Meet the big, dark blot on this summer’s treeline

It’s been a rough few years for the region’s trees: A dry 2015 was followed by drought conditions in 2016, then a surge of hungry gypsy moth caterpillars chowed down on leaves earlier this year.

And this year’s wet, cooler weather brought another problem: leaf-damaging fungi are hitting some maple trees hard this summer.

The tar spot fungus has flourished following wet, cool weather earlier this year. (LESLIE ANDERSON/GLOBE STAFF)

The tar spot fungus has flourished following wet, cool weather earlier this year. (Leslie Anderson/Globe Staff)

Some forestry experts are blaming the damage on tar spot, a condition named for the dark patches that develop on the leaves of a variety of maples before the leaves drop off.

The condition affects Norway maples, which are plentiful in the Northeast after they were planted decades ago to replace American elms felled by Dutch elm disease.

While tar spot fungus is no Dutch elm disease, and otherwise healthy trees are not at risk for long-term damage, it can mean that parts of the late summer’s leafy green landscape could look thinner than usual.

“It can be very showy and makes people worry their trees are dying,” said Ken Gooch, forest health program director at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Phil Perron, with Barrett Tree Service East in Medford, said arborists refrain from using fungicide to prevent the tar spot fungus since the damaged leaves don’t pose a life-threatening risk to trees.

“It’s an aesthetic thing; [tar spot] does no harm to the tree. Most people just live with it,” Perron said.

This is what anthracnose looks like, according to a UMass expert. (image: bostonglobe.com)

This is what anthracnose looks like, according to a UMass expert. (bostonglobe.com)

Normally, most people don’t see the effects of tar spot, thinking the dropping leaves of infected trees are part of the fall season, said Marc Welch, director of Newton’s urban forestry program.

But some of the city’s maples have shown signs of the fungus earlier this year due to the wet weather, he said.

“We’ve definitely noticed an uptick of questions about it,” Welch said.

While some officials think the tar spot is causing some maples’ patchy leaves to brown and drop off, not all are sure.

Nicholas J. Brazee, a pathologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Extension Landscape, Nursery & Urban Forestry Program, said that an examination of leaf samples since May suggests the early leaf drop may be a sign of another condition, called anthracnose.

Anthracnose, caused by a number of different kinds of fungi, describes leaf conditions that include browning and drop off, he said. And like tar spot, the fungi that can cause anthracnose thrive in wet conditions, he said.

Anthracnose can affect several kinds of maples, including Norway, Japanese, sugar, red, and silver, he said.

Tar spot is caused by fungus in the genus rhytisma, Brazee said, and different species of that genus can cause the dark discoloration on affected leaves. Norway maples appear hardest hit by tar spot because Norways can develop larger dark patches than other types of maple trees, he said.

The wet weather was conducive to the growth of the fungal spores that cause tar spots and anthracnose. Spores causing the conditions spread when leaves that have the spores fall to the ground, and blowing wind the following spring spreads spores onto new leaves, he said.

Symptoms for anthracnose develop in the springtime, and then the fungi can go dormant during the summer months, only to reemerge to cause more damage in the autumn, Brazee said. Tar spot usually develops over the course of the summer, starting off as yellow spots that grow and darken, Brazee said.

It is difficult to prevent trees from being affected by the fungal spores if they are already out in the environment, he said.

But whether it is tar spot or anthracnose, the region’s maples should survive.

“It’s not good for them to lose [an] amount of foliage right now, but if the tree is otherwise heathy, it probably will not die,” Brazee said.

originally posted by www.bostonglobe.com

Posted in Diseases, Foliar Diseases & Leaf Spots, Plant Health Care, Tar Spot, Tree News | Tagged , , , , , , |

Maple Tar Spot

Symptoms may begin to show in late spring as small pale yellow spots, but often go unnoticed until late summer as the darker coloration of the spots become more apparent (image: Cornell.edu).

Symptoms may begin to show in late spring as small pale yellow spots, but often go unnoticed until late summer as the darker coloration of the spots become more apparent (image: Cornell.edu).

Tar spot is a common foliar disease on Norway maples and can be particularly pronounced in years with extended wet spring weather.  Fortunately, the damaged caused is generally considered to be a cosmetic problem, rather than detrimental to tree health.  The tar spot is typically seen on maple trees and is caused by several related fungi (Rhytisma acerinum, R. americanum and R. punctatum) that produce black lesions on the upper surface of leaves.  While tar spot can affect many species, it is most common on Norway, silver and red maples.

