Some spruce trees, such as Colorado Blue Spruce may be susceptible to environmental stress. The recent pattern of milder than usual winters and cool spring temperatures combined with wet conditions in the northeast have favored development of a fungal disease known as “needle cast”. Early detection and proper diagnosis is important in the treatment of this fungal disease and to ensure the health of your tree.
The best proactive means for preventing needle cast disease is to plant your Blue Spruce in the proper location and provide proper care. Blue Spruce prefer to be located in a well-drained soil in an area of full sun, meaning the plant should be receiving at least six hours of sunlight daily. A southern or western exposure suits this best. Prevent irrigation from directly spraying on the foliage of the plant. Constant moisture on foliage or over-watering can be a direct invitation for needle cast. Drip irrigation is recommended where possible, allowing the soil to dry between watering. Proper planting height is of course also necessary. Plant the tree at grade or slightly above the grade so that the root flare is visible. Do not plant too deeply. It is best that the lower branches have some air circulation above the ground.
The type of needle cast affecting Colorado Blue Spruce in the northeast is mainly Rhizosphaera needle cast (caused by the fungus Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii). While some browning and dropping of older needles in spruce is common, needle cast disease is noted by a distinct brownish-purple discoloration which appears on needles (usually towards the bottom of the tree) mostly in late summer, followed by the eventual death and dropping of older needles. In addition, the presence of black fruiting bodies on new growth in early spring is a sure sign. Typically, infections start near the bottom of the tree where foliage dries more slowly and progresses upwards. Lower branches may lose so many needles that growth at the tips stops, resulting in the death of the entire branch (photo below). Newer current growth may show no signs of the disease until during autumn and into spring.
Should your tree show signs of early needle cast, it is treatable. Needle cast can be effectively controlled with fungicides containing chlorothalonil. For Rhizosphaera needle cast, two properly-timed applications per year for at least two consecutive years (sometimes three) are required for control. The first application should occur when new needles are half elongated (around Memorial Day depending upon location) followed by a second application three to four weeks after the first. The timing of the two applications should be the same for the second and third year. Since needle cast is fungal and spread through spores, removal of branches showing early signs can prevent further infection, but the tree should still be treated with a fungicide and monitored on a regular basis.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the best method of preventing needle cast starts with proper planning, planting and monitoring. Early detection of any kind of disease leads to better results and remedies any further issues down the road. These tips also apply to dwarf forms of Blue Spruce, such as Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ (Globe Blue Spruce). Norway and Serbian Spruce are less likely to be damaged by needle cast and ‘Hoopsii’ and ‘Fat Albert’ cultivars of Colorado Blue Spruce are more resistant to the disease.
If the inner needles on your Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis) are suddenly turning from a healthy looking green to shades of yellow, orange and brownish-red in autumn, there is little need for concern. Needle shed is all part of a natural process. Each year evergreens will produce new foliage in spring and part of the preparation process involves shedding their older foliage in the previous fall. Shedding of needles and foliage is a process that evergreens go through as a way of preparing for new growth once the weather warms. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower, evergreens go through a slight dormant period similar to deciduous trees and shrubs. Many evergreens such as Chamaecyparis (Hinoki Cypress), Thuja (Arborvitae), fir, pine, cedar, hemlock and spruce lose some of their needles every year and may go through a major shedding every three to five years.
To examine, look at your tree carefully. Older foliage is shed first so the losses should generally be from the inside out and not at the tips. Prior to shedding the needles appear from green to yellow, orange and eventually brown, remaining on the tree until the process is complete. Often the change is unnoticeable; however, the drier the season, more drastic the temperature change, or stronger the winds, the more noticeable the needle shed, a natural cleaning process leading to new growth in the spring. If desired, lightly brushing the inner portion of the plant will help to remove the older browned foliage. If concerned about any particular branches on your plant, scrape the bark with your fingernail down to the growing layer. If the branches are brown and brittle the area tested has met its demise. If there is presence of a green growing layer underneath the surface of the bark, the branch is indeed alive.
