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by Tina Graver, ISA Certified Arborist MA-5527A
April 2017                                                                                       

 

It is springtime and the landscapes are looking full and lush! Fresh mulch has been put down and the bees are buzzing.  So what is going on with that Nellie Stevens Holly?  It is yellowing on the inside and the fresh mulch is now all but buried in a shower of yellow/brown leaves (Image 1). For an arborist at Mead Tree and Turf Care, Inc, the springtime rarely passes without at least one phone call from a client worrying about their evergreen trees. But, rest assured, this is perfectly normal.

 

Image 1. Nellie Stevens Holly losing 3-year old leaves in April 2017. (Left) Yellow leaves on interior of tree are visible (Right) Holly tree leaves covering fresh mulch.

 

It isn’t just the Holly trees causing alarm. Other species of evergreen trees produce cones in the spring that can look like bugs, disease or simply tip dieback (Image 2). Furthermore, as the new candles emerge (Candles refer to the group of needles of evergreen trees), they push off the protective covering which turns brown as they are no longer connected to live tissue.  What makes this even more confusing is that trees planted in a group, or trees lining a walkway or driveway, may not produce these cones all at once. Slight differences in climate can occur over a very small area. For example, the right side of the driveway may receive more sun. Or the trees closest to the street may experience slightly warmer temperatures. In effect, the cones and/or leaf drop may not happen at the same time for all the trees on the property. Instead, it may appear that ‘something’ is moving ‘through’ the trees, infecting one tree at a time (or only the trees in a certain section of the yard).

Image 2. Evergreen trees producing cones in the springtime. From a distance, this can look like dead tips or some kind of pest or disease.  (Left) A Cryptomeria with cones (top right) a chamaecyparis with cones (bottom right) spruce with cones.

 

Finally, evergreen trees are generally not thought of as producing fruit. On occasion, a homeowner may confuse the inconspicuous fruits as a pest or disease. Whatever the case, at Mead Tree and Turf Care, Inc., we encourage our clients to always call our office and schedule a meeting with a Certified Arborist. While everything listed so far is perfectly normal, an Arborist will be able to tell when something isn’t right. Spring is a good time to have your trees evaluated for health. Often, a health issue that is intercepted in the spring may mean that a tree will be able to survive the stresses during the summer months.

 

Image 3. Berries on a juniper in April 2017 may look like a pest or disease to the untrained eye.

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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

http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/resources/ProperMulching.pd

 

Mulch Volcano

 Girdle Root caused by improper mulching   

 

 

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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

Lichen

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

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.

Galls

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.