Symptoms  The first symptoms of infection begin to show in late spring through early summer as small pale yellow spots, and often go unnoticed until mid to late summer as the darker coloration of the spots become more apparent.  Development and size of the spots varies by pathogen and range from tiny spots to larger dark lesions 1” or more in diameter.

Heavy infections can cause early leaf drop which often causes concern as lawns and landscapes become littered with leaves prior to the autumn raking season.  Late summer leaf drop is typically not significant enough to harm the host tree.

Management  Current research has shown that the tar spot fungi does not cause long term damage to the host tree. The most effective management practice in home landscapes is to rake and dispose the leaves as they fall.  The black spots contain fungal spores that will survive the winter season. Disposing infected leaf litter helps to reduce available inoculum on site.  In the following spring, wind and rain release the spores to infect the newly emerging foliage.  Composting leaves may not be effective, because home compost piles seldom reach temperatures high enough destroy fungal spores.

Size of the spots varies by the species of pathogen and range in from tiny specks to larger dark lesions 1” or more in diameter (image UMass).

Size of the spots varies by the species of pathogen and range from tiny specks to larger dark lesions (image: UMass Extention).

Application of fungicides may be desired when high levels of infection become unacceptable, however control of the disease is difficult.  If fungicides are used, applications may be needed most years and the cost of treatment may outweigh the benefits.

If your have concerns about the health and vitality of your foliage, consult one of BTSE’s Certified Arborists to discuss plant health care strategies to best care for your trees.

Posted in Diseases, Plant Health Care, Tar Spot | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Tick Awareness

While ticks are active all year long, warmer weather is often when numbers of ticks surge, so be on the lookout. Ticks are arachnids that feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and dog ticks are found throughout Massachusetts and may spread different disease-causing germs when they bite you.

From left, a female deer tick, a male deer tick, a female dog tick and a male dog tick.

From left, a female deer tick, a male deer tick, a female dog tick and a male dog tick.

Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis are common tick-borne diseases in Massachusetts. You can take precautions to avoid tick-borne illness, including, checking yourself, children, and pets once a day for ticks when you come inside, using insect repellent, wearing light-colored clothing, and avoiding brushy areas. Find out more about ticks and tick-borne diseases here.

If you are bitten by a tick, you can submit the tick to the UMass Laboratory for Medical Zoology for testing. For information on tick testing, click here.

Ways to Reduce Exposure to Ticks:

  • Avoid tick habitats: when possible, take care when spending time in wooded, brushy, or grassy areas. This is not to say that these environments are to be avoided entirely, however know that in these locations, your risk of encountering a tick increases. When in these areas, take the following steps to reduce tick-associated risks:
  • Use insect repellent: products containing the active ingredient DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) may be applied directly to the skin; products containing a pyrethroid, such as permethrin, may be used on clothing. Follow all label instructions for any product used! A URI study found that individuals wearing permethrin-treated sneakers and socks were 73.6 times less likely to be bitten by a tick than those wearing untreated footwear. For more information, please visit: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/permethrin
  • Wear protective clothing: when possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when in tick habitats. Tuck pants into socks and wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot any ticks trying to hitch a ride.
  • Shower after outdoor activities: use this as an opportunity to do a thorough tick-check all over the body and in your hair. Check everywhere. Ticks have no reservations about violating privacy.
  • Put clothes in the dryer: particularly after spending time in tick-favored habitats, place all clothing within the dryer. Ticks are prone to desiccation (drying out) and this will kill any attached to the clothing. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggest tumble dry on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on clothing. If the clothing is damp, additional time may be required. If the clothing needs to be washed prior to drying, use hot water. If this is not possible, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes or until clothes are completely dry and warm following a wash. For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html   
Posted in BTSE Inc., Consumer Tips, Insects, Safety | Tagged , , , , , |

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

The United States Department of Agriculture has declared May 18-24 Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness.  The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle that attacks and kills North American species of true ash within three to five years infestation.

  • With camping season starting soon, most importantly, buy firewood from a local distributor and burn it where you buy it: don’t move firewood! Don’t move wood long distances because you could be accidentally spreading pests.

  • Everyone (citizens, landowners, municipalities…and you!) are encouraged to learn more about emerald ash borer. Know what to look for: Emerald Ash Borer are devastating invasive pests.

