Curly Wrinkly Leaves on New Growth (Chaya, Malabar Spinach, Passion Fruit)

Hello all. I have a small garden space growing a number of things and I’ve noticed in the last month in particular that the new growth on the Chaya, Malabar Spinach, and Passion Fruit vines are all looking quite weird. They all look kind of shrively, wrinkly, curly and old, but they are still quite green and do not show signs of drying out. In fact, the rains started about 2 months ago (here in West Africa). Up to this point I’d never seen this before except in the dry season with the passion fruit when it starts getting really dry. I also have velvet beans, pidgeon pea, turmeric, and local squash that are all growing well and show no signs of bad health. Does anyone know what is the cause of this and if this is bad? It certainly looks bad to me. The growth rate on the malabar spinach and the Chaya since the rains have started has been quite rapid, but the passion fruit doesn’t seem to be taking off like it normally does.

Bad Chaya New Growth

Good Chaya old growth

Bad Malabar Spinach

Good Malabar Spinach (older growth)

Bad Passion Fruit new growth

Good passion fruit old growth

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Hi Tyler, I talked with the Tims, Motis and Watkins, and they suggested that you look under the leaves to see if there were thrips or mites causing the damage. Otherwise they might be affected by viruses which would be bad news. @Tim_Motis @Timothy_Watkins @Stacy_Swartz

Dear gardener,

I am a registered member of the ECHO community and I am responding to the worry of the farmer with curly wrinkly leaves on new growth.I suspect two things insect pest or aphids. How to handle may be a long story for me to narrate but if you are actually interested in doing gardening, then I will guide you and many others who are also interested in gardening to this very golden book written by John Seymour, THE NEW “SELF-SUFFICIENT GARDENER” . THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO PLANNING,GROWING,STORING AND PRESERVING YOUR OWN GARDEN PRODUCE. The Library attendant of the Asian Rural institute ARI - Japan assisted me to purchase this 255 page book from the UK in 2014 while I was there studying sustainable agriculture. It costed me 2.200 JPY. To obtain a copy use the following guide which was given to me with the book. Ltd, Unit 22

Horcott Industrial Estate, Horcott Road, FAIRFORD, Gloucestershire GL7 4BX, UK

Go to page 104 , “Controlling Pests and Diseases” and you will manage your garden too well that you will certainly think of extending your production unit.It has very interesting illustrative color photos to aid your proper understanding of the field situation. As you study this book (may be on-line), I wish you take note of the following statement extracted from page 104. …" I would never recommend using.chemical insecticides. All life is one, and as a rule anything which destroys one form of life will damage another - perhaps even your own. There are, however certain vegetable substances which will kill or defer harmful insects without damaging your crops or, most important, your insect predators. Remember; to kill a pest and its predator is very stupid. The pest will return and rage in an even more uncontrolled way"…Read more of the magic solutions to your worries and i wish you a good harvest and all the best in your gardening.project.

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   North West Pig Farmers Cooperative Society

North West Region - Cameroon


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Hi Tyler, I passed this along to a friend of mine in the Doctor of Plant Medicine program at University of Florida. His response follows:

"…the chaya and passiflora are both hosts for broad mite, which is consistent with the tight downward cupping of the otherwise green new growth seen in the photos. Ah, looks like Basella alba is as well. So my first step would be to check the undersides of the newest leaves and buds for broad mite, particularly the characteristic eggs.

“Make sure they know just how tiny broad mites are. To see the eggs clearly you need a dissection scope on full zoom.”

When I asked about an appropriate remedy considering West Africa:

“Prune out the new growth showing damage. Only a few miticides kill them and they wouldn’t be available in rural Africa. They’re very difficult to target with general soft pesticides like soaps and oils due to the leaf curling. Encourage predatory mites, some of which will feed on broad mites.”

While you may not have access to a dissecting microscope, if you have some sort of hand lens, then it may help you validate what my friend is so confident you are facing.

Hope this helps,


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Would neem oil do the trick? I do have a kids microscope that I could find and see if I can’t cut a few leaves off and put under there. I wouldn’t be able to take any pictures of anything that small though.

I’m guessing if I prune those infected parts that I would need to burn the remains otherwise the mites would still just linger on if I simply pruned everything and left it on the ground?


The problem with any spray is that since the leaves are so curled, it it difficult to adequately apply any pesticide to kill all the mites. you can certainly try, and be sure to drench the leaves–it’s worth a shot in my book if you have neem oil available.

However, if you continue to see decline, you should result to pruning the affected parts, and either burning the offending parts or at least disposing of the mite-ridden bits in an area far from your susceptible crops.

Let us know what you find with the microscope and how you proceed!


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Is it possible this could be from spiders? I’ve found a lot of spider webs back there recently. Also, since this part of the house only gets morning sun from about 9-11, could it be that it is just getting too much water and not enough sun to dry it out a bit?

Hi Tyler,

I’ve had this problem for two reasons in the past --one is the above mentioned (mites or excessive aphids/mealy bugs). The other thing that could have happened is if someone thought they were doing you a favour by applying urea. too much nitrogen causes leaf curl. Probably you are using all organic methods since you are posting on ECHO community, but it could be that someone else “helped” you without your knowledge. My friend “helped” one of my plants once and I almost lost the plant. So, if you really are sure that there are no mites or insects on the bottoms of your leaves, you might try following directions to deal with nitrogen toxicity.

I really think there is no chance of this being from spiders.

If the plants are not drying out enough, it can cause conditions in favor of aphids, mites, and other suckers.

Hope this helps! --Leslie

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Interesting. I haven’t applied urea, but this area was excavated and I dumped a couple of large bags of chicken manure and covered it with soil. This was about 2 years ago now. The leaf curlying I noticed on the passionfruit a little bit last year, but this year it is really a lot more and with the other plants I mentioned already. I also have velvet beans growing up a water tower that I typically cut back every two weeks and let the leaves cover the area in a new layer of mulch. Perhaps all of this is adding up to too much Nitrogen? The original soil is pretty much just solid clay from the subsoil that was leftover from construction and there was very little growing there.