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Decline of Eastern White Pine in Eastern Massachusetts

Overview

Eastern White Pine 2

The Eastern white pine tree was designated as the official state tree of Maine in 1945, which has been coined as the “The Pine Tree State” and appears on Maine’s state flag and seal. In 1955, the state of Michigan also chose the Eastern white pine to be their official state tree as a symbol of their logging history. The Eastern white pine is considered to be one of the largest conifer trees in the north eastern United States. Since 2009, the Eastern white pine has been experiencing dieback and general decline, which is a great concern regarding one of the most economically valuable and ecologically important forest trees in the northeast. Recently, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) posted information that begins to explain the reason for these symptoms of decline. According Dr. Nick Brazee, a plant pathologist at the UMass Amherst, it is a combination of climate change, several fungal pathogens, and a particular species of insects that are responsible for the decline in the Eastern white pines.

White Pine Needle Drop (WPND)

Disease is primarily responsible for the symptoms of declining pines, namely premature needle drop, yellowing of needles, resinosis, dieback of canopy, and branch and tree death. WPND is caused by several fungal pathogens. Once you see the needles begin to become discolored (yellow/brown), it is usually the cause of the root pathogens due to it affecting the entirety of the tree. At the same time, the environment for spore activity and germination has been fueled by the increase in temperatures and precipitation in the northeast region of the United States.

Caliciopsis Canker & Bast Scale

Caliciopsis Pine Canker Jen WeimerAnother fungus and insect complex that is also partially responsible for the dieback of Eastern white pines are the caliciopsis canker and white pine bast scale. Bast scale is tiny, black, oval-shaped scales that lack both eyes and legs. Bast scale use a long stylet to drain sap from outer layers of phloem (tissue) of twigs and branches. White pine bast scales live under lichens, which are slow growing plants that form crusty leaflike growth on rocks and trees. These have been found on white pine branches. 

Recently, the white pine bast scale has been identified as a catalyst for the development of caliciopsis canker in white pine trees. Although the bast scale causes almost no damage to the tree, the feeding areas that they produce are extremely conducive to the development of caliciopsis cankers in trees. The primary problem with an outbreak of caliciopsis cankers is that they cause dead areas in the tree’s tissue and as more cankers develop, the affected branches will eventually be unable to disperse the water into the foliage and in which case, the tree will die. Root rot diseases can also affect the dieback of white pines, and will be addressed in a future post.

Conclusion

Young White Pine

In conclusion, tree thinning, or selective removal of branches, of existing white pines aids in the reduction of WPND by increasing radial growth, promoting crown vigor, and an overall general reduction in WPND. Many arborists have also found that fertilizing the tree with nitrogen can help to restore vigor, especially to trees highly stressed from WPND. Fungicide applications are often impractical for large trees or multiple trees, but focused applications on specimen or very young white pines can be helpful to control WPND. It has become clear that the issues affecting white pines are not going away any time soon, but can be controlled using an experienced, dedicated team of arborists.

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Bob Lees, MCLP

Photo of Caliciopsis Canker Courtesy of Jen Weimer

Kelp Your Trees!

A New Way To Promote Healthy Trees & Shrubs

Want to Kelp Your Trees?

Are your trees and shrubs looking stressed from the weather we have been having? Are they not blooming or vibrant in color like they used to? Consider an all-natural bio-stimulant treatment to boost growth and to promote optimal health. A soil drench of our kelp treatment can help add over 50 vitamins and minerals. Kelp contains almost every micro-nutrient in a fully chelated (immediately available) form. The algae is also full of carbohydrates, which plants use as building blocks of plant cells and are essential for plant growth. We only use the kelp species Ascophyllum nodosum, which is found only in the Atlantic Ocean. This species of kelp is known to contain the highest concentrations of micro-nutrients (magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, etc...), and is the most desirable kelp used in the organic plant health industry.

