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.

The dish on dirt: why soil is important to tree health

Have you ever planted multiple trees or shrubs at the same time and noticed one variety flourishing while the other has no progress? There are numerous factors that could be affecting your plant health, including soil. It’s not uncommon to overlook soil care while planting if you’re new to the green scene. We become so caught up with tree care above ground that we forget what’s happening below is just as important. Since trees grow from the ground up, it’s essential to understand their relationship with soil and the role soil plays on tree health. Using the wrong type of soil, or neglecting to use healthy soil altogether, can be detrimental and cost you your trees.

What works for your pink dogwood trees won’t necessarily work for your blueberry bushes. You see, each tree calls for a different soil type, the most common being sandy, silt, and clay. landsoils1[1]Soils vary from one location to the next. When high-quality soil isn’t present you can mix soils to change textures and create a soil more suitable for planting. Sandy soil has larger particles and a rough texture. Since the soil base is loose it’s harder to retain moisture, making it harder for plants to access nutrients. Silt is comprised of fine particles and has a smooth, slippery texture. Its tight compaction can serve as an advantage in retaining moisture and nutrients, or a problem if planted with the wrong tree.  Clay is the most tightly packed soil with little air space; as a result it makes it difficult for air and moisture to penetrate the soil.

Iron_Chlorosis576[1]

Signs of Chlorosis are typical of a nutrient deficiency.

Soil performs five essential functions; using the wrong type of soil or unhealthy soil can impede tree health by constricting roots from accessing the water and nutrients necessary. Soil helps regulate water, supports biodiversity, filters pollutants, provides physical support, and cycles nutrients. You can understand why attempting to plant a tree that requires less soil saturation may not thrive if it’s planted in silt or clay soil. Signs of unhealthy soil include leaf discoloration, brittle limbs, and even stunted tree growth.

roots

Exposed roots pose as a threat to tree health.

It’s also important to dig a hole deep enough for tree roots to grow. Planting in shallow soil makes tree roots more susceptible to exposure which can lead to tree stress and even toppling due to wind gusts. If you have bedrock near the surface of your soil that prevents you from digging deep you might consider mixing in top soil to add depth.

Plant growth is directly influenced by soil conditions. That’s not to say that if your plants show these signs that it’s a result of poor soil. Several varying factors go into tree health and soil care is one of them to keep in mind while planting young trees.

What tips do you have in maintaining healthy soil for planting?

References:

USDA Soil Health

University of Florida IFAS Extension