Lacebark Elm: The Underdog

lacebark elm leaves

Photo Credit: Bri Weldon, Flickr

Considered a handsome and very durable tree, the Lacebark Elm is attractive as a street tree because of its ability to grow in adverse conditions and its relative freedom from the diseases that have ravaged many other Elm species. It earns its name from its distinctive bark that creates colorful patterns in its trunk resembling lace.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a lacebark elm to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • lacebark elm bark

    Photo Credit: Selena N.B.H., Flickr

    Lacebark elm grows well in rich, moist, well-drained, sandy, clay and loamy soils (hardiness zones 5-9).

  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet at maturity.
  • Full sun is ideal, but does well in multiple sun exposures.
  • Has some flood tolerance and drought resistance.

Physical Attributes:

  • Produces luscious, dark green leaves that change to yellow and red in the fall.
  • Has a distinctive bark that makes the tree stand out from others.
  •  Has a strong, rounded, crown making it ideal as a shade tree.

Do you have a lacebark elm? Tag us in a photo with it, we’d love to see!

Do it Yourself: The Importance of Mulch in the Winter

mulch

Flickr |rfduck

Like presents from Santa Claus, mulch seems to be that mysterious gift of woodchips most people assume little Tree Elves leave in a nice layer around the base of some lucky trees. Not every tree, though, and certainly not in the same manner, because, let’s face it, if the Tree Elves were predictable people could do it themselves!

In all seriousness, though, mulch is an important aspect to the care and maintenance of a tree – and it often gets overlooked. As a certified arborist, I get many questions about trees and tree health from friends, family, and neighbors. One question that doesn’t get asked a lot, though, is about mulch.

Some neighbors mulch their trees every year. Some never do it. Some nurseries plant trees with 6-12 inches of mulch built up around the tree (entirely too much!) and others don’t leave nearly enough. Fear not, though…I’ll share with you a few of the main reasons and best practices for mulching so you don’t have to rely on the Elves to do it for you anymore.

What is mulch? Mulch is a protective layer of inorganic or organic material spread around the base of a tree. It can take many forms and color depending on what area of the country you find yourself, but some of the more common mulches are woodchips, pine needles, leaves, or compost mixes. Although inorganic materials, like stones or pulverized rubber, can be used for mulch, most arborists prefer organic mulches for the benefits they can provide to the soil upon decomposition.

Why do we mulch? Mulching is important for many reasons, especially for newly planted trees, but the most significant reasons are listed below:

  1. Mulch helps to lock in moisture and regulate temperature around the base of a tree so on a hot summer day your tree’s roots don’t dry out too quickly and on a cold day they are well insulated.
  2. Mulch provides a protective zone spreading out from the trunk of a tree that keeps lawn care tools, like mowers and weed whackers, from damaging the trunk of the tree.
  3. Mulch controls weed growth around the base of a tree that can sometimes cause competition for the growth of a tree.
  4. Over time, organic mulches can improve the soil condition, structure, and biology around a tree.

figure-mulching-tips[1]How much and where do you put the mulch? As a general rule, mulch should be spread around the base of a tree extending out to the edge of the tree’s crown (about 3 feet across) in a layer of about 2-4 inches thick. Always make sure the trunk of the tree is exposed and not covered by the mulch (about 3 inches from trunk to mulch is ideal). A mound of mulch that looks like a volcano with a tree sprouting out the top (Volcano Mulching) is NOT what you want around your tree. A good illustration of what you DO want is available at arborday.org.

When is the best time to mulch? If you are planting a new tree, make sure to water the tree slowly and then apply your mulch to help lock in the layer of moisture. After that, it’s best to check your tree at least once a year to see if a new layer of mulch needs to be added. When mulch is already present, check the depth and break up any chunks that may have formed so water can still penetrate the ground through the mulch. If additional mulch is needed, add that to the top of the current mulch (ensuring the final depth is still not deeper than 2-4 inches).

There is so much more that can be shared about the benefits and how-to’s of mulching but this should get you started so you don’t have to wait around for the Tree Elves to do the work for you. If you want to do it like them, though, just remember their 3-3-3 Rule: Keep mulch 3 inches from the trunk, 3 inches deep, and about 3 feet in diameter around the tree. Although not sponsored by the Elves, if you would like additional information, the International Society of Arboriculture has a great document on mulching and Bartlett Tree Experts has a resource available for download, as well.

Check out 9 Tree Care Tips & Techniques for other tree care tips to keep your trees in the best of health.

With a little mulch, water and TLC, you and your children (and neighbors!) will get to enjoy your tree for generations to come!

Green Ash Trees: Food for Borers

(Fraxinus Pennslyvania)

green-ash-1070Green Ash trees are popular because of their durability and tolerance to a wide range of climates (growing anywhere in hardiness zones 2-9). They are great shade trees growing up to 60 feet at maturity and have a wide canopy. Despite being a hardy tree, the green ash has become victim to one of the most invasive insects in American History: the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

The tree grew in popularity after the onset of Dutch elm disease and was heavily used as a replacement for the American elm. With a shift in evolving tree pests, the green ash is now one of the most susceptible trees to the infestation. EAB beetles feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. EAB has killed tens of millions of ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with millions more under threat throughout the east coast and Midwest.

