Blackhaw Viburnums in Bloom

For the past two weeks my woods have been aglow with the bright white flowers of the blackhaw viburnum. (Viburnum prunifolium)

IMG_8933blackhaws at the woods edge

IMG_8960blackhaws in bloom in the understory

IMG_8951red admiral butterfly nectaring in blackhaw flowers

This shrub or small tree tolerates shade well, it thrives under the canopy of larger trees and at the forest edge.  Throughout most of the year, it is rather nondescript, but it really puts on a show in early May with its profuse white blooms.

It’s a native tree to our area, and supplies food to several species.  In addition, the blue fruits which ripen in fall provide food for birds and other wildlife.  If you want to plant a flowering tree that doesn’t get huge it may be a good choice.


Emerald Ash Borer in Montgomery County – The Window for Saving Trees is Closing

I have been closely studying the spread of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)  for quite a while now, as you may know if you follow my posts here and on the Jacobs Tree Surgery Facebook page.  I first saw EAB in person in 2010, shortly after their arrival in Pennsylvania. 

Here’s the story of my EAB vacation to western PA in 2010

IMG_4712 - Copy

This is what most of the ash trees in Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties now look like.

Closer to home, EAB was first detected in Bucks County, in the Warrington area, in 2012.  Over the past 5 years, I have watched the Bucks County EAB population increase to peak density – it would now be difficult to find a healthy ash tree in southern Bucks or the far eastern portion of Montgomery County. 

Last summer, I saw infestations in the middle of Montgomery County for the first time (Center Point).  I then began seeing evidence of them throughout the western part of the county.  I started marking a map with personally confirmed EAB locations over the winter and soon realized it is now everywhere in the area I routinely service.

EAB map may 2017 Montco

Mated EAB adults travel an average of approximately 2 miles, and up to 6 miles, from where they emerge (USDA studies).  So you can see from the pins on the map that all of the ash trees in Montgomery County are likely to be attacked this summer.

EAB adults are just now starting to emerge.  I found this one on Saturday in Horsham.

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Early emerging EAB adult in Horsham PA


Taking flight

After they emerge from the tree where they have spent the immature portion of their life cycle, they will feed on the leaves of ash trees for a week or so before mating, and in about 3 weeks they’ll start laying eggs.  Eggs will hatch in about another 2 weeks, and the young larvae will immediately bore into the tree and begin eating the tissue beneath the bark.

When a healthy ash tree is first attacked by EAB, it does not immediately die.  Usually only a small number of eggs are deposited on it the first year, and the tree can survive the resulting damage.  But the following season, each of the maturing females will lay many eggs, and the EAB population will rapidly increase.  Within a few years, there will be so many EAB larvae feeding on the tree that they’ll completely destroy all the tissue beneath the tree’s bark, and the tree will die.  Here’s what the progression looks like.  This ash tree is on Rt. 611 in Willow Grove.


Tree is infested 6/15/15



Larval galleries


Same tree is dead 5/28/17

The oval areas are the damage from the first few beetle larvae to feed on the tree.  The tree survived those injuries, walled them off, and they began to close, but the following year there were so many new eggs laid that the entire tree is riddled with larval galleries.

The most effective treatment to control emerald ash borer and keep an ash tree alive is the naturally derived insecticide emamectin benzoate, injected into the trunk of the tree.  Because this treatment is invasive – it involves drilling holes in the tree – I have recommended reserving its use until the pest is actually present and infestation is imminent.  That time has now come for all of Montgomery County.  Valuable ash trees that are still healthy can be saved, but the window for taking action will soon close.

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When a tree shows symptoms like this, it is too late to save it (Horsham 5/28/17).

The Cuddy Park Environmental Restoration Project

An exciting opportunity presented itself to me through my membership on the Lower Frederick Township park board. In 2011 the board had been discussing uses for the one of the areas of vacant land that had been acquired using Montgomery County Open space funding.  “Cuddy Park” was an old farm field that had been out of production for about 20 years and grew into a young forest of eastern red cedar and a mixture of invasive shrubs. There was little diversity of species such as in normal hardwood forest regeneration due to the extremely high deer population in the area. Acquired by the township in 1997, the only improvements to date had been construction of a small parking lot and partial completion of a gravel path.

Cuddy Park map

Cuddy Park Plot Plan

Google map Cuddy Park 4-11-2010

Cuddy Park Aerial View 2010

Since the township supervisors had no immediate plans to spend money on any improvements for active use, I suggested turning a portion of it into a wildflower meadow. The idea was well received, however the supervisors were still in no rush to approve spending. Then, near the end of the year, our township manager, Tamara,  showed me an application for grant funding from the Southeast PA Tree Vitalize Watersheds program and asked me if I’d be interested in doing the work necessary to put in a grant proposal.