Once mid-late spring rolls around, you may notice that some of your landscape plants are in need of some tender loving care. After the lack of snow in some parts of the northeast and prolonged frigid temperatures in the single digits this past winter season, certain plants have been more affected than others by the lack of insulation from snow cover and extreme cold. Another factor affecting the vitality of your plants could the abundant rainfall amounts hitting the eastern seaboard.
Birch trees are one species that the winter has especially taken a toll on. By this time in June, Birch trees should have pushed out most of their new foliage, but you may notice some bare branches and empty spots on your tree. If that is the case, gently scrape the bark or cut a tip off bare stems to see if there is any sign of green. If the cambium growing layer underneath the bark is green, give the tree a little more time to see if it will push out any new growth from those branches. If the layer below the bark is brown, remove the dead branch from the tree to help direct growing energy to where it is needed. Give the tree a good feeding (preferably a deep root application) and some time. The tree should gradually show signs of recovery and continue to regain its health.
Boxwood is another plant which has been affected by the recent weather abnormalities. If your boxwood is looking a little paler than usual with some yellowing in the leaves, it could be a sign of iron deficiency. The abundance of rain here in the northeast has literally “washed” away much of the iron in the soil. Iron chlorosis can develop under conditions that reduce the availability of iron to the plant, such as a combination of cooler than normal temperatures and poor root aeration or soil drainage due to constant moisture. To remedy the lack of iron, apply a liquid iron solution to the soil around your plants. Most supplements will work over time to restore the plant back to good health.
Hydrangea are another plant showing signs of winter damage over the past several years here in the northeast and over other parts of the country. If your Hydrangea is still showing bare stalks above new growth now in June, and stems appear dead, simply prune off the damaged wood to beneath the line of new foliage. As with most flowering plants, application of a plant food that is high in phosphorus in mid-late spring will encourage buds.
Routinely checking your garden in springtime can catch early signs of plant distress and help in avoiding more serious issues down the road. During springtime and throughout the ongoing growing season, early detection of plant issues is a worthwhile practice, After all, a little preventive care can go a long way!
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What is “winter bronzing”? While approaching the end of winter, some of your favorite evergreens may appear to take on a bronze appearance. You may be wondering. “Is this normal or is my plant dying?” Changing foliage color is a normal phenomena that affects some evergreens near the end of winter while seasons are transitioning. Freezing temperatures, followed by a warming trend, longer hours of sunlight, then more cold can trigger foliage to discolor. The color change is a reaction to low temperatures, winds and sunlight, causing mild desiccation of the needles or leaves, allowing the underlying colors to show through. This dulling of green foliage is more pronounced on plants that receive more sunlight. The result is commonly known as “winter bronzing”. The longer the ground is frozen and the more water that is evaporated from the plant than it can take in, the more pronounced the foliage will appear to turn from green to brown, bronze, or even orange or purple. This process is similar to why deciduous leaves change color in the fall. While the tree is going dormant for the winter months, chlorophyll production subsides and the true underlying colors of the leaves are revealed.
When can I expect my trees to look more normal? Once the temperatures rise and new growth is stimulated, the foliage will turn back to a more vibrant green. Broken or dead branches are different in that they are completely dried out and brown. Those branches should be pruned off the tree in late winter/early springtime to prevent any further damage. Any falling or divided tree leads can be arbor tied to secure them and encourage upright growth. Split branches can also be arbor tied together, and if caught in time the cambium growing layer of the tree can mend. In the photograph above, the center upright Western Arborvitae are displaying signs of bronzing with no evidence of any completely browned or broken branches, both indications of a normal and healthy tree.
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Have the temperatures been rising and are you yearning to go out into the garden? Spring is here and it is a time to start planning and prepping the garden for a successful start to the planting season. There are some recommended maintenance tips for getting your garden underway. Here is a list of common gardening tasks to be performed in late winter/early spring. (I recently posted this article on my other blog A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, but felt it was also fitting for here.)
