When it comes to tree diagnosis, there are a wide variety of issues and diseases that can keep your tree from thriving; insects, fungal diseases, environmental factors, and issues from improper care, just to name a few. We teamed up with our Certified Arborist and Heidrich’s Colorado Tree Farm Nursery to create this list of common issues in Colorado Springs.
By gathering the proper information and taking a closer look at the tree and other environmental factors, you can begin to uncover the mystery of your suffering arbor.
Severe Fall Weather
In an often harsh environment like Colorado Springs, it is important to consider recent weather. In November of 2013, we experienced a 77-degree temperature swing that was very tough on plants and trees, even years later. This happened again in both November of 2014 and November of 2016 when the temperature dropped more than 70 degrees over a 36 hour period of time.
Normally, plants have time to harden off before winter, but this huge drop in temperature damages the plants. The water within the tree’s vessels freezes which can result in dieback from the tissue injury.
The following trees are typically severely damaged by such temperature drops:
- Peach trees
- Plum trees
- Apricot trees
- Cherry trees
- Chokecherry trees
- Aus trees
Severe Spring Weather
Freezes in spring can also do some damage to plants. Levi, co-owner of Heidrich’s says, “Freeze damage will cause new leaves and flowers to turn black and crispy after a late spring frost. Be patient as most of these are not killing freezes. Given time, these plants will bounce back in a few weeks.”
28 degrees is the temperature when leaves begin to turn black. Foliage will fall off and take a little bit of time to rebud. This delays the bloom but is typically less devastating than severe fall freezes.
Under watering is a common issue in Colorado with our limited rainfall and dry season. Under waring during droughts can result in dying trees from drought stress. During this time, it is especially important to monitor your trees to ensure they are getting enough water. Drought stress can cause leaf scorch, among other ailments. Leaf scorch presents itself as veins in the leaf that remain green while the remainder yellows and becomes brittle. Foliage thining and wilting leaves can also be signs of under watering.
Over watering remains the number one cause of death in plants. Levi Heidrich recommends “digging down to see what the soil feels like as the symptoms for overwatering and under-watering are very similar on top. The soil must be saturated and then allowed to dry. Most trees and shrubs will adapt but lots suffer and decline as they stay too wet.”
Recent Trauma to Area
Trees in or near the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon burn areas are more susceptible to disease and struggle because of the recent trauma. If you live in either area be sure to keep a very close eye on your trees.
Salts used to control ice during the winter can affect all vegetation. This can cause dieback and yellowing of needles and leaves. Heidrich’s witnessed the destruction of salt first hand when splashback from salt on the highway during a storm killed a load of pine trees within two weeks’ time. At Timberline we have begun the use of “New Wave Salt Brine” which allows us to use significantly less salt to keep ice at bay.
Unless there are insects clearly visible, the best starting point is to ensure that your tree is receiving the right amount of water and conduct a soil test. It is important to note that 80% of issues in the landscape are caused by soil. For more info on healthy soil check out our blog post here.
Common Insects and Fungi in Colorado Springs
This contagious bacterial disease primarily targets apple and pear trees. Flowers, twigs, and leaves shrivel and take on a burnt appearance, hence the name. Pruning and spraying the trees can help as long as the infection has not spread to the roots. Often freeze damage is mistaken for fire blight, which is why considering recent weather is so important.
Lilac Ash Borer
Larvae of these insects cause damage in ash, privet, and lilacs by boring tunnels under the bark. Death of the tree may result if left untreated.
Redheaded ash borers (related to the lilac ash borer) are common in the eastern part of Colorado Springs, so be on the lookout for these damaging pests. Keep in mind that younger trees are more affected especially in poorly irrigated areas.
White Pine Weevil
This little insect is cosmetic and won’t kill the tree, but may cause 6-18″ of dieback on the top of your spruce. It’s a tougher insect to treat. If you can reach the dead wood cut it out, if not, let mother nature do her thing. The tree will grow around the damage. If it happens a few years in a row, the tree may lose some of its pyramidal habits, but it will correct itself over time. Many folks, professionals too, mistake it for the spruce ips beetle.
Emerald Ash Borer
While we hear a lot about the emerald ash borer in Colorado, we have not yet seen them in Colorado Springs. Through quarantine efforts and treatment, the EAB has thus far been successfully kept to the area surrounding Boulder.
These beetles bore under the bark of pines and spruces. Residents in recent burn areas should be on the lookout because this beetle is especially attracted to stressed trees. An early spring treatment with an insecticide can help control populations.
Typical questions asked by an Arborist
To begin the diagnosis of your tree here are some of the questions you should be prepared to answer.
- What type of tree is it?
- Have you used a pesticide or any weed killer?
- Many weed killers are broadleaf killers meaning they do not harm your grass but your trees and shrubs are broadleaf.
- Changes in the plant’s growth or appearance.
- Signs- the presence of any direct evidence or organism.
- Are insects present?
- Mushrooms, puffballs or other fungi structures?
- Bacterial discharge?
Heidrich’s Colorado Tree Farm and Timberline Landscaping both highly recommend purchasing from a reputable nursery and purchasing local when possible. “Shipping trees and plants from humid and warm climates sounds attractive as they are cheaper and grow faster there, but when they must adapt to the 5-10% humidity in Colorado Springs it can be a big shock no matter how much water you give them,” says Heidrich. Avoid purchasing trees from roadside vendors. Hand-dug trees never perform as well as those that are spade dug and these trees are not inspected by the Department of Agriculture and can easily spread disease and insects.
Selecting trees that grow well in our area and in your specific location is important. Each zip code and even each yard can have different microclimates. A reputable nursery, arborist, or landscape designer can provide a wealth of insight when making your selections.
With the vast majority of infestations and issues, time is of the essence. If not properly treated, many of the common issues discussed here may lead to death of the tree and can spread quickly. Do you have a tree you are concerned about? Contact us and we will have our Certified Arborist come and take a look.