Anyone can contribute to stopping the spread of EAB in our state. Check your trees. BTSE encourages everyone to take a few minutes to check trees in their yard – or in nearby parks or forests – and to report any suspicious tree damage.

Posted in Consumer Tips, Emerald Ash Borer, Insects, Tree News, Urban Tree Care | Tagged , , , , , , , |

BTSE helps Arlington, MA Celebrate Arbor Day

Barrett Tree Service East contributing $1,575 in volunteer arborist hours and resources to address safety and tree health and enhance public enjoyment of Whittemore Park.

Barrett Tree Service East contributing $1,575 in volunteer arborist hours and resources to address safety and tree health and enhance public enjoyment of Whittemore Park.

The Town of Arlington celebrated Arbor Day on Friday, April 27, 2017 at multiple locations around town. Coordinated by Arlington’s Tree Warden, Tim Lecuivre, MCA, Arbor Day events occurred at Whittemore Park, the Thompson Elementary School, and in East Arlington.

Barrett Tree Service East, Inc. participated in the Massachusetts Arborists Association Arbor Day of Service by contributing $1,575 in volunteer arborist hours and resources to address safety and tree health and enhance public enjoyment of Whittemore Park. Improving the tree health benefits the Dallin Museum, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, and Cutter Gallery all located at the recently-revitalized Jefferson Cutter House at Whittemore Park. Volunteer arborists pruned trees that were a hazard to the house.

At the Thompson Elementary School, Elks Lodge members and 3rd grade students volunteered their time to plant three dogwood trees, after removing three dead trees. Members of the Forestry Department gave presentations to students on proper tree planting techniques. The Benevolent Protection Order of Elks Arlington Lodge #1435 provided a $2,000 grant that allowed for the purchase of trees, materials, and tools. The age-appropriate tools will be used for future events.

The Town of Arlington celebrated Arbor Day on Friday, April 27, 2017 at multiple locations around town.

The Town of Arlington celebrated Arbor Day on Friday, April 27, 2017 at multiple locations around town.

Arlington’s Tree Committee partnered with New England Nurseries to deliver 25 Dogwood trees to homes throughout East Arlington as part of their Tree Canopy program. This effort was funded in part with a bequest made to the town by the estate of John MacEachern and in coming months will be expanded to other portions of town.

National Arbor Day is generally celebrated on the last Friday in April. Like many Massachusetts communities, Arlington celebrates Arbor Day by working with volunteers to plant or otherwise care for its trees. For more information about trees in Arlington, please visit arlingtonma.gov/trees.

www.arlingtonma.gov

Posted in About Us, BTSE Inc., Safety, Tree News, Urban Tree Care | Tagged , , , |

TREES TREES TREES!

Arbor Day 2017 at the Sommerville Community Growing Center with BTSE.

Arbor Day 2017 at the Sommerville Community Growing Center with BTSE.

Somerville is celebrating TREES in a big and glorious way! The newly hired City Arborist, Vanessa Boukili, Phd., is growing the Urban Forestry Program with gusto. In her six months here, Somerville’s “Doctor of Trees” has streamlined the City’s tree data, facilitated training with the Department of Public Works staff, and taken over the Emerald Ash Borer Prevention Program. This week she has been busy tagging the 70 trees that will be planted in Somerville this spring. Vanessa has also helped organize two wonderful Arbor Day community events to exalt the urban forest that does so much for us city folk!

On Saturday April 22nd, an Arbor Day celebration took place at Quincy Street Park. The Tiny Great Outdoors Festival gathered people in sunshine to talk about  trees, art and climate change, meet their neighbors and plant a new Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) in the park.

The second event, on April 28th, was a great tree trim at the Somerville Community Growing Center. The generous  Barret Tree Services East, through the Massachusetts Arborist Association and the Arbor Day Foundation, donated their time and expertise to prune the Growing Center’s trees. The Growing Center is such an important community resource in the Union Square neighborhood, and its trees certainly contribute to the sense of place, so we are all grateful to Barrett for taking care of them.

How are you celebrating your favorite tree this year?

via http://somervilleurbanag.tumblr.com/

Posted in About Us, BTSE Inc., Tree Care Services, Tree News |

Recognizing Tree Hazards: Cracks

Vertical or longitudinal cracks run with the wood grain along the length of the tree and may appear as shear or ribbed cracks (K. Bernard).

