The Plant Clinic is located in the WSU Extension office at 600 Dupont St, Suite A, in Bellingham. Summer schedule is Monday – Friday, 9am-noon and 1pm-4pm. Hours change with the seasons, so best to check with the WSU Master Gardener Plant Clinic page on WSU’s website for the current clinic hours, as well as tips on how best to submit a sample for analysis.
Whether you want to know what’s chewing on your rhododendrons, why your lettuce is wilting, how to identify a plant or insect, or suggestions on what to plant in that empty space in your garden, the WSU Master Gardener Diagnostic Plant Clinic is here to help!
The plant clinic is one of the many projects supported by the Master Gardener Foundation of Whatcom County and is run by dedicated, trained volunteers who serve home gardeners and residents with environmentally sound, researched-based advice and solutions to common plant problems. The diagnostic plant clinic is a cornerstone of local extension and education services for home gardeners.
The successful sleuthing of the diagnostic plant clinic is the cornerstone of the Master Gardener program and how the concept of Master Gardeners got started in the first place. The first program in the nation was founded in 1973 by Washington State University Cooperative Extension. The Whatcom County Master Gardener Program began soon thereafter. Today, Master Gardener programs have taken hold around the US and in Canada, training people in the science and art of gardening and, through the clinic, sharing horticulture knowledge with gardeners in their community.
Taking a Closer Look
New Microscope Perks up Plant Clinic
The WSU Master Gardener diagnostic plant clinic in downtown Bellingham has a new stereoscopic microscope, thanks to donations from the Whatcom Country Master Gardener Foundation and the public. “People who bring their plant problems to us expect a high level of service and accuracy,” says Master Gardener Mill Shires. “The new microscope helps us see what’s truly going on.“
Stereoscopic, or “dissecting” microscopes, have two eyepiece oculars allowing more comfortable stereo vision. Light is reflected from the surface of the object rather than being transmitted through the object, as in thin slices mounted on glass slides. Stereoscopes are excellent for observing plant and insect samples, living or dead, in three dimensions.
Dissecting microscopes give detailed views of the physiological havoc made by the smallest organisms (bacteria and viruses) and insight into tissue damage caused by abiotic factors such as sun, wind, freezing, drought, pesticides, etc. With a stereo scope, master gardeners can detect fungal structures as well as even very small insects, their nymphs, eggs, and frass. Magnification and focus can be adjusted using either the eyepieces or the display monitor. Every view of the plant tissue gives clues for trouble-shooting and diagnosis.
Our new scope also has an integrated camera for taking photos and video to share seamlessly with the plant clinic’s computer. A large-screen display allows collaboration by several WSU Master Gardeners at a time. “The new microscope is much less intimidating to use than our old one. The display screen reduces eye strain and neck fatigue, and because the eyepieces are optional, there’s no need to adjust them for each new person,” says Mill.