The Kelp Process

How can you spray, inject or drench a plant with Kelp? Good question! What happens is that the kelp is collected from the Atlantic Ocean which is then washed to remove salt, and then it is dried and turned into a powder. This powder is then used to create a liquid that we are able to spray, inject and drench with. Kelp has naturally occurring plant growth hormones known as gibberellins and cytokines. These hormones help promote a variety of benefits for plants. The kelp is harvested in a responsible manner and due to kelp's growth rate it is a highly renewable and ample source. Growth enhancement has been attributed to the presence of plant growth regulators (plant hormones). Ascophyllum is loaded with auxin, growth stimulants and amino acids – all of which help promote root growth and build cell wall strength. Kelp Treatment is administered throughout the year to optimize the benefits.

Kelp Treatment

Benefits of Kelp (seaweed extract)

Kelp's many benefits include an effective method proven helpful in combating plant stress. Seaweed extract is a good source of potassium, and contains the many micro-nutrients that plants need for optimal health. Kelp will also help promote root growth and build cell wall strength. Why is cell wall strength important? Strong cell walls resist disease, ward off insects, and retain water more effectively. All these improvements promote chlorophyll production, cell division and elongation and increase cell wall permeability. Seaweed extract is valued for its ability to encourage trees and shrubs to more effectively draw nutrients from soil and fertilizers. As an example of the enhancement; compare drinking out of a coffee stir for a long period of time and then suddenly you're given a normal straw. The amount of flow and volume is increased exponentially. The kelp is a soil conditioner that also stimulates the soils bacteria which increases the fertility of the soil and also moisture retention. The cation exchange capacity (CEC) can be improved increasing the likelihood of nutrients being grabbed. After your plants receive the Kelp Treatment you will likely see your plants have darker green foliage, larger more compact root system, increased flower production and enhanced color and bloom over a period of time. It’s best to keep plants in vigorous state of health so they are able to fight off insects, disease and maintain their optimal health.

Below is a list of benefits from using our Kelp Treatment Program:

  1. Promotes plant growth and vigorous root system
  2. Increases the ability to tolerate and recover from stress
  3. Increases cell wall permeability
  4. Increases translocation of water
  5. Stimulates cell division and elongation
  6. Promotes chlorophyll production
  7. Larger root system
  8. Darker green foliage
  9. Increase flower production
  10. Enhance color and bloom
  11. Advantageous for new transplants
  12. Fruit less prone to softening and grow larger

We provide the applications up to three visits yearly. Call us to help increase your tree and shrubs ability to tolerate and recover from stress.

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Request Kelp Treatment

Invasive Vines: Black Swallow-Wort

What is Black Swallow-Wort?

Black swallow-wort and it’s “twin” Pale swallow-wort are two invasive vines currently growing in New England, and are deemed invasive in Massachusetts and Connecticut. These herbaceous, twining vines grow three to six feet, with opposite, shiny leaves 2” to 4” long. 

imageThe flowers on swallow-wort are dark, usually purple black on Black, and Maroon on Pale swallow-wort, and produces seedpods 1.5” to 3” long, bearing numerous seeds. Due to a strong fibrous root system, eradication by digging is difficult, as plants can regenerate from root fragments.  A healthy stand of swallow-wort may produce between 1000 and 2000 seeds per square meter, per year, depending on sunlight.  Swallow-worts grow in full sun to partial shade, and are more invasive in full sunlight.

Problems They Cause

Black Swallow-wort and Pale Swallow-wort invade planting beds, climbing up your trees and shrubs and even under your storm windows. According to, http://nyis.info/invasive_species/swallow-wort/ they are two distinct species but share similar characteristics. A similar characteristic that they both share is that they are both perennial climbing vines. Which means that they don't just die over time, they just keep reoccurring through the thousands of seeds they produce. Once the Black Swallow-wort settles in, they form extensive patches that overgrow and smother the native vegetation.

How they affect Monarch Butterflies

Besides its ability to displace native plants, swallow-worts are also interfering with the reproductive success of the Monarch Butterfly, and possibly other species as well. 