True or False? Any dead material remaining from last year should be removed from your garden now. True. It is best practice to remove dead material from the garden in fall to prevent possible pests and disease in your garden. If you have left annuals or perhaps perennials for winter interest, now is the time to tend to them, along with any weeds that might have survived the winter. Pull out any dead remaining annuals and prune perennials back to the ground to encourage new growth. If cold temperatures are still to be expected, push mulch up around the crown of the plants to protect them from temperature fluctuations.
True or False? New mulching should be applied now before the ground thaws.False. Mulch acts as an insulator and applying mulch before thawing would actually inhibit warming as temperatures rise. Allow the soil to warm, then apply two to four inches of natural pine mulch. When applying, keep mulch several inches away from tree and shrub trunks to prevent oxygen loss and rotting. Mulch benefits plants by reducing water evaporation, preventing weeds, adding organic matter to the soil and also acts as a buffer, preventing drastic changes in soil temperatures.
True or False? Nitrogen based lawn fertilizer can only be applied after April 1st. True. According to the EPA, the prohibition on application of fertilizer between December 1st and April 1st applies to products that contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), or potassium (K). If a product does not contain any of these nutrients, it could be applied during the winter months without violating this law. Explanation: If the ground is frozen, there is a greater danger of runoff and possible contamination of groundwater. Fertilizers applied when the ground is thawed and porous are absorbed and utilized by plant material and go through a natural filtration process before reaching the aquifer system. Please note that there are a variety of organic, natural fertilizers on the market that are more environmentally friendly. Success rate depends on brand and application.
True or False? Spring flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned in late winter/early spring. False. General rule of thumb is to prune flowering plants AFTER they flower. Early spring flowering trees and shrubs including rhododendron, azalea, forthysia, magnolia, plum, Eastern Redbud and cherry form their buds from the season before and should be not be pruned until after flowering. Pruning them now will remove flower buds that have already formed, resulting in a loss of blooms.
True or False? Summer blooming shrubs such as Spirea and Buddleia should be pruned in spring. True. Mid and late summer flowering shrubs such as Spirea and Buddleia (butterfly bush) prefer a spring pruning to promote fullness and blooms. Prune Spirea slightly for shaping. If the plant is overgrown to the point it is unsightly, it can be pruned more drastically to rejuvenate it now in spring. Buddleia benefits from an early spring pruning and should be pruned all the way back in late winter/early spring to promote fuller plants and better blooms in late summer. This practice is best performed once you see signs of life on your plants.
True or False? The best time to prune evergreens is in early spring. True. Evergreens can be pruned anytime when there is no threat of extreme temperature changes that would cause undue stress; however, the best time is either in early spring before they push out new growth, or afterwards once new candles form. When pruning evergreens that form candles, such as white pine, it is best to cut candles in half to keep the plant more compact.
True or False? Liriope and grasses should be cut back and divided now in spring. True. Liriope and ornamental grasses can be cold sensitive. Exposing the crown of the plant could be the reason for snow and cold damage. It is best to leave liriope and grasses alone in fall and to prune them back in early spring to allow for new growth. Spring is also the time to divide and move other perennials that have become overgrown. It is recommended that most perennials be divided every four years for best bloom. Dig up and divide with a sharp clean spade just as new growth appears, replant and add a sprinkle of slow release plant food in with the soil to help root promotion. Water in thoroughly.
True or False? Knock Out Roses should be pruned back in early spring. True. Wait until your roses are sprouting new shoots and showing some signs of life. Then, prune off dead wood or overgrown branches back about one third the size of the plant to promote strong growth and blooms. Be careful to watch while pruning so that you achieve a nice rounded shape for your plant. Early spring is also a good time to apply an organic slow release rose fertilizer mixed in with the soil at the base of the plant to ensure a successful start to the growing season. I would also recommend a regular watering schedule from the base of the plant, since roses do not fair well with constant water on their foliage.
