If you’ve walked through the forests in Pocahontas County this summer, you probably noticed an unusually large number of standing dead trees, or recently fallen trees. Perhaps you have even heard a loud cracking sound followed by the sound of a toppling tree crashing to the ground. I recently talked with WVU Extension Agent Greg Hamons about this.
I have noticed an unusually large number of dead and falling trees in our forests here, is there something unusual going on this year?
“We have several invasive species that have caused a lot of that lately,” Hamons said “The key ones that a lot of folks see are dead white ash trees, caused by the Emerald Ash Borer. A lot of those trees are dead now and can cause some dangerous situations in the forest, either felling those trees to get rid of them, or just being out there around them with wind and storms blowing the tops out.
“Beech Bark Disease is affecting the American Beech tree. Beech Bark Disease is somewhat widespread now and can cause some of those trees to die, as well, which causes the same situation as with the ash. So you see trees that are dead and dying, dead tops present a dangerous situation.”
“Those are two that are really common that we are seeing right now. Dutch Elm Disease is another one. Elm trees will typically eventually get that, and it will cause those to die. Again you end up with the same situations, dead tops, trees falling down and creating dangerous situations in the woods.”
I notice a lot of birch trees seem to be dying where I live.
“I get reports of different trees dying in different areas of the county all the time, but the birch tree is not something that I’ve seen a lot. Sometimes some cultivated trees – and birch trees are sometimes popular for that – will see some root rot and that type of condition where they get too wet and cause some damping off the roots and some of those trees will die, but those are typically landscape situations. I haven’t noticed that widespread in the forest.”
If people happen to have some of those cultivated birch trees in their landscaping, and they see it starting to deteriorate, is there anything that can be done about that?
“I always encourage folks for both plants and trees, landscape plants, crops, everything in general, one of the first thing everybody hears me say is ‘soil test.’ WVU provides soil tests as a free service, so you can just Google search WVU Soil Test Lab, or come into our office and we will give you a sample form. It doesn’t cost you anything but the postage to mail in the sample. The test will give you an idea where your PH stands – that’s measuring the acidity of your soil and your nutrient levels, as well. Generally, plant diseases generate from poor soil conditions, which can include being too wet. But a lot of times it’s nutrient deficiency of PH not being where it needs to be. So ‘soil test…soil test…soil test,’ is what I always say for crops, plants, trees. We will start there and see what we can figure out.”
Do you have any idea what the fall colors will be like this year, and how soon they will come out and peak?
“I wish I knew. It seems like in years when we have a lot of moisture, the leaves hang on a little bit longer before we start to see peak colors.
In dry years, it seems to happen earlier because the trees are stressed. Its’s just a defense mechanism. They go into dormancy earlier it seems like. So, I would say it will be later than usual just because of all the moisture we’ve had recently.”
Is there any other information you’d like to share?
“We’ve had a lot of questions this year about apples, insects, all kinds of stuff, so if folks have questions about agriculture or horticulture – whether that be garden plants or trees or landscape plants, feel free to stop by and see us in the basement of the courthouse, or call us at 304-799-4852, and we’ll see if we can help you.”
– – –
Editor’s note: There have been several reports of young and old growth apple trees dying this summer.
If any of your apple trees have died, please contact the WVU Extension office at 304-799-4852, so they can look into the matter.
Leave a Reply