Monarchs normally lay their eggs on native milkweeds, which are disappearing due to competitive pressure from swallow-worts. In addition, Monarch eggs which are laid on Black swallow-wort have nearly 0% hatching success. This is because when the larvae are born they can't ingest or use the toxin that is in either the Black Swallow-wort or the Pale Swallow-wort in which they won't be able to survive. 

How to control?

Control is particularly difficult, because of the rhizome root system and fibrous root. Early detection and physical removal is recommended as the best control method. It is crucial to dig out the roots completely. Chemical methods are rarely 100% effective, and there is no biological control at present. Being able to identify and remove the individuals before they seed and spread is an important tool in the effort to stop the species.

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Request A Free Consultation

Photo courtesy of Becky Gallery, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust

Sycamore Anthracnose Defoliates Trees

We have seen widespread defoliation of Sycamore trees this year due to Sycamore Anthracnose.

sycamore_anthracnose_

A picture of a Sycamore that has been affected by Sycamore Anthracnose

For those of you who do not know what Sycamore Anthracnose is, it is a fungal pathogen that is generally related to wet spring weather. Unfortunately wet spring weather is what we have been seeing a lot of. It infects newly developing shoots and leaves causing the buds to have very slow development to leaf out in the spring, or in some cases never leaf out. 

Signs and Symptoms of Sycamore Anthracnose

Infecting the vascular system of a tree this fungal disease attacks buds, leaves and twigs, defoliating the trees and damaging the small branches. Sycamore Anthracnose spreads from an infected tree to healthy ones when its fungal spores are transported by the wind. 

sycamore_anthracnose_fig2

 

 

 

 

 

Signs that a Sycamore tree is suffering from this disease:

  • Leaf blight or defoliation early in the summer
  • Twisted or gnarled branches or twigs
  • Formations of dead or dying twigs and small branches also called "witches brooms"
  • Lesions on leaves that are black or brown in color
  • Sunken cankers on younger twigs or small branches

 Managing the Disease

From what we see these trees should re-foliate this year. In order to really get a handle on this disease to make sure it does not spread to a healthy tree. We recommend looking into some treatment plans.

Deep root fertilization is recommended to help invigorate trees as they have been stressed by the Anthracnose. This will give the tree the push it needs to flush new growth along with the help of warmer and drier weather. 

Early season treatment with fungicide applications or injection can help manage this disease. Contact an arborist today to come assess your trees and see what treatment would be best for you. 

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Request A Free Consultation

Extreme Spring Weather Causing Extreme Plant Response

Weeping Cherry Trees Negatively Affected

As many of you have already noticed we have not been having the beautiful spring weather we deserve. This gloomy, cold and rainy weather is causing issues for our trees and plants in our area. 

According to Jackie Carroll's article on Gardeningknowhow.com, she explains that Weeping Cherry Trees "grow and bloom best in full sun, but they tolerate light shade". Without well drained soil these trees are more prone to rot which is what we have been seeing this season. A Weeping Cherry Tree should look like the picture below during the spring with the pink flowers.

                      Weeping Cherry Tree Bloom 2   Weeping Cherry Trees across north shore

With the lack of sunlight this spring along with constant cold and wet weather it has caused plants to develop tender soft growth. The other picture is an example of what Weeping Cherry Trees we have been seeing in our area due to the "not so nice" weather. This is what they will look like when they defoliate earlier than the norm. This DOES NOT mean your tree is dying. Although, it is more vulnerable to plant diseases, especially fungus diseases. 

More issues you may see during this summer caused by this weather:

  • Leaves may brown and have damage
  • Barks of trees may develop oozing cankers
  • The Holly leaves may drop early
  • Tar spots on Maple trees

Solution

With all this negative talk about how our trees and plants will be affected, what can we do about it?

Unfortunately with fungus diseases there is not much you can do to prevent it. Once found, there are different treatment plans that can take care of it. This would be a time to contact a certified arborist to come take a look and give you the run down on what treatments would be best for your tree or shrub. 