I jumped at the opportunity, thinking it could be the ticket for funding the meadow! I studied the application and learned that the goal of Tree Vitalize Watersheds is to fund tree planting on stream corridors and the land that impacts them. The grants cover the cost of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants and some of the expenses of planting them, as long as 80% of the cost is for trees. All plant species must be native to Pennsylvania. Having been advised that the program prioritizes planting large numbers of trees, I put together a plan that included many small trees, as well as 2 acres of native grass and wildflower  meadow, all protected by seven foot tall deer exclusion fencing.

Cuddy Park Grant Proposal

Project Bid

Project Description

Project Description for Grant Proposal

Tree Vitalize Watershed Grant Program

Tree Vitalize Watershed Grant Program

The proposal was turned in to the Montgomery County Conservation district –the grant administrator- just in time for the December deadline, and to my delight it was approved! The others on the park board as well as our Lower Frederick Birdtown group were enthusiastic about implementing the project and decided to schedule organizational meetings to figure out how to get the work done. The grant was to cover up to 75% of the costs of the project, with a minimum of 25% to be borne by the grantee. Fortunately, any work done using volunteer or staff time could be applied to the match requirements!  Since we intended to do much of the work using volunteer help, and my donated  professional services could also be applied to the match, the end cost to the township would be minimal. The supervisors liked that part! And with my promise to see the project through to completion, they all agreed to sign  approval for it.

Then it was time to plan a timetable for the work. We scheduled several workdays in the early spring to work with anyone who would volunteer their help for clearing away the invasive shrubs and cedar trees at the proposed meadow site. I already had lots of ideas of what to plant in the meadow. Because I’m a butterfly enthusiast, I wanted to include a lot of butterfly larval host plants in the seed mix.

Since I had never actually attempted a project like this before,  I signed up for a course at Morris Arboretum on native wildflower meadows. Good thing I did! I  found out  that the instructor, Larry Weaner, is considered the guru of meadow design and planting. What a great education,  I had no idea of the number of potential mistakes there were to make! Larry referred me to Brian O’Niell of Weeds Inc. who has a specially modified Truax  no-till seed drill that is capable of planting all the varied types of seed at once. Brian advised me on the best sources of seed, and I designed a customized mixture that I thought  would work well.

We scheduled to have Brian do the planting work in late May, and then we had our work cut out for us to get the site ready.

Supervisor Bob Yoder agreed to put out a call for volunteers from the community and he got an excellent response. So, on a sunny Saturday , a crew of enthusiastic workers dragged brush to my chipper, which ran constantly. They cleaned up as fast as my Jacobs Tree Surgery crew could cut. The majority of the two acre clearing job was knocked out in one day!

After finishing up the clearing job, I sprayed the remaining low vegetation with Aquaneat herbicide. When the weeds were all dead, the township crew mowed it all down. Then, a few weeks later when new weed seedlings began to emerge, I sprayed again. The field was then ready for seeding.

Herbicide application after brush has been cleared

Herbicide application after brush has been cleared

On a Saturday morning in early June, Brian O’Niell came out to the park with his Truax seed drill and planted the wildflowers and grasses.

Planting meadow with Truax seed drill 1

Planting meadow with Truax seed drill

Planting meadow with Truax seed drill  2

Planting meadow with Truax seed drill

Flowers list

List of Meadow Plant Species, Seeds

The next step was to erect the deer fencing before the newly emerging plants were vulnerable. Instead of volunteers, this time the township road crew pitched in and did the job. In addition  to the two acre meadow area, they fenced the adjacent piece of ground where the young trees  would be going.

Plants beginning to emege late in summer

Plants beginning to emerge late in summer

Fence installation

Fence installation

Then it was time to choose the tree and shrub species and get them ordered  in time for fall planting. Again I wanted a diverse mix of native species,  especially those that would  provide food and habitat for wildlife. The majority of the trees- 990 of them- were mail ordered  as bare root seedlings. Another 214  were purchased locally from American Native Nursery in Quakertown, along with 200 perennial native  wildflower plants in gallon containers or plugs. The rest – 74 trees up to about 2 inch caliper and 55 large container grown blueberries- I bought at the auction of a local nursery that was going out of business.