If you have an ash tree and live in a state where it is detected, you may have already lost it to EAB. If however your ash tree is still standing, then there are different insecticide options to protecting your trees in the fight against the Emerald Ash Borer.

  • Apply insecticides to your trees if you are within 10-15 miles of an EAB outbreak. Insecticides against EAB have progressed since the first outbreak in 2002 and are better than their earlier counterparts and less costly than removing trees altogether. However, this is a proactive measure in applying it to trees before they are infested.
  • If your trees are already infested insecticide will prevent further damage, but it will not reverse what has already been done.
  • There are different application methods of applying insecticides to ash trees, and it is a measure that will need to be continuously done for several years to ensure EAB doesn’t infest them.
  • Trees displaying more than 50% of canopy loss are less likely to recover even if treated with a highly effective insecticide.

figure-emerald-ash-borer-1[1]As important as it is to treat and care for your ash trees before they are infested, starting too early can be ineffective and a waste of money. If you are more than 10-15 miles of an EAB outbreak then it is probably too early to begin insecticide treatments. Stay up to date on the latest EAB infestations with quarantine maps. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of EAB by visiting emeraldashborer.info.

Despite the threat of EAB, ash trees are a wonderful species of trees. Their lush canopy provide shade in the summer heat and vibrant foliage in the fall.

Stayman Winesap Apple: The Successor

(Malus X Domestica)

Stayman-Winesap-Apple_1-741[1]The Stayman Winesap is unique to other apples for its exceptional characteristics. It was developed in 1866 by Dr. Stayman and believed to be an improvement over its parent tree the winesap. The Stayman was popular to pioneers for its ability to keep long during the winter and its wine-like taste that lingered. It is a high-yielding tree and produces medium to large apples which are great for baking. What makes it even more gripping is that it is a triploid, meaning it has three sets of chromosomes instead of the usual two. The Stayman quickly became favored over other fruit trees for these unique qualities.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • The Stayman Winesap grows in deep, moist, well-drained soil, although texture is not critical. It is not drought tolerant, but does tolerate clayish or sandy soils as well as loam or sandy loam (hardiness zones 5-8).
  • Slow growing tree, growing up to a foot a year and reaching 10-25 feet at maturity. Check out our fruit spacing guide to ensure it has plenty of space to flourish.
  • Prefers full sun, preferably 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms pink flowers midseason, distinct from other apple trees that bloom white.
  • Available in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes. Standard size bears fruit 6-10 years.
  •  Note: the Stayman cannot pollinate other apple trees. But it does require a second tree to pollinate. Plant with yellow delicious, red delicious, red Jonathan or early harvest.
  • Bonus: has a long storage life, able to keep for six months if refrigerated.

Have an awesome apple recipe? We’d love to hear it!

Red Jonathan Apple

(Malus X Domestica)

Red-Jonathan-Apple_1-722This fruit may be a little less persistent at ripening than its counterpart the early harvest, but the red Jonathan is still packed with a succulent taste—tart and well-balanced. It’s a great apple for fresh eating, freezing and cooking. The red Jonathan ripens mid-September to mid-October.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • This tree grows well in moist, well-drained soil and is not drought tolerant (hardiness zones 4-8).
  • Medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 20-25 feet at maturity. Check out our Fruit Tree Spacing Guide
  • Needs a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sun every day.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white/pink flowers midseason.
  • Available in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes. Standard size bears fruit 6-10 years.
  • Will need a second tree to cross-pollinate to produce apples. Can be pollinated with yellow delicious, red delicious, early harvest, or a variety from a different apple family.
  • Bonus tip: These apples will keep for 3-6 months if stored in the refrigerator.

Have an awesome apple recipe? We’d love to hear it!

Early Harvest Apple: Turning a New Leaf

(Malus X Domestica)

The turn of a new season brings new fall favorites with it like crackling candles and sweet ciders, and let’s not forget tart, juicy apples like the early harvest apple.

Early-Harvest-AppleAs the name suggests this high-yielding apple tree is among the first to be ready for harvest. These apples are ready to be picked as early as July in some locations, with the latest harvest in September. What’s more exciting is the number of recipes you can get out of your apples. Speaking of recipes, check out From the Lied Lodge Cookbook: Apple Pie Egg Rolls for a delicious jumpstart!

Here are a few things to note if you don’t have an apple tree but want to reap the benefits down the road.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows well in moist, well-drained soil, it is not drought tolerant. (Hardiness zones 3-8).
  • Fast growing tree, growing more than 2 feet a year and reaching 20-25 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white/pinkish flowers early to midseason.
  • Is available in standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf sizes. Standard size bears fruit in 6-10 years.
  • Needs a second tree to cross-pollinate with to produce apples. Can be pollinated with Lodi, red Jonathan, red delicious or a variety from a different apple family.

Do you have an awesome apple recipe? We’d love to hear it!

