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Arbor News - 2013

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My Tree is Sick - D.I.Y. Diagnostics
By Brian Cassity - Certified Arborist WI-0106A

Generally, one of the very first steps in the progression of plant diagnostics is to determine if the problem is caused by a living organism “Biotic”, such as an insect or fungus or by a non living cause “Abiotic” such as chemical or construction damage. Sometimes an abiotic cause can bring on or exacerbate a biotic problem. For instance a tree damaged by a new sidewalk installation could be attacked by borers in its’ weakened condition. In this case the borers would be considered a secondary invader. This is one of the tricky parts of diagnostics, where knowing the history surrounding a plant can be very important to a proper diagnosis and follow up care. This is where the homeowner (plant owner) has an advantage over the professional. Be sure to relay any possible pertinent history around your affected plant to your arborist. Another key component in the diagnostic process is the concept of host plants. What we see frequently occur in nature is that rather specific insects and diseases attack equally specific trees and shrubs (the host). Therefore if we see a line of trees of several different species and only one particular species is affected, we most certainly would begin to concentrate on a “host specific” cause, most likely a biotic problem. Conversely, if we see a line of trees of two or more species, all exhibiting the same symptoms, our attention will be directed to a nonliving abiotic cause.

While this is a good “rule of thumb”, we must be careful to not lock our thinking into a diagnosis that may lead to failing to see another factor. A “wholistic” approach to plant problems will lead to the best diagnosis. Get the whole picture:

1. What is the plant species?

2. What are the key pests of this species?

3. What are the growing requirements of the species?

4. What is the site like and the site history?

Diagnostics can be fun and rewarding, like solving a mystery, so pull out your magnifying glass, put on your trench coat and give it a go!

The Drought of 2012
By Susan Tangen - Certified Arborist WI-0684A

We may have survived the dry hot summer of 2012, but did your trees? The long term effects of drought on trees can last for several years. In addition, there are also secondary effects of drought that can affect your tree’s health. Understanding the long term and secondary effects on your trees and what can be done in the future to improve their health may determine if they will survive or if they will become a casualty of the drought of 2012.

Drought has many long term effects on trees and the symptoms may not be evident for weeks, months or years after the drought event. One such symptom is branch dieback. Because the feeder roots of the tree are in the top few inches of the soil surface, they are more vulnerable to heat and drying. If these roots do not receive any water during periods of drought, they will desiccate and die. When the rains finally return or irrigation begins, the tree is unable to take up enough water to support the entire canopy; the result will be branch dieback or in severe cases, tree death.

In addition to branch dieback, the growth may be stunted. During periods of prolonged drought, the tree will respond by shutting down its food producing mechanisms. As a result, the tree uses its stored food to maintain the living tree parts rather than growth and defenses against insect and diseases. As the tree depletes its food reserve, the chances of the tree surviving the winter and restarting in spring are reduced. Trees require several good growing seasons to recover from one bad year.

With the tree in a weakened state, it becomes vulnerable to secondary attacks by certain insects and diseases. Some of the most common insects are borers, which would include Bronze Birch Borer on birch trees, Two-lined Chestnut borers on oaks and bark beetles. Diseases such as Armillaria root rot, Necteria canker, and Cytospora canker are common diseases related to drought. In fact, Cytospora canker and Necteria canker are almost always associated with drought stress. Furthermore, drought stressed trees are predisposed to several other diseases including Diplodia, Verticillium wilt and Rhizosphaera needle cast.

Proper tree care for several years to come is important to help the tree recover from drought. Creating an environment to prevent further root loss an encourage root growth is very important; this would include deep watering when needed and mulching as much of the area under the tree as possible. When watering, apply the water slowly and out to at least the drip line of the tree. Preventing boring insects from entering the tree and treating for diseases are also important.

Although the hot dry weather of 2012 is past, we can expect to see the negative effects on a tree’s health for several years to come. With proper care, you can help your tree recover so it does not become a casualty of the drought of 2012.

New Nursery Endeavor

Over the past couple years we have been telling you about our “sister company” called Arbor Glen. That company was a result of a partnership and a separate corporation from Cassity Tree Service and we have now resigned from that nursery affiliation. We are pleased to announce the start of a new nursery directly under the control of Cassity Tree Service and we are calling it “Specialtree - nursery uniques”. We will be specializing in ornamental and out of the ordinary trees and woody plants grown above ground in what is termed a container nursery. We still have a nice selection of shade trees left over from our past affiliation at very nice pricing. Look for more updates about “Specialtree” on our website, on facebook, twitter or via our e-mail blasts.

Your Backyard Ecosystem
By Kevin Nolan - Certified Arborist MW-4399A

Our native landscapes are much more than visually pleasing, they offer refuge and food sources for wildlife. Utilizing native plants and water features can improve your yard’s appearance and create habitat for local fauna. These plants have a variety of advantages; they are highly acclimated to our environment and provide natural cover and food sources. Native plants are also a great choice for problem areas; suitable plants can be found for any extreme microclimate. Showy flowers, abundant fruits, and beautiful fall colors are present in many species and attract a wide variety of desirable critters such as birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Native plants tend to need less care than introduced botanicals and can often reduce watering and pest control needs on your property.

Wildlife viewing is an entertaining and educational hobby. Observing migrating birds can be exciting, and children delight in finding butterflies, ladybugs, and dragonflies. Attracting a variety of species is easy; all you need is food, water, cover, and patience. Many species of birds will frequent feeders; any commercially available seed will attract both permanent residents and migratory birds. Introducing native food sources such as hawthorn, serviceberry, chokeberry, and snowberry greatly increase sightings of less common birds. Evergreens provide excellent cover and are a food source for many species. Native perennials add beauty to your garden and are Natural bird feeders. Coneflower, little bluestem, and cup plant are favorites of sparrows and finches. Blazing star, phlox, New Jersey tea, and even catalpa trees attract hummingbirds without the need of labor intensive feeders.

Simple water sources such as birdbaths and ponds create a backyard oasis, particularly in hot weather or after lakes have frozen over. Decorative waterfalls attract many kinds of wildlife; the sound of trickling water is irresistible to songbirds! Fishless ponds create habitat for amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. Amphibians are an important part of our ecosystem as predators of insects and as a food source for a variety of wildlife.

Dragonflies and damselflies also take advantage of available water. Both the water-born larvae and adult stages prey upon mosquitoes and provide natural pest control. Surrounding water features with native plants such as black snakeroot, butterflyweed, and bee balm will attract butterflies as well.

The benefits of native plantings are numerous, particularly as our green spaces give way to developments. Native plants provide the food, cover, and nutrition required by wildlife and make wonderful addition to your landscape. I encourage you to explore the great variety of form, color, and texture available for your next landscape project. Wildlife diversity increases as habitat improves. Native plants will attract many birds, amphibians, and beneficial insects for you to observe and enjoy. If you plant it, they will come!

For more information on plants native to Wisconsin; I recommend “Landscaping with Native Plants of Wisconsin” by Lynn M. Steiner or visit

Previous Arbor News Publications

This newsletter has adapted articles from the publications of the following organizations in addition to our original pictures and stories.

Cassity Tree Service - 9160 Charles Street - Sturtevant, WI. - 53177 - 262.886.5224