The larger trees

The larger trees

Cuddy trees

List of Trees and Plants

The most labor intensive part of the whole project was getting all 1300-plus plants installed by the December 7 deadline.  In November we held two Saturday workdays  and had the help of a large number of community volunteers, including  an entire Environmental Science class from Ursinus

College, and a local boy scout troop.  In addition, the township crew worked for several days with a work –release crew from Montgomery County prison.  With some last minute work by the Jacobs Tree Surgery  crew we got it done on time. All the grant requirements were fulfilled and the township was reimbursed for the amount of the grant agreement.

Community tree planting effort

Community tree planting effort

Maintenance Plan

Maintenance Plan

POSTSCRIPT  We were very fortunate that  the spring weather of 2013 was rainy. A high percentage of the bareroot plant material survived, and the meadow plants also established  extremely well. The wildflowers provided a remarkable display throughout the whole 2013 growing season, and in turn attracted a great number of butterflies including some uncommon species.

July 19

The meadow in 2013

July 26 (2)  June 3 June 4 June 29 (2) June 29 Sept 11 Milbert's Tortoiseshell! Sept 11 Sept 15 Sept 18 (2) Sept 18

For more photos of Cuddy Park, follow these Facebook links:






Plea for help judging the JTS Photo Contest

I really need help judging the Jacobs Tree Surgery Photo Contest. Somebody’s going to win a nice prize, and I want the winner to be determined in a more democratic way than just relying on the opinionated perspective of me and my Jacobs Tree Surgery associates.   Note in the paragraph below the suggested judging criteria, follow the link to see the entries and vote for your favorite. Thanks in advance. Results will be posted Tuesday June 26.

Topic: Most Ridiculous Mulch Volcano

About the Contest: The idea here is to raise the level of public tree awareness. I picked the volcano topic because it’s the biggest, nastiest tree problem out there. Mulch volcanoes are a bigger threat to the trees of suburbia than any insect, even the dreaded emerald ash borer! All are welcome to enter, whether you are an ordinary citizen with just the slightest interest in trees, or a green industry professional. You don’t need to be a skilled photographer either. We’re going to judge these photos on lots of different criteria. Photographic composition might be one of them. “Artiness.” But also anything that makes the photo interesting. Maybe the perps caught in the act. Maybe the root injuries or girdling roots depicted. Maybe something about the location, that it’s somewhere that you’d think they’d know better. Maybe just the sheer outrageousness of the volcanic mass. Some little detail that makes it humorous. Be creative… If you are a serious gardener or plant person, you know about the mulch volcano problem. If you don’t know, Google it. And marvel at the number of hits! And then read the articles I’ve posted on my website.
To see the entries I received, and submit your vote, click here:https://jacobstreesurgery.wordpress.com/photo-contest/
The deadline to vote is Tuesday June 26, 2012.

Snow damaged trees

The snow is melting and the tree branches are springing back up. Tomorrow we’ll mostly be cleaning up the debris from the broken trees. After that , we can inspect the damaged trees and make the right pruning cuts where branches are broken.

I’ll be able to fix a lot of the bent arbs etc by bending them and reducing co-dominants. And I can talk to you about phasing in a new tree to replace that beat-up Bradford pear.

More stuff on how to deal with snow damaged trees at Snow Damaged Trees

European Hornets (Followup)

Renee wanted me to help her get rid of the hornets. So I had to decide how to go about it. The most effective way to control European hornets would be to destroy their nest and colony. But we have no idea where the nest is – probably not even on her property. If we went to spray the hornets we see on the trees with an ordinary contact insecticide we’d just kill those individuals present at the time.

So I opted to coat the bark of the trees with a material called dinotefuran. It’s a neonicotinoid, like Merit, with which you may be familiar. But it’s much more soluble, so when applied to the bark of a tree it can be absorbed, and then conducted through the tree’s phloem. And the phloem of the birch branches is where these hornets are feeding.

I made a visit to Renee’s today to check the results. There were no longer any hornets on the tree. But there were MANY on the ground, all either dead or dying.

European hornets

European hornet

So I think we made a good choice. Though we did have to intervene with a pesticide, the one we used – dinotefuran – is unlikely to cause harm other than to the target pest. It is extremely low in toxicity to humans. And with the trunk application method, the material all goes where we want it – in the tree. The only exposure is to whatever eats the tree. And, being so highly soluble, it dies not last very long (like Merit does). So it won’t be affecting beneficial insects like bees next year, after its job is done.

Post Script: I found a really good article since I had this experience. It’s by Frank Santamair, in the Journal of Arboriculture from 1984.

Diagnosis: Probably herbicide injury (second time this week) This time: IMPRELIS!