Chinese Pistache: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

(Pistacia chinensis)

112_lg_3[1]Sometimes nicknamed the ‘ugly duckling’ in the tree world, the Chinese pistache is often snubbed because of its unattractive and misshapen early stages. Although born into rough beginnings, the tree develops into an impressive specimen. It’s a hardy tree and commonly used in dry landscapes.

As the name predicts, the Chinese pistache is related to the pistachio tree, although it does not produce any nuts. Not only is this tree heat and drought-tolerant, but it is also winter hardy AND pest and fire resistant. Talk about resilience! Here are a few things to note if you’re looking to add one to your yard.

112_lg_2[1]Environmental Factors

  • Grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils (hardiness zones 6-9).
  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-35 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct unfiltered sunlight a day

Physical Attributes

  • Produces panicles of greenish flowers in April & May.
  • Withstands heat quite well and tolerates urban conditions.
  • Provides vibrant fall foliage with shades of orange and red.

Do you have a Chinese pistache? Share a picture!

Sourwood: A Sweet Surprise

(Oxydendrum arboretum)

What if there were a tree with scented flowers and tart leaves that shaded you from the sun’s heat in the summer and amused you with vibrant foliage in the fall, would you be interested? The sourwood tree does just that. This tree is exclusive to North America and isn’t found on other continents unless planted there. Named after the tangy flavor of its leaves, the sourwood tree is full of wonder. Sourwood blossom

Mountain climbers and hikers quench their thirst by making tea with sourwood leaves, and pioneers used the sap in a mixture for treating fevers. Agonizing from mouth pain? Early settlers chewed the bark as relief from mouth ulcers. Additionally, bees make honey from the nectar of sourwood flowers—rumor has it sourwood honey is among the best quality. Aside from the natural remedies sourwood boasts, this tree is a natural beauty. Check out a few of these tree care tips if you’re considering adding a sourwood for your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Although it is native to the south, it will grow in a variety of hardiness zones (5-9).
  • Prefers normal moisture but has some drought tolerance. Grows in acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained and clay soils. Avoid alkaline or compacted soils.
  • Does best in full sun, getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day, but will tolerate partial shade.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, white flowers in late summer (June to early July) that resemble lilies-of-the-valley.
  • Can live up to 200 years if planted at the right site.
  • Bees produce high quality honey from the blossoms of the tree that is said to have a caramel or buttery flavor.
  • Offers vibrant fall color with leaves turning crimson, purplish-red and sometimes yellow. The numerous uses that stem from the sourwood give this tree some merit. Its shorter height make it a great contender to plant in your yard, or in front of a backdrop of taller trees.

Do you have a sourwood? Share a picture below!

August is Tree Check Month: Are Your Trees Safe?

In case you haven’t heard, August is Tree Check Month and taking a few minutes from your day to examine your trees for pest threats could save you some grim damage down the road. August is a time of peak emergence for the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) who earned a reputation for threatening recreational areas, forests and suburban shade trees. If ALB were to become widely established in the U.S., it would have a severe impact on the timber, maple syrup, tree nursery and tourism industries and would take decades to recover.

ALB

Spot the Signs

Besides seeing the beetle itself there are distinctive signs to look for while examining your trees.

  • Round Exit Holes– adult beetles chew their way out of the tree, leaving one-quarter inch exit holes.
  • Oval or round-shaped egg sites- female beetles chew up to 90 oval depressions, called oviposition sites, or egg sites, into the bark of the host tree, and then lay a single egg beneath the bark resembling a wound on the tree.
  • Accumulation of frass- As the larvae feed they leave a sawdust-like excrement on the ground or branches.
  • Weeping sap- Tree sap may be seen from the wounds or egg sites left by the beetle.
  • Tunneling- Larva tunnel through the layers of the tree.
  • Pupal chambers- beetle larvae inside the tree will develop (pupate) in a chamber or area in the tree, turning into adult.
  • Unreasonable yellowing or dropping of leaves- If you see leaves turning colors sooner than they should be, or broken, dead, or dying branches, this can be a sign that something is wrong.

Trees at risk

Read up on last year’s blog post August is Tree Check Month: Is your tree safe from Asian Long-horned Beetle? to learn more about ALB. ALB isn’t the only pest you should watch out for, check out Six Pests You Should Know About to stay proactive in your tree’s health.

Report It

If you think you’ve spotted signs of damage from ALB contact your state ALB eradication program office or plant health director’s office.

Washington Hawthorn: A Blossom Amongst Thorns

 (crataegus phaenopyrum)

Washington-Hawthorn_1-846[1]If you’re looking to fill in the open spaces in your yard, or just add a bit of color to your landscaping, the Washington hawthorn is a great option. First introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, the tree earned its name because of its prominent thorns.

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your landscape.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Versatile tree, growing in a wide variety of hardiness zone (4-8).
  • Prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight a day).
  • Drought-tolerant, grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white flowers with reddish-purple leaves.
  • Produces bright red berries that hang until the winter. It is popular amongst birds.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.
washington hawthorn berry

Flickr | Taryn Domingos

Do you have a Washington hawthorn in your yard? Share a picture below!