 

If you have any questions, or you are interested in any of our tree services, please contact us at 877-308-8733, or request a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Leaves Drop Early Due to Weather

Many of our local trees are suffering this year. Changes in seasonal weather are damaging the health and beauty of our trees, as long stretches of hot, humid weather and drought are taking their toll on our trees Leaf Scorch 1and shrubs. If you look around at your plants’ leaves you will see damaged, browned, and dried out edges. This is called Leaf Scorch. The leaves have also started dropping during the summer months instead of the fall months when they normally turn beautiful colors and then fall.

Here are some of the weather and environmental factors causing Leaf Scorch and massive, early leaf drop:

  • Several early spring storms with winds interrupted early leaf development
  • Waxy leaf coating, epidermis, did not develop properly causing leaves to be much thinner and more delicate than normal
  • Salt spray along the coast caused buds to be stunted and deformed
  • Long stretches of high humidity, lack of rain and heat has scorched leaf margins

Early loss of leaves limits the amount of time trees have to build up reserves through photosynthesis. Loss of leaves and drought stress can weaken trees and cause future limb loss. The impact of Leaf Scorch and early leaf drop will affect your trees for many years to come.

How to Save Your Plants

Here are the two best tactics that you can use for all of your plants to keep them as healthy as possible:

  1. Water plants during hot and dry spells
  2. Deep root, liquid fertilize your plants

Deep Root, Liquid Fertilization

Residential trees and shrubs do not get the natural nutrients found in a forest where fallen leaves break down into loamy humus. Deep root, liquid fertilization contains those missing nutrients which will invigorate and strengthen your plants. The fertilizer is injected directly into their root system supplying not only the missing vital materials, but also giving them a thorough watering.

For more information on Leaf Scorch or improving the health of your tree and shrubs, please give us a call at (877)308-8733 or (781)598-1924 and ask for Bonnie, or request a free consultation below.

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Are Your Plants Overgrown?

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was customary for home builders to overplant house lots with evergreens.  Now those Rhododendrons or Arborvitaes may be towering over, smothering, or just plain hiding your home.

One option is to cut all those evergreen plants down and startshrub-pruning-service over with new, smaller plants.  Another idea is to cut back and prune those out-of-control shrubs so they fit into the desired space.  The best option would be to conduct yearly pruning to keep your plants from overgrowing their spots and covering your home, deck, patio, and fence.  This would ensure optimal health and aesthetics.

The following six tips will help you tame your out-of-control plants:

  1. Prune annually to keep plants contained to their site
  2. Prune after blooming for the best crop of flowers next spring
  3. Cut back new, ‘leggy’ growth for a neater appearance
  4. Prune to separate and define plants
  5. Thin overgrown shrubs and ornamental trees to improve light and air circulation
  6. Don’t attempt this if you are not sure what you are doing, it is easy to damage your plants

You’ll be amazed at the difference a little pruning will make to your property.

Need some help?  Give us a call, or request a free consultation, and we’ll send an arborist out to meet with you to discuss your pruning needs.

REQUEST A FREE CONSULTATION

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is Killing Our Trees

Hemlock-woolly-adelgid.jpeg

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is a tiny insect that is barely visible.  It is atypical of most other insect species as it is dormant for much of the growing season and active throughout the winter.  

By mid-July, the immature insects settle on the stems, at the base of the needles, and become dormant, neither feeding nor developing.  By mid-October, the insect resumes feeding and development.  By mid-February they start producing new egg masses.  Most people become aware of this pest when they notice the white, cottony egg masses lined up at the base of the needles on their Hemlocks.

The HWA sucks the sap from Hemlock needles but also introduces a chemical from its saliva which acts as a toxin.  This toxin accelerates the demise of the tree.  The loss of sap will cause needles to brown and drop, leaving trees unable to produce food and energy via photosynthesis.

Healthy trees, in good growing sites, may withstand infestations for 5-10 years before being seriously affected.  Trees stressed from drought, soil compaction or those in poor growing sites may succumb to HWA within 3 years.

This pest attacks both the Eastern (Canada) Hemlock and the Carolina Hemlock, two species common to New England.  The Western Hemlock is resistant to this pest, but does not grow well in the Northeast.