True or False? Summer blooming bulbs should be planted in late spring. True. While spring blooming bulbs such as crocus, hyacinths, tulips and daffodils are planted in fall, late summer blooming bulbs such as Dahlia, Canna and Gladiolus are planted in spring. Amend the soil with compost or manure to insure them a good start and plant in a well-drained area to prevent rotting. Generally, bulbs are planted at a depth of three times their diameter, and specific instructions are usually supplied on the packaging. Once planted, water your bulbs thoroughly and be sure they get watered regularly. Applying bone meal will give your bulbs energy during the growing season, but do not mix in too closely to the roots.
Will the unpredictable weather we have been having across most of the U.S. and other areas harm my garden? I have been getting asked this question quite a bit over the past couple of years. Generally, plants are pretty resilient. Buds that are forming on the trees early are sparked by the warmer temperatures in daytime but slowed down by the colder nighttime temperatures, which tends to balance out their progress. If there is severe cold for a prolonged period of time, buds could freeze and get damaged, but the tree produces enough buds to still have a bloom. More sensitive plants like old fashioned hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ that bloom on old wood are more susceptible to cold and time will tell. If there is die back on your plant, prune out the dead wood and apply a dose of a high phosphorus fertilizer. It could help to boost larger blooms from any undamaged buds. Hydrangea varieties that bloom on new wood, such as ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘Pee Gee’ should winter alright.
Some of my evergreens are a bronze color. Should I be concerned?Winter bronzing is normal on evergreens near the end of winter while temperatures are cold. Once the temperatures rise and new growth is stimulated, the foliage will turn back to a more vibrant green. Broken or dead branches are different in that they are completely dried out and brown. Those branches should be pruned off the tree in late winter/early springtime to prevent any further damage. Any falling or divided tree leads can be arbor tied to secure them and encourage upright growth. Split branches can also be arbor tied together, and if caught in time the cambium growing layer of the tree can mend. In the photograph above, the center upright Western Arborvitae are displaying bronzing and there are no signs of broken branches. As you can see the trees are healthy.
Have you heard about my new book,Landscape Design Combinations? My first bookA Guide to Northeastern Gardening covers recommended plants for zones 3-9 with topics including butterfly gardening, deer resistant plants, shade gardening, perennials, trees and shrubs, evergreens, general maintenance tips and more.
Landscape Design Combinations is a continuation of the previous publication, with greater emphasis on design, including numerous numbered and labeled photographs of successful landscape plans. Topics include elements of landscape design, designing for the seasons, how to build a natural stone patio or walkway, simple container combinations and garden styles throughout the centuries.
Both A Guide to Northeastern Gardening and Landscape Design Combinations were written to provide you with the tools needed to help you to create a successful garden. Click on the links below for more information and previews. I hope to inspire you!
The seasons have been shifting in the northeast, leaving many homeowners in much dismay when it comes to winter garden maintenance. Winter storms can hit late winter into early spring, causing more distress to plantings once they have experienced warmer than normal temperatures. As we await another winter storm, there are some precautions you can take to ensure the vitality of your landscape plants and protect them from possible damage.
SNOW WEIGHTED TREE BRANCHES: Most evergreen trees and shrubs can handlesnow build-up on their branches, but in the instance of a heavy snow, the branches may become weighted down. Certain Arborvitae are susceptible to the weight of snow pulling down on them and may have already experienced sagging branches. Further damage can easily be avoided by wrapping the branches together with arbor tie. The cloth tie cannot be seen from the outside, will prevent future damage from another snow, and the tree will look unscathed.
