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Landscape Message: Apr 24, 2015

Apr 24, 2015

Happy Arbor Day!

UMass Extension's Landscape Message is an educational newsletter intended to inform and guide Green Industry professionals in the management of our collective landscape. Scouts compile and record environmental and phenological data for locations throughout Massachusetts to aid in the monitoring of plant and pest development, the planning of management strategies, and the creation of site-specific records for future reference.  Detailed reports from Extension specialists on growing conditions, pest activity, and cultural practices for the management of woody ornamentals, trees, and turf are regular features. UMass Extension has updated the following issue to provide timely management information and the latest regional news and environmental data.

The Landscape Message will be updated weekly April through June. The next message will be available on May 1. To receive immediate notification when the next Landscape Message update is posted, be sure to join our e-mail list.

Scouting Information by Region

Regional Notes

Cape Cod Region (Barnstable)

General Conditions: The spring weather for this reporting period was typical for this time of year. The 17th and 18th were overcast, cool, with occasional sprinkles, followed by a bright, sunny Sunday the 19th. Patriot’s Day was cool and overcast, with minor showers arriving late in the day into the evening, without a great deal of accumulation. The rest of the reporting period has been bright, sunny, and in the upper 50s to low 60s F in some spots. A return to cooler weather is in the forecast. Lawns are greening up nicely and mowing season will be starting soon. ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel bloom is almost over but Corneliancherry dogwood has replaced it for bright yellow in the landscape. Forsythia is just beginning to open, along with Star Magnolia. In the perennial garden, Lungwort, Pulmonaria spp., is just coming into bloom. Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is blooming in the woodland garden.  Pests/Problems: While hatching winter moth caterpillars have not been personally observed, the Cape is well within the range of GDD for hatch to begin and continue over the next week or so. Hatching caterpillars are tiny, about the size of an eyelash, and might be monitored for by examining buds from maple, crabapple, apple, or blueberry, carefully under a magnifying glass. The caterpillars would be in buds at this time as most foliage has yet to emerge. Monitor for adult white pine weevils on warm, sunny days. Adults emerge from the needle duff and climb to the terminal shoots to begin laying their eggs at this time. Pollinators are out and about looking for pollen and nectar sources. Adult deer ticks are active. As has been reported in the Cape Cod Times recently, these ticks carry more than just Lyme disease. Of the five cases of the new Powassan virus in the state, two have been reported to be from Cape Cod. For more information on this new disease, go to Local deer ticks also carry another new bacterial disease, Borrellia miyamotoi, which is related to Lyme. This makes it all the more important to be proactive when you are out working in brushy or grassy areas. Use a repellant containing DEET on your shoes, socks, and pant legs, or use one of the products containing permethrin labeled for use on clothing.

Southeast Region (Hanson)

