Fungus at the Base of Trees

In the past, we have mentioned the hazards of two unfortunate common practices:
1) The ‘pyramid style’ of piling mulch on the base of trees and…
2) Allowing perennial plants, groundcover and vines to grow too closely to the base of trees.

In the accompanying photos you will see one of the best examples we have ever seen as to why these practices are detrimental and can cause the death of a tree or shrub.

When trees germinate from seed, the bark above ground develops a different outer skin than the roots below ground do. The bark covering the roots takes on a different consistency that allows them to handle a wetter, underground environment. The bark above ground, however, is meant to ‘dry out’ quickly after becoming wet.

white-fungus-on-crabapple-trunk white-mold-on-trees

The Hazards Of Piling Mulch On The Base Of Trees Or Allowing Plants To Grow Too Closely To The Base

In the above photos, you will see a white mold/fungus attached to the base of a Crab Apple tree. This was caused by allowing Boston Fern plants to spread and encroach too closely to the trunk. The Boston Ferns were already cut down to ground level in preparation for winter, but our customer confirmed that every year they grow to three feet tall, completely surrounding the trunk of the tree. What this does is trap moisture on the tree trunk every time it rains or when a sprinkler activates to water the garden. This begins the rotting process and in advanced stages, could eventually kill the tree by disrupting the carrying of water throughout the tree which flows just beneath the outer layer of now rotted bark.

This type of trunk damage occurs much more frequently when mulch is piled up and onto the trunk. It is OK for you or your landscaper to put 2 to 4 inches of mulch in your gardens but try to keep it at least 6 inches away from the base of your trees or shrubs. Putting more than 3 or 4 inches of mulch over the root zone can smother roots, depriving them of oxygen and preventing the lighter rains from penetrating the thick layer of mulch.

If you hire a company to mulch for you, we suggest that you tell your landscaper in advance to follow these guidelines.


A Rough Spring Ahead?

We’ve recently noticed that certain types of flowering trees and shrubs have their 2016 flower buds swelling, and in a few instances, actually opening this December! Why? The trees are confused.

The abnormally warm November and December is tricking certain Magnolia, Crab Apple and potentially other plants into thinking they should be flowering. We’ve seen this happen before. What may unfortunately occur is this…

When the flower buds are tricked into swelling ahead of schedule, whether they actually open into flowers or not, they may be damaged by the inevitable cold winter which will surely follow. It may not be as cold as usual due to El Nino, but it will be cold enough to burn and dry out the buds. This means that your tree may not flower at all in 2016, or the flowering may be sparse or weak.

We already know that we will be receiving calls next spring where the messages will be as follows….

”You sprayed our tree last year and now it won’t flower”. Rest assured that if this happens to your tree, it has nothing to do with any applications. Mother Nature is the guilty party.

This situation can also occur when we have an unusually warm January or February. Those flower buds swell early, and then if we get night time freezing temperatures in March, ‘Winter Burn‘ sets in and the buds suffer from the same negative effect.

A lot will depend on the exact varieties of trees that are involved within each species, not to mention things like soil moisture as well as directional exposure in relation to your house or other mature plantings, which may or may not protect them from cold winter winds. Only time will tell as to whether or not your trees will be affected next spring.

Harsh Effects of a Dry Fall

hemlock pine with winter burn

hemlock pine with winter burn

It’s been a dry Fall in the western suburbs, so here are some things you should be aware of:

Other than that 3 inch rainfall we received about four weeks ago, it’s been pretty dry since June. Much of that rain quickly ran off the ground and into the sewers as the ground was so dry the rain simply sheeted away.  Hopefully we will soon get into a Fall weather pattern that will bring much needed moisture to the trees and shrubs prior to Winter. But what if it stays relatively dry?

If your conifers, (pine or evergreen trees and shrubs) go into the Winter without sufficient moisture stored inside them they might suffer severe needle browning either during the Winter or early next Spring. This situation, called ‘Winter Burn‘, could cause certain sections of the tree, or the entire tree, to suffer severe browning. If the tree or shrub is really low on moisture a severely cold, windy Winter could even kill it.

White Pine, Spruce, Scotch and Austrian Pine, Hemlocks, Mugho Pine and Arborvitae are just a few examples of conifers that should be watered.

Don’t worry too much about the really large older trees as they are too big to efficiently water. Also, older trees have a more expansive and dense root system allowing more water storage capacity. Do pay particular attention to your younger trees however. Younger trees and shrubs, especially those planted within the last 5 years or so, should be given special watering attention as their root systems will not be as fully developed.
Conifers need to have plenty of stored water in their roots and needles because they do not go completely dormant in the Winter like deciduous (leafy) trees and shrubs do. If they go into the Winter without sufficient moisture the plant suffers.

euonymous with winter burn

euonymus with winter burn

In addition, shrubs that retain their leaves all Winter long such as Boxwoods, Euonymus, Azalea’s and Rhododendron should also be thoroughly watered.

Your neighbors might think you are a little crazy if they see your sprinklers running in November but if they ask, share this knowledge with them. You will be doing them a favor. For the record, watering can be done right up until December as trees and shrubs continue absorbing water and nutrients until the ground freezes.

If you have an underground automatic watering system that is due to be winterized find out when winterization is due to happen. Water everything thoroughly just prior to the system being shut down for the Winter. If it has already been shut down, or will be soon, pull out the old fashioned hose and sprinkler.

For tips on proper watering here is a direct link to our website covering that topic.