BROKEN OR DAMAGED TREE BRANCHES: Before an approaching storm, try to walk outside and inspect trees and shrubs on your property for any broken or damaged branches. If you do spot a damaged branch, tie the two split halves together by wrapping them tightly together with arbor tie. Start by wrapping the two halves tightly together and continue wrapping above and below the crack for extra support. If caught in time, the cambium (or growing layer) of the plant will repair itself and fuse the two parts of the damaged branch together. I have personally saved split branches on holly, azalea and arborvitae using this technique and the plants have recovered beautifully. Identifying these issues now and tending to them prior to the snow can mean the survival of your plant.
SNOW REMOVAL: While it is tempting to go outside and start removing snow from weighted branches it is also a good time to exercise caution. Under the snow-covered branches could also be a frozen layer of ice. Any manipulating of the frozen branches could result in easy breakage and permanent damage to your tree. A helpful tip is to very carefully dig snow from around trapped branches and allow them to spring back up on their own. Never shake branches with ice. It is best to let nature take its course and allow thawing to occur. The branches will gradually regain their shape as the ice melts preventing any harm to your landscaping.
SPRING BULBS AND SNOW: Just as your spring bulbs are emerging, a late winter snow storm in March can cause much distress and uncertainty. Besides having to tend with the snow, there is some reassuring news! While mulch protects dormant bulbs from cold, once they start blooming, a covering of snow will act as an insulator. The snow will help to hold in the natural warmth from the soil and provide protection. Once the snow is gone, you can continue to enjoy your bulbs!
As mentioned previously, plants are very resilient, and with a little care can bounce back and recover nicely after a major snow. With a March snow on the way, warmer days may not look promising at the moment, but Spring is right around the corner!
Very often larger landscape trees and shrubs will arrive either wrapped in burlap or burlap encased in wire baskets. These allow the tree to be picked up by the root ball instead of the trunk and are used to protect the roots during transportation and handling. Also, on many occasions large tree spades are used by growers to dig the tree for transportation. These giant spades will cause surrounding soil to be pushed up higher around the trunk way past the flare. When planting, burlap or wire baskets should be removed completely or pushed down as far as possible below the soil surface to allow for the tree to develop new feeder roots, and the root flare should be visible. Care should be taken both during the arrival and planting of the tree to ensure its survival. Here are some recommendations.
Some horticulturists recommend removing at least the top 12 to 18 inches (two or three levels) of wire from the root ball with larger trees, or the entire basket when possible. (Source: University of Florida Horticultural Department). Dig the hole the tree is being planted in wide enough so that the wire basket can be cut and folded down around the plant. Cut and remove any top burlap and do the same, pushing the burlap as far down as possible (if not removing it completely). It is alright to leave the bottom portion of the burlap or basket intact if the root ball does not appear stable enough to remove it. Wire baskets are known to degrade slowly in soil, and can be intact up to 20 years after planting; however, the welded joints tend to degrade sooner. Natural burlap typically tends to rot in the soil, with the exception of some of the drier parts of the country (regions receiving less than about 20 inches of annual precipitation). Synthetic burlap does not decompose. To distinguish between natural and synthetic burlap burn a small portion with a match. Synthetic burlap has a smoother feel and often smokes and melts. Natural burlap is coarser and usually burns with a flame and turns to ash, while synthetic does not.
When positioning the tree check for the root flare (see diagram above) and remove any soil that may have been pushed up when digging. The root flare is pointed out as the lower line on the diagram where the trunk gets wider. The tree will develop new feeder roots near the top of the root ball enabling the tree to receive water, undergo oxygen exchange and obtain minerals. It is not uncommon to see the tree’s root ball covered with additional soil. If not removed the tree will be buried too deeply and will often send roots growing straight upward where conditions are better. Over time this will cause the tree to stress and slowly suffocate due to a lack of water and oxygen or girdling root (roots wrap around the base of the tree and suffocate it).
Now that the burlap and wire are pushed away from the roots it is time to plant. Position the tree slightly above the grade (1-2 inches) to allow for proper drainage and mulching once the tree is planted. This will also ensure proper transportation of water, oxygen and minerals, as discussed above. As a general rule of thumb plant one inch above grade for each inch caliper of tree trunk. For example, a tree with a one inch trunk caliper (diameter) should be one inch above grade, and so forth.
