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Carpenter Costin Blog

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!

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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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Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is Killing Our Trees

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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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Pear Blossoms Damaged by February Warmth

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Recently we fielded a lot of calls about Pear trees not blossoming this spring. This is actually a weather related issue and not caused by insect or disease damage. This past February there was one day where the temperature reached 70 degrees. People were celebrating with barbecues. The Pear trees thinking spring arrived, broke dormancy and expanded their buds. But spring had not arrived and when the cold weather returned, it killed off the tender buds.

The bad news is that you missed out on this year’s beautiful spring Pear blossoms. The good news is that the cold weather did not damage the trees’ leaf buds.

Undamaged leaf buds mean that your trees will leaf out normally and their health should not be negatively impacted.

If your Pear trees or any of your trees do not leaf out this spring, they may have been severely damaged by the stress of years of drought conditions. If this is the case, we recommend having them inspected by an Arborist. Click below to request a free consultation with one of our Arborists.

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Gypsy Moth Infestation Expected to Be Bad in Spring 2016

If you don’t remember the Gypsy moth infestation of the 80’s, you will be introduced to this insect in the Spring.  Last year we saw pockets of Gypsy Moth infestation in the Topsfield area and surrounding towns.  As their population increases, more and more local areas can expect tree damage from these nasty pests.

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The following description is from U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Insect Leaflet 162:

The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar Linnaeus, is one of the most notorious pests of hardwood trees in the Eastern United States. Since 1980, the gypsy moth has defoliated close to a million or more forested acres each year.

In 1981, a record 12.9 million acres were defoliated. This is an area larger than Rhode Island, Massachusetts,and Connecticut combined.

gypsy-moth2.jpg

A single gypsy moth caterpillar can eat a square foot of leaves a day.  Although trees have a second set of leaves ready to replace those they lose, this takes significant energy. Three or four years of complete defoliation can result in the death of even a large tree.  In wooded suburban areas, during periods of infestation, when trees are visibly defoliated, gypsy moth larvae crawl up and down walls, across roads, over outdoor furniture, and even inside homes.

Gypsy Moths emerge about one month after Winter Moth/Cankerworms, another ferocious feeder, extending the caterpillar feeding season by at least a month.  

How to Treat for Gypsy Moths:

Gypsy Moths are treated in the same way as Winter Moth/Cankerworms, by spray or injection. If you are treating your trees for Winter Moth/Cankerworms, an additional 1 or 2 treatments may be needed to protect your trees from Gypsy Moths.

If you'd like to schedule a free consultation with a Plant Health expert, click below:

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Beech Trees Suffer Epidemic Decline

An epidemic decline is affecting European Beech trees up and down the east coast. Beech trees are being infected by a fungus that causes bleeding cankers on the lower trunk and eventual die-off in the upper branches. If this fungus is left untreated the tree will die within five years.

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Beech Phytophthora pathogen is the culprit. This fungus enters wounds and succulent roots causing cankers that ooze reddish-brown sap. Eventually, new leaves remain small and yellow, and branches begin to die.

These ‘bleeding’ cankers cause the cambium, the living layer of the tree where most vital cellular activity takes place, to lose moisture and dry out. This leads to root loss and canopy decline resulting in the death of the tree.

Treatment with a broad spectrum fungicide, applied to the trunk,  can stop the damage, allowing the tree to recover, essentially ‘healing the wounds’.  

Helping a tree to grow is the most important thing to improve the health of a sick tree. Radial trenching with an air spade, backfilling with compost and deep root, liquid fertilization have proven to be the best methods to increase and invigorate tree growth. [Learn more about plant health care here]

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Please note that Beech Phytophthora only affects European Beech trees, not American Beech.  European Beech are the most common variety used in landscape plantings.

If you would like a Certified Arborist to inspect your Beech trees, as well as the other trees and plants on your property, please click below for a free consultation.

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Why Rhododendron Leaves Curl in Winter

Now that the weather has turned mighty cold, you may notice something strange happening to your Rhododendrons. The leaves on your plants are drooping down and curling up. Is something wrong with these plants?

You are seeing nature at its best. It’s cold, and when certain broadleaved evergreens winter-rhododendron.pngget cold, they take measures to protect themselves. They practice thermotropism. Much like a human wraps their arms around themselves or animals huddle when cold, rolling up their leaves offers these protection from cold winds. The inner part of the leaf, where a lot of moisture loss occurs, is hidden from the wind when rolled.

Gardeners claim they can tell the temperature by how their Rhododendron leaves appear; the more they roll and droop, the colder it is, until around zero they start to look like green beans hanging from the branches. As it warms again, the leaves unroll and stand up again. That is, unless it’s gotten so cold they have dried out completely and died, which can happen even with the hardiest rhododendrons.  Moisture loss is what causes most winter injury in plants.

Rhododendron_in_flower-sm.jpgIf you want your rhododendrons to look like this in the spring, you'll want to protect them from the winter elements.

Treating your broadleaved evergreens an antitranspirant in fall will help. This water based product seals the leaves and stems so that moisture is not released from them.  It’s something to remember for next fall.   

Also remember to plant broadleaved evergreens in areas protected from north winds to help prevent leaf desiccation and plant loss.

If you'd like to learn more about tree and plant health, take advantage of a free consultation with a Carpenter Costin arborist.

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The Dangers of Volcano Mulch

Why Too Much Mulch Can Damage Your Trees

We've all seen it. You drive by a freshly mulched property, notice that distinct smell of fresh mulch, and take a closer look at the newly mulched flower and tree beds. To an untrained eye, you might see an appealing bed with a tree and a few other smaller plants. The trained eye, however, cannot look past the glaring danger that is commonly referred to as "volcano mulch."volcano-mulch-tree

The term "volcano mulch" is used to describe excessive mulch along the root flare and base of a tree, which ends up looking very much like a volcano.

Mulch against tree bark holds in excess moisture. This moisture suffocates and rots the inside layers of tissue cells (xylem/phloem) that transfer food up and down the plant. The following are commonly found issues with "volcano mulch":

  • Trees weakened and stressed by moisture/rot issues are susceptible to insects, fungi and bacteria.
  • Increased growth of unwanted suckers which will weaken structural development.
  • Water is prevented from penetrating to the tree’s roots and weak secondary roots will cause strangulation.

How to Mitigate Risks of Volcano Mulch

If your trees have been "volcano mulched" on a regular basis there could be substantially damage caused. A air-spadingsolution that we recommend for improving the health and reviving "volcano mulched" trees is air spading. This safe, effective, and economical solution is the best way to remove excess amounts of mulch without causing harm to the tree. Air spading will reduce soil compaction and help expose the root flare as nature intended. Your tree will no longer be stressed and look like a "volcano."

Request a free consultation if your trees have been "volcano mulched" and a Certified Arborist will be able to assess the damage and develop a plan for bringing the tree back to health.

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