Once this pest has been identified on Hemlocks, it must be managed quickly.  Applications of horticultural oil have been shown to be extremely effective against HWA.  The oil kills the organism by suffocation and is effective against all life stages, including the eggs.  Severely infested trees will need more intensive pesticide treatments.

Once the pest has been brought under control, the trees continue to require once or twice yearly treatments.  Untreated trees in surrounding areas will act a reservoir for this pest and serve to re-infest treated trees.  Wind and birds are primarily responsible for the movement of HWA from tree to tree.

HWA is a serious threat to our beautiful Hemlocks and should not be ignored. If you have Hemlocks on your property it is a good idea to schedule a free inspection with a Certified Arborist to ensure the health and safety of your Hemlock trees. Request a free evaluation below.

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Historically High Pollen Levels This Year

Pear trees at long hill.jpg

You may be wondering why your allergies are worse this year than in the past. The reason is that pollen levels of Maple, Birch, and Cherry trees are at historically high levels this Spring.

If you are suffering now, it may be a while before you get any relief. In fact, in a few weeks you can expect even more allergy misery from Oak, Pine, and other heavy tree pollinators.

The reason for the high levels of pollen this year is that trees are responding to the drought conditions they experienced over the past few years. When a tree is under stress, they are genetically predisposed to produce as many seeds as possible to prevent the species from extinction.

For the trees to have seeds, there must first be flowers. An abundance of pollen is then produced by the male parts of the flowers, called anthers.

High pollen levels are symptoms of a tree that is under severe stress. If environmental conditions do not improve, decline of these trees can be expected in the foreseeable future.

If you have any questions, or would like one of our arborists to inspect your trees for any health and structural issues, please give us a call at (781)598-1924 or (877)308-8733 or request a consultation below.

REQUEST A FREE CONSULTATION

Excessive Drought Damages Evergreen Trees

There is a defoliation problem with evergreen trees which started last year. Fertilization and added soil inoculants can help, but the effects of multiple years of environmental stress (drought) are taking its toll. The problem is region-wide and is serious. Please see the following report from my alma mater, UMass, that goes into great detail concerning this matter.

Based on my own experience, the UMass research, and several discussions with fellow arborist - I summarize the problem as follows:

1. Several years of drought have greatly affected trees with low energy reserves by weakening their defense systems to the point of exposing them to secondary pathogens that never cause the demise of healthy, well hydrated trees. Unfortunately, Darwin's theory of 'survival of the fittest' is at play here and you may expect the loss of some trees as they are just too weak to survive. There is no magic potion that would have prevented the death of these trees (rain would have helped) and to blindly blast them with poisonous fungicides would be irresponsible. [More information from the UMass Extension Plant Diagnostics Lab]

2. Excessive layering of mulch is also a contributing factor to the weakening of these trees. Please see the attached report from Rutgers University that explains in detail the problems associated with mulching. My biggest concern is the stripping away of needles (spring and fall clean up) that the trees produce to counterbalance the effects of drought. Trees know when they are stressed and the defoliation is the tree's way of increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil to sustain specific microbial vitality. 'Air spading' in the fall/early winter of to can help reverse the effects of excessive mulching. [More information from the Rutgers NJAES]

3. SALT - There was a time when sand/salt mix was an acceptable winter roadway application. About 10 years ago, this changed and now we are collectively addicted to salt in the greater route 128 belt. This has a negative impact on trees and in my opinion is a leading cause to the decline of trees that line our roadways. Please see the attached fact sheet from UMass regarding the negative effects of salt. Aside from the obvious problem with salt wicking moisture from living cells, my biggest concern is the binding up of the soil on a molecular level, otherwise known as 'cation exchange'. This will result in neutralizing the soil to extent that the trees are not able to absorb nutrients. [More information from UMass]

Hopefully this information based on science will bring greater awareness to the challenges that trees are now facing. If you are experiencing defoliation in your evergreens, or any other symptoms that indicate your trees are damaged, please take advantage of a free consultation with a Certified Arborist.

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