In a heavily clay soil it is recommended to plant even a little higher to allow for proper drainage, If drainage does seem to be an issue, it may be in your best interest to dig pilot holes two to three feet down and add a gravel base so that water percolates downward, instead of having water sitting right at the roots. Trees in standing water will lose their feeder roots due to suffocation and will quickly decline. Following these simple planting techniques will ensure the longevity of your trees for many years. The same guidelines apply to the planting of deciduous trees or plants in plastic containers. Remember it is important to mulch your tree to protect the roots but prevent the mulch from being right up around the trunk to avoid any issues. I see way too much of this! (see article)
Now that we have covered the proper techniques it is time to go out into the garden and get some trees planted!
As Always…Happy Gardening!
2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.
After you have invested time and money into your landscape it is important to take proper care of your plantings. Here is a list that I have compiled over the years that I share with my clients. I hope you will find it useful!
WATERING: Water thoroughly after planting and keep well watered throughout the first growing season. Be careful not to over water! Feel down by the roots to determine whether the plant is getting the correct moisture. Soil should appear moist but not wet or overly dry. Consider type of soil, time of year and amount of sun and rain. Make sure fall plantings get enough water until the ground freezes in winter and then when the ground thaws. If you do not have a sprinkler system the use of soaker hoses is recommended. Water should be applied at a rate of 3/4 inch of water every three days or 1 1/2 inches a week. (One inch of water goes down 6 ” into the soil.)
GENERAL: Drip lines need to be run longer (2-3 hours) versus mist heads (30-40 minutes) Adjust accordingly depending on soil type, sun verses shade, etc. Water thoroughly and regularly the first growing season until the plant’s root system is established. Do not rely on rainfall alone. Do not rely on lawn sprinklers alone, as they may not supply an adequate amount of water. Watering by hand, two or three times a week to supplement your irrigation system is recommended in summer heat.
EVERGREENS: Most evergreens can be pruned at any time of year except when the weather is too hot or right before temperatures start to drop below freezing. Ideally the best time is believed to be in March before new growth starts. This also eliminates any winter burn that can occur during especially cold weather and gives the evergreen a good start for spring. Most evergreens will not take well to hard pruning. The only exception is Taxus (Yew) which may rejuvenate over time. No plant is completely maintenance free so keep your evergreens trimmed to their desired size. This will also keep them full and healthy and prevent thinning out. NOTE: Evergreens will shed their needles or foliage in the Fall/Spring to allow for new growth. If any branches appear brown or dead after planting or after winter, trim them off and allow the plant to rejuvenate. When in doubt ask a professional.
WINTER CARE: BROAD LEAVED EVERGREENS: Some Broad-Leaved Evergreens such as Cherry, Skip or Mountain Laurel, Japanese Aucuba, Holly and Rhododendron can be subject to winter burn from dehydration due to water loss in the case of a cold and dry winter. Care should be taken in the usage of an anti-desiccant such as ‘Wilt-Proof” Spray which should be applied around Thanksgiving and again if there is a thaw during the winter months. Do not apply when the temperatures are freezing.
FLOWERING SHRUBS: Prune flowering shrubs and flowering evergreens after the bloom (late August into fall) Flowering shrubs such as hydrangea bloom on the last year’s growth and will not bloom if cut back in spring. Shrubs such as Spirea improve bloom when cut back in Fall/Winter (March) before they get their leaves in spring. Renovate Lilac in winter and prune for shape after flowering in spring. Prune roses in spring to remove winter damage before new growth starts.
ROSES: Apply an all in one systemic feed and insect control into the soil around each plant such as Bayer All in One Rose & Flower Care a few times throughout the summer to keep your roses beautiful and insect free. Follow dosage on label. Deadheading on Knock Out Roses is not essential but doing so will keep your plants full.
