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by Joanne Mead

Proper mulching benefits tree health by controlling soil temperature in extreme heat and cold, retaining moisture, reducing competition from grass roots, controlling weeds, and preventing lawn mower and string trimmer damage. However, improper mulching causes irreversible damage to a tree. When mulch is applied properly, only a very thin layer should be near the trunk of the tree. Mulch depth can then increase as the mulch ring extends away from the truck to a depth of about 2-3”, ideally to the drip line edge of the tree’s outer canopy. Excessive mulch depths at the trunk are more harmful than beneficial, as this can cause stem decay, root decay, and girdling roots. Girdling roots encircle the trunk, often growing above ground level, reducing the flow of nutrients to the tree. This can compromise establishment of a secure root system, leading to the tree’s premature decline and increasing the risk of tree failure. If you are having trees planted, or plan to mulch existing tree rings, make sure to avoid “mulch volcanoes” around your trees!

For more detail, see this article provided by ISA


Mulch Volcano

 Girdle Root caused by improper mulching   



Posted by & filed under Plant Health Care, Tree Care .

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While many growths on trees are not an indicator of a problem, they sometimes indicate a serious issue that, if left untreated, can cause a lot of damage and/or injury. When in doubt, always call an arborist to correctly diagnose a foreign growth on a tree. Read through the list below to learn about some of the common types of growths that are found by Mead Tree and Turf Care arborists.

by Tina Graver, Certified Arborist


One of the most common questions we get as arborists is about lichen growing on the trunks of trees.  It is generally light/pale green in color. Lichens are a symbiotic organism made up of an algae and a moss. They are completely harmless to the tree they are growing on. Most common in a more humid landscape, lichens are slow growing and long lived. Lichens are also a food source for deer when other food sources are scarce.


Moss can also be found growing over the root system or on the main trunk of some trees. This is predominantly in moist, cool and shaded areas. Moss is not an indicator of something wrong with the tree, nor does it adversely affect the tree’s health.  At most, moss can indicate a very wet area which may or may not be suitable for a given tree species.

Shelf Fungus

Generally, a shelf fungus is an indicator of a problem, especially if noticed on older trees. If you notice a shelf-type fungus on any of your trees, you should have a certified arborist look at your tree right away.  One aggressive type of fungus known as ganoderma root rot can overwhelm a trees structural integrity very quickly. There are no treatments to stop or suppress this disease. Ganoderma is a root rot fungus that can cause very large trees to fail at the base. This is the same disease that eventually caused the historic Wye Oak to fail.


Yellow mushrooms

The other aggressive type of mushroom arborists look for is armillaria. This root-rot fungus is very similar to ganoderma root rot in that it can’t be treated. Armillaria is identified by its orange mushrooms and black, shoe-string like, rhizomorphes that penetrate the bark of a tree. Mead Tree and Turf Care recommends having any suspicious mushroom looked at by a certified arborist.

Small white mushrooms along stems

Most mushrooms are white in color, which makes their identification difficult. The first clue arborists look for is whether or not the mushroom is growing on a live limb or not. If the limb is dead, then the mushrooms are usually secondary decay, meaning they started growing after the limb died. If the limb is alive, they could indicate a saprophytic fungus that is growing on the live part of the tree. This is usually a detrimental disease that can cause the tree to fall apart, limb by limb. Finally, it could be a wood decay fungus in its early stage of growth. Again, mushrooms like this should be diagnosed by a certified arborist.

Wet spots

Wet spots may be caused by many things. Some are called cankers and generally indicate a tree under stress. While there is no direct treatment for the canker, a certified arborist can help a home owner address and mitigate the stress factors. Wet spots could also be caused by wood-boring insects. Early intervention with protective measures could help preserve a tree that is being attacked by insects. Like cankers, borers are attracted to trees under stress. In addition to insecticides, steps should also be taken to help minimize the stress factors affecting the tree.


If you notice swollen limbs or small bumps on leaves, this may be what is known as a gall. Galls are produced by the plant or tree as a defensive measure against a pest or disease. Galls are normally benign and more of an aesthetic nuisance than anything. Selective pruning or insecticides may help.


Posted by & filed under Plant Health Care .

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For plants, making it through the winter can be a chilling process. Read below to learn how plants deal with the long- winter months.

by Tina Graver

If you are a plant, the first step to dealing with the cold is to go dormant! Environmental signals that trigger dormancy include the shortening of the day length, as well as cold temperatures. By early fall, most plants have slowed their growth and began to set winter buds. Once the temperature starts falling, many plants will drop their leaves. Why? Leaves are responsible for the movement of water through the plant. They act like a straw, suctioning water from the roots out through the top of the tree. Dehydration is more risky and damaging to a plant than the cold itself so the ability to conserve water  through leaf drop provides a survival advantage under harsh conditions.


Going dormant and dropping leaves aren’t the only tricks plants have to make it through the winter. There are many unseen processes happening inside the plant. A little-known fact – plants have unsaturated fats that help protect them from freezing.1 The more unsaturated fats a plant can produce, the more resistance it has to freezing. Some plants also have the ability to undergo deep super-cooling and survive temperatures as low as – 40 degrees F. 2 Super-cooling occurs when ice crystals form inside the cells of the plants, and are stored in extracellular spaces where they cannot damage critical parts of the plant’s cells. Even more surprising, cold temperatures can trigger the plant to make its own brand of anti-freeze! 3

What about plants that keep their leaves? The leaves of evergreen trees and shrubs are much thicker and have a ‘waxy’ coating. These characteristics help the plant reduce water-loss in the winter time. Staying evergreen is a useful adaption over dropping leaves because it gives the plant a head-start on making food once the weather breaks.


A synthetic ‘waxy’ substance can be applied to plants to aid in the reduction of water loss. These sprays are known as anti-desiccants and are especially useful for helping transplanted trees and shrubs survive through the cold and dryness of the winter months. Our plant health care specialists at Mead Tree & Turf Care are available to assess the needs of your plants for surviving the winter.



1,2,3 Raven et al. (2005) Biology: Seventh Edition. McGraw-Hill Companies. Pg 814; 827