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June 14, 2018

What’s out there in the trees – Our spring 2018 field report

The sales staff at Downey Trees are on the front lines of tree issues: often getting the call to look at a tree gone awry. A tree brought down in the course of a storm leads to a pretty obvious diagnosis of the cause. More often, however, they are asked to look at something more mysterious and complex.

I posed the title question of this blog to all of the salesmen and thought this might provide an opportunity to introduce you to some of our sales staff and have them briefly discuss what they have observed in the field during the spring of 2018.

Jacques Mayer: Jacques’ greatest concern this spring has been the continuing incidence of foliar diseases on Leyland Cypress trees – so much so that he has emailed copies of a publication from the University of Georgia describing them, as well as the conditions that set them up and best management practices with which to deal with them. Last summer, Bacterial Leaf Scorch was extreme on one of his customer’s properties, and we attempted a Plant Health Care regimen to slow the spread of this disease.

Jamie Duncan: Evidence of Pine Beetle damage tops Jamie’s list for the spring. Many dead Pines are visible along the I-85 corridor north of the city. There are 5 predominant species of Pine Beetle that attack the trees in this region. Prompt removal of dead and heavily infested trees, as well as protective trunk applications and supplemental watering during dry spells are the best management practices.

Chris Lane: Chris has observed a lot of trees with wind damage this season. He thinks a possible causal agent is lush vegetative growth we have seen as a result of our cool, lengthy spring accompanied by copious rainfall. He also considers it a good possibility that the wet weather will initiate the formation of fungal fruiting bodies indicative of wood decay.

Nick LeCroy: Oak trees have been slower than usual in leafing out this spring. Certain Oak trees, such as Overcup Oak and some Pin Oaks appear to be the worst. Surprisingly, foliar disease incidence seems low this season, despite all of the rain. Nick is our primary animal rescue go-to in residence. In that regard, a family of Barn Owls, a Possum, and a family of Armadillos (crossing the road- not in a tree) are on the rescue list for 2018 (see our blog: “A Soft Spot for the Animals,” June 23, 2017).

Zach Parker: Zach has seen a surprisingly frequent occurrence of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This insect pest, imported from China to the Detroit, Michigan area in 2002 in wooden packing material, has spread to 30 states and killed tens of millions of Ash trees. Though the Ash population in Georgia is not as high as in more northern states, they tend to occur in groups where they are present, so the damage becomes very noticeable very quickly. Zach has seen issues in Atlanta, Sandy Springs, and Alpharetta.

Pete Zogby: Pete has observed the same reluctance of Oak trees to leaf out that Nick has, though Pete attributes at least part of this phenomenon to the drought of 2016. When seeing this, he will be quick to ask his customers how the same trees looked last year. “Observing the condition and changes in the trees from year to year is important,” Pete says. These are not large trees, he adds, but Oaks and some Maple trees in the range of 4-9inches in diameter at breast height (DBH). Pete has also seen some alarming leaf drop and leaf spot on Chinese Elm.

Rick Barnes: Possibly the biggest surprise of the season was the discovery of an extensive infestation of Calico Scale on the trees in a midtown property. Lecanium and Obscure scales are more common in his experience, but this infestation appeared as an overall lack of vigor in the trees when seen from a distance. Up close, the insect population was distinctive and the coverage on the branches extensive. On a more positive note, the response from our sub-surface treatments for increased fertility and enhancement of the soil web has been strong this spring, aided by the cool temperatures and rainfall. One situation that proved alarming to several of our customers was the appearance of a red, red-bronze, or almost brown color of the early foliage of many Oak trees, particularly Pin Oaks. The condition proved to be temporary, perhaps due to a phosphorus deficiency in the leaf tissue, but the initial impression to many was that of a stressed or dying tree. The condition subsided as the leaves continued to expand, and in most cases the foliage is now a normal color. Others on our Plant Health Care team have observed an uptick in borer activity, particular Ambrosia Beetles, as well as Fire Blight and Shot hole disease.

Rusty Lee: Downey Trees was originally called to the Savannah area in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the tree problems created by that storm plague the area to his day. Rusty has observed trees that were not pruned properly to remove storm-damaged limbs, and large limbs that had to be pruned because of the damage. In each scenario, untended wounds and cutting of large limbs invited attack from insects and disease. While the most numerous victims seem to be Pine trees, Live Oak trees were also particularly hard-hit.

Recurring Themes
In talking to the sales staff of Downey Trees about their observations this spring, several subjects were brought up time and again:

  • While some tree problems are easily diagnosed, many are the result of several environmental and cultural conditions, often dating back several seasons or years. Symptoms exhibited by trees may be the result of a multitude of causal agents.
  • It is likely that many of the problems we have seen this spring are partially the result of the 3-month drought we experienced during the late summer and fall of 2016. It often takes that long for symptoms to become manifested in the plants.
  • Like drought, storm damage effects can affect tree health and longevity for an extended period following the event.

Hopefully some of what our sales staff has observed this spring will help you as you work with the trees under your care. Though we don’t always have the answers to often complex problems that trees can develop, we are always happy to look at your trees, utilize our collective knowledge to try to determine the cause or causes of the problems they exhibit, and recommend further testing or sources of additional information if necessary. Our staff is always prepared with the knowledge needed to best determine the cause of any problems your trees may be exhibiting, and then prescribe and provide the best solutions for the care of your trees for the long term!