TREES: Prune (or move) deciduous trees in fall after leaves have fallen and tree is dormant. Evergreens can be moved in either spring or fall and must be kept well watered.
GRASSES: Grasses should be cut back in late March before new growth appears. Leaving the grass during the winter provides nice interest to the garden.
PERENNIALS: Deadhead perennials such as salvia though out summer for continuous repeat blooms. In fall perennials should be allowed to die back then remove any unwanted foliage. Pruning back perennials can be done in either late fall or early spring (March) before new growth appears but it is recommended in the Fall in order to prevent disease. Note: There are some perennials such as liriope (lillyturf) and coral bells (Heuchera) that can provide nice winter interest and can be pruned back in spring.
FERTILIZING: Feed plants in spring and Late Summer. Do not apply a full dose if feeding in the fall. Apply a half dose for root feeding only. For new plantings allow the plantings to become established then apply a slow release organic fertilizer or apply a “starter” formula when planting. For established plants there are several products on the market. Be careful not to buy a concentrated product that will burn the roots. A slow release or organic fertilizer such as Holly Tone is recommended. Once again when in doubt ask a professional.
INSECT CONTROL: Periodically check your plants for insect or fungal damage and treat if needed. It is advised to use a regular insect control maintenance program to keep your plantings healthy.
LAWN CARE: Ideally sod lawns are best planted in spring and seed best planted in the fall. Core Aeration and over-seeding are best done in the fall to help rejuvenate a lawn and give it a healthy start for the following season. Your lawn should also have a regular maintenance program to keep it at its best ask your professional.
Southern Pine Beetle has been spotted in Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, the Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale, the Henry’s Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest in Hampton Bays and recently (December 2014) in Belmont Lake in North Babylon, Heckscher in East Islip, Brookhaven in Wading River, and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in cooperation with the United States Forest Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Central Pine Barrens Commission, originally confirmed the presence of the beetle in three locations along the southern shore of Long Island and recently in four more locations (since December 2014).
The southern pine beetle is a bark beetle that infests pine trees. It is native to the southern United States and has expanded its range northward and westward possibly due to milder winter temperatures. There has not been enough sustained cold to kill off the insect before reproducing and doing damage; hence, the population is increasing. The Southern Pine Beetle is the most invasive pest known to the south and has done extensive damage to the pine population there. To identify the beetle, it is only 2-4 mm in length which is about the size of a grain of rice, and is reddish-brown to black in color.
The beetle does its damage by entering through the crevices in the bark and tunneling down until it reaches the cambium growing layer directly below. There the female creates S-shaped tunnels through the living tissue and lays her eggs. After the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed from these tunnels sucking the tree of nutrients. The new adults eventually bore through the outer bark leaving round holes that often appear as a shotgun pattern and the cycle repeats itself. Most trees die quickly, often within 2-4 months, due to disruption of flow of nutrients and girdling from tunnel construction. Here on Long Island the host tree for the beetle is the pitch pine which is prevalent in the Pine Barrens.
DEC urges the public to report any recently dead pine they encounter in the Long Island area, especially if there are several trees grouped together. Sightings should be reported to the Forest Health Diagnostic Lab through the toll-free information line, 1-866-640-0652 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, accompany any reports via email with photos of the trees including close ups of any damage. An added item in the photo for scale, such as a penny, would help with identification.
Time is running out to apply anti-desiccant to your broad-leaf evergreens such as Cherry Laurel, Skip Laurel, Holly, Boxwood, Rhododendron, Azalea and Japanese Aucuba. Anti-desiccant coats the leaves with a protective covering and prevents against winter desiccation/moisture loss and possible damage from drying winds and cold, which broad-leaved evergreens are prone to. Ideally, temperatures should be in the 50’s to apply with no freezing temperatures in the forecast for the next several hours. The best time to apply is now in late November, right around Thanksgiving. Don’t worry…there is still time. Just make sure the temperatures remain above freezing when applying!