Vertical or longitudinal cracks run with the wood grain along the length of the tree and may appear as shear or ribbed cracks (K. Bernard).

Tree failure can cause significant property damage and personal injury, especially during stormy weather and high winds.  Even seemingly healthy looking trees can be uprooted or sustain broken limbs through wind, rain and snow.  Although storms can damage trees, a cracked or decayed tree can fail under its own weight, regardless of weather conditions.

Trees are genetically designed to withstand forces experienced in storms, but all trees will eventually fail – and defective trees fail sooner than healthy trees.

To a professional arborist, certain structural defects are indicators that a tree has an increased potential to fail.

Cracks in tree trunks or other limbs are one indicator of an unstable and potentially hazardous tree.  Cracks can be formed from a variety of factors such as poor closure of wounds or by the weak connections of branch unions.  These types of defects vary in severity and can be found in branches, stems or roots.

Horizontal or transverse cracks run across the grain of the wood and often develop just before tree failure, making them very difficult to detect.  Vertical or longitudinal cracks run with the wood grain along the length of the tree and may appear as shear or ribbed cracks.

Shear cracks can run completely through the stem and separate it into two distinct halves (arbtalk.co.uk).

Shear cracks can run completely through the stem and separate it into two distinct halves (arbtalk.co.uk).

Shear cracks can run completely through the stem and separate it into two distinct halves. As the tree bends and sways in the wind, one half of the stem slides over the other, elongating the crack. Eventually the crack enlarges causing the two halves of the stem to shear apart.

Cracks in any portion of a tree increase the risk of failure and when combined with other structural defects or site factors, create extremely hazardous situations.

If you have concerns about a hazard potential with any of your trees, contact your Certified Arborist at Barrett Tree Service East to schedule a time to discuss your concerns and management strategies to reduce potentially hazardous situations on your property.

Posted in Consumer Tips, Safety, Urban Tree Care | Tagged , , , , , |

The Reemergence of Gypsy Moth

Gypsy moth larvae have red and blue spots and consume deciduous foliage until early July (bugwood.org).

Gypsy moth larvae have red and blue spots and consume deciduous foliage until early July (bugwood.org).

Over the past few years, the gypsy moth population in Massachusetts has steadily increased.  The summer of 2016 produced record numbers of these invasive leaf eating pests, defoliating over 100,000 acres across the state.

Since the devastating regional outbreaks of the 1980s, a soil-born fungus has helped keep gypsy moth populations managed naturally.  However, the extended dry weather and drought conditions throughout 2016 interfered with the prevalence of these beneficial fungi, causing caterpillar populations to skyrocket.

If the 2017 spring weather continues to be drier than normal, state environmental officials predict continued widespread gypsy moth caterpillar damage.  However, if there is a moderately wet spring season, a sufficient amount of fungal spores may be produced to again provide a natural control of gypsy moth caterpillars.

Gypsy moth overwinters in tan-colored, irregular shaped egg masses laid on the trunks of trees and contain 50 to 1500 individual eggs (K. Bernard).

Gypsy moth overwinters in tan-colored, irregular shaped egg masses laid on the trunks of trees and contain 50 to 1500 individual eggs (K. Bernard).

Gypsy moths overwinter in tan-colored egg masses laid on the trunks of trees and begin hatching in early May.  Larvae grow and consume foliage until early July, then pupate.  The adult moths emerge in late July or early August, mate and lay eggs which lie dormant until the following spring, when the larvae feeding cycle begins again.

Homeowners can inspect their trees and property for egg masses in the fall or winter.

While most trees are tolerant of some partial defoliation, multiple years of defoliation, combined with other stress like drought, can lead to tree mortality.  Gypsy moth outbreaks are especially prevalent in areas dominated by oaks, a common tree in eastern and southern Massachusetts.

Protecting ornamental and shade trees in gypsy moth infested areas is important.  State forest health specialists are advising homeowners to work with Certified Arborists and licensed applicators to manage defoliation damage on valued landscape trees.

Gypsy moth outbreaks are especially prevalent in areas dominated by oaks, a common tree in eastern and southern Massachusetts (UMass).

Gypsy moth outbreaks are especially prevalent in areas dominated by oaks, a common tree in eastern and southern Massachusetts (UMass).

We continue to monitor the situation in Greater Boston.  While outbreaks in our area have not been rampant, be aware of the potential and plan to prevent unnecessary damage to your important trees.  We recommend targeted control treatments in areas with past gypsy moth defoliation or confirmed insect presence.