Mrs. B from Royersford called yesterday concerned about her douglas fir trees. She told me one was turning brown at the top, and also the white spruces didn’t look so good. She reminded me that I had sprayed them to control a disease problem a few years ago and was wondering if maybe they had the same problem again or maybe bagworms or something. As soon as I saw them I knew that it was neither of those problems. I explained to her that similar symptoms on different species most likely indicated an abiotic problem, not a disease or a pest, which are usually host- specific. The way the young growth of the doug firs was wilted and killed made me think of herbicide poisoning. In fact, it looked exactly like the symptoms of poisoning from Imprelis, Dupont’s new turf weedkiller.

Douglas fir - Imprelis injury

Douglas fir – Imprelis injury

White spruce - Imprelis injury

White spruce – Imprelis injury

Douglas fir - Imprelis injury

Douglas fir – Imprelis injury


Douglas fir - Imprelis injury

Douglas fir – Imprelis injury

The story of Imprelis is a really interesting one, and it is soon going to be big news. Heres the condensed version. Last year Dupont introduced this completely new product with great expectations for its potential. It is extremely low in toxicity to humans and at the same time very effective at controlling broadleaf weeds. So it was immediately popular. But this spring, all over the country cases of dying evergreen trees were being reported, mostly white pines and Norway spruce. And it wasn’t long before it became evident that there was a connection between these injured trees and Imprelis herbicide . The thing that these mysterious cases all had in common was the turf around them had been treated with Imprelis. Dupont initially did not acknowledge responsibility, but just last week they pulled Imprelis from the market. I’ll try to get some of the news articles and Dupont’s statements up here soon.

Anyway back to Mrs. B’s trees. I told her my suspicion. She said “but I have a lawn company that just uses organic treatments.” I responded; “maybe so, but there are NO weeds in your lawn. There is no organic weed control that is truly that effective.” I suggested she call the lawn company and ask them what chemicals had been applied. And told her to google “Imprelis.”

Then I left to go visit another client. Before I even got to Limerick, Mrs. B called me to tell me what happened. She had called the lawn company as soon as I left, and they were completely upfront with her. They acknowledged that they had applied Imprelis on June 13. And they now know there is a big problem., and want her continued feedback.

Do you note the irony here? A person thinks they’re being environmentally responsible by choosing the supposedly “organic” option, and this is what happens to them. Drag.

Diagnosis: Probably herbicide injury

On Monday I checked on an ash tree for a client in East Greenville.  She said the leaves appeared to be wilting.

The ash tree

The ash tree

Well, they didn’t really look wilted to me, but they were distorted and curled.

The curled ash leaves

The curled ash leaves

The curled ash leavesThe curled ash leaves
I unrolled some of them to check for pests; none were there.  No aphids, no silk from any caterpillars.  There was an outdoor fireplace nearby.  But if that were the cause, I would expect the symptoms to be the worst closest to where the fire would have been.






Next to the ash is a young saucer magnolia.  Last year I treated it for a bad magnolia scale infestation; so while I was there, I examined it.  The scale was gone, but it too had a lot of distorted leaves.  And, like the ash, no pests, no aphids.

The magnolia

The magnolia

When trees of different species have the same symptoms, it’s probably abiotic – not a disease or a pest.  Pests and diseases are usually host-specific.
Near the ash and magnolia is a Kousa dogwood.  Same thing – distorted leaves.  And the type of distortion that is generally seen with certain herbicide poisoning.  That is, elongated parallel veins and interveinal chlerosis.

Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood leaves

Kousa dogwood leaves

There is another ash a few hundred feet away also at the rear of the backyard.  It has the same symptoms, only even more pronounced.

The other ash

The other ash

Well, all the symptoms are consistent with the effect of herbicides, but the client’s lawn is definitely not weed free.  If that is the cause, the likely reason is spray drift from the hay field adjacent to the yard.  The field looks very clean, hardly any weeds.

The hay field

The hay field

So that is my theory – all the trees were damaged by herbicide drift from the application to the hay field.  And that is what I told the client.  And she confirmed that the field was recently sprayed.  She will ask the farmer to be more careful in the future.

Unfairly maligned part II

The Northern catalpa.  Some people HATE this tree. It has big leaves and seeds to rake up.  I don’t see the problem though.  The seed pods are light and dry when they fall and disappear when the lawnmower goes over them.
Mr. Dirr says: “Limited value in the residential landscape because of coarsness; has a place in difficult areas but the use of this and the following species (he names the other catalpas) should be tempered.”
Mine is right in front of my house and provides wonderful shade.  And when it blooms in late spring, it is a sight to behold!