You Sure Have a Lot of Gall

May 13, 2020 · 1 minute read
You Sure Have a Lot of Gall

Some of us are spending a little — or maybe a lot — more time in our yards as we are stuck at home these days. If you’re paying more attention to your trees, you may be alarmed to find strange growths on the stems and leaves. Sometimes those growths are what’s called “galls.”

It can be hard to know what is an actual health problem for your tree and what is “just one of those things.” Fortunately, galls almost always fall into the “just one of those things” category. Galls can look alarming. They definitely look abnormal. The good news is their impact tends to be pretty minimal. Think of them as you would benign tumors or warts in animals.

An “oak apple” or oak gall.

Many galls are caused by insects. Some insects can play with plant chemistry, add a little growth hormone and force the plant to grow a home for their young.  The insect inserts its eggs, and the plant will grow shelter and food for their young as they grow. It can be difficult to treat to prevent galls, and the vast majority of the time you really don’t need to. Once you get past the “ick factor,” they can be pretty cool.

Galls are rarely something to be concerned about. The best advice I can give for galls is to keep an eye out for them, take a photo, and share it with us. We would love to see what you can find for us. Click here to shoot us an email!

The wool sower gall is found in white oaks and is caused by a tiny, non-problematic wasp.

Don’t Fear Leaves of Three

April 8, 2020 · 1 minute read
Don’t Fear Leaves of Three

Spring is a great time to get in your yard to do some work, or out in the woods to explore. Unfortunately, spring projects and adventures can bring you into contact with poison ivy.

Poison ivy when it first leafs out in spring.

If you happen to find yourself in a patch of poison ivy, don’t panic. You can get through it itch-free. Urushiol is the poison ivy sap that will cause the itch. It’s sticky and oily like axle grease. If you can thoroughly wash axle grease off your skin, you can do the same with poison ivy.

If you can clean grease off your skin, you can scrub poison ivy sap, too.

Washing with soap and water but no scrubbing will leave oils behind. If you leave a little behind, you can still expect an itchy rash.

Use a washcloth, paper towels, or old rags and scrub with plenty of soap and water. Any soap will work on poison ivy sap. You just need to be thorough, and scrub with paper towels or a cloth. 

Just soap and water is not enough to get the urushiol off your skin.

It can be tricky removing poison ivy sap, because you can’t see or feel the oil. If you get into poison ivy, just pretend that you have a lot of axle grease on your skin that you need to wash off.  Take a little extra time and overdo it if you have to. 

Now get outside and enjoy spring with a lot less itching!

Release a Tree: The War Against English Ivy

March 11, 2020 · 1 minute read
Release a Tree: The War Against English Ivy

Winter is almost over, but before it goes away, you should take the opportunity to release a tree from English Ivy. It’s best done in the winter when stinging insects and spiders are dormant and poison ivy doesn’t have leaves.

English ivy is an invasive species that can add a lot of weight, windload and competition to a tree. Ivy covers the trunk and branches and can hide potential problems in the tree.

Now you know what English ivy looks like.

Don’t try to remove the vines.  Just cut out a section.  If the vines are completely severed, they can usually be pulled out of the tree later after dying and drying out.

Watch out for poison ivy.  Look for vines that have horizontal branches sticking out, or extra hairy vines. Poison ivy vines can be hidden amongst the English ivy vines. Poison ivy vines still have sap in the winter and give you an unpleasant surprise.

English ivy can envelop a tree, causing myriad problems.

There can be great satisfaction in cutting vines, then watching the English ivy decline in the spring while watching a tree flourish.

Know when to call a professional.  It can be challenging to cut larger or extremely dense vines without damaging the tree. If you have a big ivy project, consider getting some help. Your trees will thank you.

Root Flair: Where Trees Meet the Earth

February 25, 2020 · 1 minute read
Root Flair: Where Trees Meet the Earth

When an arborist wants to check the health and stability of a tree, one of the first things they may look for is a good root flair. This feature where the tree and earth meet should flair out as the trunk meets the ground. 

Healthy, exposed root flair.

Problems can arise when this feature is not seen.  If you see the trunk of the tree enter the ground like a fence post, this can be problematic.  Buried root flairs can promote decay in the root flair and the roots, which can lead to the tree falling. 

Buried root collar.

Buried root flairs can also lead to roots growing around the trunk, which means the tree can eventually choke itself.

The mulch volcano buries the root flair and invites problems for the tree.

If you don’t see a root flair, we may be able to help.  We can use an air excavation technique that will have minimal impact to the tree to re-establish a root flair.  We can prune any roots that have a potential to harm the tree as it grows. 

Truetimber arborist Peter Girardi excavates a buried root collar.

Some trees do have more pronounced root flairs than others.  If you are concerned about the root flair on your tree, feel free to give us a call for a free arborist’s visit.