If you have seen evidence of gypsy moths, caterpillars, eggs or your trees have experienced past defoliation, contact your Certified Arborist at BTSE to discuss management strategies to protect your property.

Posted in Gypsy Moth, Insects, Plant Health Care, Tree News, Urban Tree Care | Tagged , , , , , , |

Winter Injury to Trees and Shrubs

blizzardThe severity of winter damage is determined by a number of factors, including the species and conditions under which the plant is grown and the timing of weather extremes. Contrary to popular belief, plant damage is not generally caused by an unusually cold winter. Low temperature injury is more often associated with extreme temperature fluctuation than with prolonged cold weather.

TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATION     Plants that are dormant but not fully acclimated can be stressed or injured by a sudden, hard freeze. Rapid or extensive drops in temperature following mild autumn weather cause injury to woody plants. Extended periods of mild winter weather can de-acclimate plants, again making them vulnerable to injury from rapid temperature drops.

LOW TEMPERATURES     Some species or cultivars are injured if temperatures fall below a minimum tolerance level. Plants most likely to suffer winter injury are those that are marginally hardy for the area or already weakened by previous stress. In general, low temperatures are much less damaging than rapid and extensive variations in temperature.

FROST CRACKS     Frost cracks, sometimes called radial shakes, appear as shallow to deep longitudinal cracks in the trunk of trees. They are most evident in winter at temperatures below 15°F. Frost cracks often occur on the south or southwest sides of trees because this area experiences the greatest temperature fluctuations. A sudden drop in temperature causes the outer layer of wood to contract more rapidly than the inner layer, which results in a long vertical crack at weak points in the trunk.

SUNSCALD     Sunscald often develops on the south or southwest side of trees following a sudden exposure to direct sun. In winter, the temperatures on the sun-side of the trunk may exceed air temperatures by as much as 20°F. This is thought to trigger de-acclimation of trunk tissue. Sometimes only the outermost cambium layer is damaged and a sunken area appears on the trunk. Affected trees often have sparse foliage, stem dieback, and stunted growth.

WINTERBURN     A browning or scorched leaf tip on evergreen foliage is a form of winter injury. Browning usually occurs from the needle tips downward. Winterburn is usually attributed to desiccation or loss of water through leaf transpiration. Winter sun and winds dry needles. Water in the stems and roots is frozen and unavailable to replenish the loss. Applying antidesiccants, helps reduce transpiration and minimizes damage to the foliage.

ROOT DAMAGE     Root tissues apparently do not acclimate to temperatures much below freezing and can be killed or severely injured by soil temperature below 15°F. This is especially true for shallow rooted plants. The presence of mulch, leaf litter or snow cover can insulate most soils sufficiently to prevent soil temperatures from falling much below freezing. Plants with frozen roots may wilt and decline after growth resumes in the spring.

BREAKAGE     Heavy snow and ice storms cause damage by bending and breaking branches. Improper removal of ice or snow from the tree or shrub might increase damage. Removing ice encased on branches can cause additional damage and should not be attempted. Instead, allow ice to melt off naturally. Properly pruned trees are typically less prone to storm damage.

SALT DAMAGE     Salts used for deicing pavements can cause damage to trees and shrubs. Symptoms of salt damage appear in spring and early summer and include browning of evergreens, leaf scorch, branch die back, and dead areas in turf. Branches and twigs can be killed from aerial deposits, and roots can be damaged from salt remaining in the soil. Salt will leach through well-drained soils, but damage can be extensive in poorly drained soils.

Mortonarb.org

Posted in Consumer Tips, Plant Health Care, Winter Tree Care | Tagged , , , , , , |

Watch out for Ticks!

While ticks are active all year long, during warmer weather is often when numbers of ticks surge, so be on the lookout. Ticks are arachnids that feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and dog ticks are found throughout Massachusetts and may spread different disease-causing germs when they bite you.

Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis are common tick-borne diseases in Massachusetts. You can take precautions to avoid tick-borne illness, including, checking yourself, children, and pets once a day for ticks when you come inside, using insect repellent, wearing light-colored clothing, and avoiding brushy areas. Find out more about ticks and tick-borne diseases here.

If you are bitten by a tick, you can submit the tick to the UMass Laboratory for Medical Zoology for testing. For information on tick testing, click here.

deerticklifecycle

Posted in Consumer Tips, Insects, Safety |