that can help spot a problem long before it gets deadly.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY THE MOSAIC VIRUS?
One of the easiest things to mistake for a virus is more common plant problem. If you’ve spent much time researching or growing plants of your own, you may know that these organisms respond to several conditions. If a plant is too hot for instance, the leaves may give off a yellow hue. Not enough humidity may decrease productivity. Listed below are a few of the physical characteristics to look for when considering whether or not your plant has the Mosaic Virus
• Foliage that has spots, stripes or “blisters” in shades of yellow, white, or areas of dark green patches.
• Leaves are curled, wrinkled or possess any other deformities abnormal for the plant species.
• The plant fails to produce any new growth.
• Fruit that appears “warty” and mottled may be infected due to the virus.
• The undersides of the leaves show that the veins are yellow.
TYPES OF MOSAIC VIRUSES
Tobacco Mosaic Virus
This form of Mosaic Virus, also known as TMV, was among the first to be discovered back in the mid-1880s. One of the alarming facts about this strain is that it can survive outside of the plant or even when the host is dead. It attacks a large variety of plants, most of which belong to the family Solanaceae, or the nightshades. Among the most common houseplants, the Tobacco Mosaic Virus tends to favour Petunias and Marigolds.
Out of the most common types of Mosaic Viruses, TMV shows itself in the leaves and young growth. Infected plants tend to take on a mottled or yellowing appearance. The leaves themselves can also appear twisted and lacking in growth. The spread of this type of virus is generally through the seeds. Another way in which it is transmitted is when it comes into direct contact with a plant. Once it attaches to its host, this virus will attack the plant at the molecular level.
Cucumber Mosaic Virus
Tobacco Mosaic Virus is not the most common virus to infect houseplants. The Cucumber Mosaic Virus, named for the first plant it attacked, causes a lot of deaths among herbaceous and woody plant species. Ornamental plants tend to be among the largest number of victims. This includes tulips, petunias, lilies, bamboo, and other herbaceous or woody plants.
CMV or the Cucumber Mosaic Virus can be identified through several symptoms. This can include stunting in the growth, mottling on the leaves, yellowing of the leaf’s veins and others. One of the most indicative signs is through a behaviour known as “shoestring syndrome”. This is where the leaf edges become malformed and do not continue to properly develop. It can be paired with the veins developing in a yellow strip. Insects such as aphids, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, and whiteflies mostly transmit this type of virus. Plants may also become infected through tampered soil, seeds or starter pots that have this infection.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
Now that you know about the two most common forms of Mosaic viral infections, let’s take at how to spot them and what you can do to save your plant. Both TMV and CMV have their ways in which they affect the plant, but there seems to an overlapping morphological change.
Below are all of the symptoms you may find if your plant has been infected by any of the several hundred viruses associated with Mosaic infection.
• Mottling pattern in the leaves, giving off a mosaic appearance
• Streaking and splotches that are either light green, dark green or yellow
• Stunting in plant development
• Lack of development in the leaf edges, manifesting in curling or wrinkling
• Deformed fruits and flowers
• The veins of the plant are thin and a distinct yellow colour
• Leaves and fruit have line or ring patterns
These are a few of the symptoms associated with the Mosaic Viruses. Unfortunately, some of these signs can be due to many other factors such as insufficient watering, high humidity or too much sunlight.
To fully understand how this infection works and how it can be spread to your beloved houseplants, you must know the causes. A common vector causes certain strains of Mosaic Virus, while others can be spread through a multitude of hosts. Here are the ways that this virus can spread.
• Insects such as aphids, grasshoppers, beetles, and flies
• Nematodes or roundworms
• Direct contact from one plant to another
With so many different ways of contracting a Mosaic Virus, is there any way that one can stop their plant from becoming infected?
SOLUTIONS TO AN INFECTED PLANT
If you notice that your plant may be infected with a Mosaic Virus, there isn’t much that can be done. Unfortunately, no cure is yet known by botanists. This is because viruses attack the plant’s cells at the core. Once infected, a plant will have that virus for the remainder of its existence. This is why it’s best to take immediate action. Once you’re sure that you have an infected plant, carefully remove it. Do not add them to your existing compost pile. This will only allow the virus to spread. Instead, you must destroy all infected plants. To be safe, we advise removing and destroying and plants that you may think have the virus as well. It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for a plant that has been affected by a Mosaic Virus. As a plant owner, the best course of action is to take preventative measures. We heard about one specific method but do not have sufficient evidence to judge whether it works or not. Some people swear on diluting aspirin in water and feed it to the infected plant when watering. If you do this in multiple weeks some people believe it may help to get rid of the Mosaic Virus. Whilst it might be worth a try, the best measure in most cases is to get rid of the plant itself, the soil and the pot as it may quickly spread to other plants and once infected plants are mostly lost.
PREVENTING PLANTS FROM BECOMING INFECTED
Without a known cure for Mosaic Viruses, there is only one solution. This involves ridding your plant collection of any infected organisms and preventing the spread of any viruses later down the road.
The following notes are steps that you can take to prevent any of your houseplants from contracting this deadly virus.
• Choose plants that are resistant to diseases such as Allium, Roses, Narcissus and Azalea
• Purchase all of your plants from a reputable source to ensure virus-free seeds and specimens
• Remove any weeds that arise since it can make way for CMV
• Cover your houseplants with a floating row cover if they are exposed to potential insects such as aphids and grasshoppers
• Thoroughly clean all tools used for your plants just in case one of your plants has been affected by a Mosaic Virus
• Wash your hands after working with any of your plants to ensure that you don’t spread any potential viruses
• If you think that one of your plants is infected, isolate it until it can be properly diagnosed
After reading this guide, you may still have questions about the Mosaic Virus. We have included some of the most commonly asked questions in regards to this infection that will hopefully answer any further concerns you may have.
What causes Mosaic Virus?
As discussed earlier, this type of infection can be caused by a multitude of vectors or carriers. Insects, such as aphids, beetles, and flies have been known to spread this virus quite rapidly. Another cause may be through the spread of mites, roundworms, infected soil, human contact, fungi or seeds.
At first thought, you might seem conflicted eating squash that has been infected with a Mosaic Virus. The truth of the matter is that it does not cause harm to humans. Mosaic Virus affects many commonly consumed melons and fruits such as squash, zucchini, watermelon, and pumpkin. Although it wouldn’t make you sick, you should try to limit the consumption of foods infected with this virus. Eating a squash that has a Mosaic Virus will spread infection through seeds.
How do you treat tomato Mosaic virus?
The unfortunate reality when it comes to Mosaic Viruses is that there isn’t a cure. If you notice that your tomato, or houseplant have this infection, the best course of action is to safely remove and destroy them. For those looking to plant tomatoes, choose a location that does not have root debris as this type of virus thrives in root systems. To reduce the spread of infection, thoroughly wash your hands in between gardening as well as all tools used in the process. It is always best to stem on the side of caution.
How do I get rid of Mosaic Virus?
The only way to get rid of the Mosaic Virus is to destroy the plants that are infected. Taking preventative measures before plants contract the virus is the only way of making sure that it won’t exist in the first place.
Which organelle is affected by Mosaic Viruses?
Looking at the molecular level, we can tell that plants can absorb light through their chloroplasts. These transfer the light through a process known as photosynthesis and converts it into energy. The Mosaic Virus attacks this organelle, making it difficult for the plant to intake any sunlight. As a result, you may find that your plant does not develop as quickly.