General Conditions: Hanson received 1.0 inch of rain over the past week and soils are moist. Slow, but sure, plant development continues as warmer weather came in over the past week. We are about a week behind last year, which was also late, but it is slowly and finally, beginning to look like spring. Snow has finally melted in the shady areas! The following plants are beginning bloom: Norway maple, Magnolia kobus var. loebneri ‘Leonard Messel (Magnolia 'Leonard Messel'), Pieris floribunda and Trillium. The following plants are in full bloom: Magnolia ’Wada’s Memory’, Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia), Cornus mas (Corneliancherry Dogwood), Cornus officinalis, Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsuratree), Forsythia sp., Corylopsis pauciflora, Corylopsis spicata, red maple, pussy willow, Abeliophyllum distichum (White Forsythia), Pieris japonica, Pieris 'Brouwer's Beauty', Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle), Daphne mezeurem (February Daphne), Rhododendron mucronulatum (Korean Rhododendron), Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), heaths and heathers, Pachysandra terminalis, Helleborus foetidus, Helleborus x hybridus, Helleborus niger, Corydalis solida, Omphalodes verna, Petasites japonicus (Japanese butterbur), daffodils, hyacinths, Chionodoxa luciliae, Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), Scilla sibirica, Anemone blanda, Primrose, Hepatica and Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches). Depending on the location, Magnolia soulangiana (Saucer Magnolia) is in full bloom or beginning bloom. Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple), Hamamelis x intermedia (Witchhazel hybrids), Hamamelis mollis, snowdrops, Adonis sp. and Iris reticulata have ended bloom. Landscape cleanups continue and lawns are beginning to green up.  Pests/Problems: Not much happening outside of winter moth. Winter moth caterpillar eggs started to hatch in Hanson, MA, on April 19th (GDD 21, base 50). The eggs are still hatching but hatching should be complete this week. Look for the tiny blackish caterpillars in expanding buds of susceptible plants (maple, oak, birch, blueberry, cherry, apple, crabapple, etc) and manage early to avoid damage. Tiny winter moth caterpillars were found in expanding apple tree flower buds (green tip). If winter moth caterpillars are not managed early in apple tree and blueberry flower buds, crops are usually significantly reduced. Monitor for: spruce spider mites on spruce, fir, Arborvitae, etc.; European pine sawfly on Mugo and other pines; the bright red lily leaf beetles on true lilies. Continue to check Hemlocks for Hemlock woolly adelgid to determine if management treatments are needed. Wasps, carpenter bees, bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees and deer ticks continue to be active. With regard to deer ticks, throughout the season, continue to take precautions and be vigilant especially when doing cleanups and raking leaves. Use repellents, conduct tick checks frequently, shower or bathe after yard work and wash and dry clothes or place clothes in the dryer to desiccate and kill any ticks. Deer continue to feed heavily on rhododendrons, tulips and other favorite landscape plants. Bittercress is in full bloom.

North Shore Region (Beverly)

General Conditions: Finally it feels and looks like spring. Many early spring flowering bulbs are in full boom, grass is greening up and other landscape plants are coming into bloom. Spring flowering herbaceous plants in full bloom include: Daffodils (Narcissus spp.), Bloodroot (Sanguianaria canadensis), Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), Crocus (Crocus spp.), Puschkinia (Puschkinia libanotica), Siberian Squill (Scilla Siberica) and Christmas Rose Hellebores (Helleborous x hybridus). Woody plants in full bloom include: Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), Fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri), Chinese Witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas), Anise Magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia), Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Winter hazel (Corylopsis winterthur) and Daphne (Daphne spp.). American Liberty Elm (Ulmus americana "libertas") and Leatherwood (Dirca palustris) are beginning to flower. Approximately 1.32 inches of rainfall was received at Long Hill during this reporting period with most of the rain coming down on Monday and Tuesday morning (1.32 inches). Wind speeds were also high on Monday (April 20th) with average speed reaching 11.4 miles per hour. The temperatures were in the 50s with overcast skies most of the days in this reporting period.  Pests/Problems: Browning of last year's needles on Douglas fir has been seen in the area. Apply a registered fungicide when new shoots reach about 1 ½ inches long. Rodent damage was observed on stems of Forthergilla (Forthergilla spp.) and on branches of Buckeye (Aesculus glabra). Winter burn on azaleas, rhododendrons, and boxwoodsare visible in most landscapes in the area, as well as twig die back on cedars and arborvitae. Winter moth eggs will be hatching soon. Apply a registered insecticide before the young larvae move into the buds. Ticks are becoming more and more active so be careful and check yourself for ticks after working outdoors. Apply a repellent before going out into the landscape.

East Region (Boston)

General Conditions: We experienced warmer more seasonable temperatures over the previous seven days adding 21.5 GGDs for a total of 41.5 GDDs. We received minimal precipitation on two occasions and over an inch from the evening of the 20th through the morning of the 21st as a thunderstorm rumbled in the early morning. We experienced highs in the 60’s except over the 20th/21st when temperatures dropped into the 50’s; consistent winds on the 20th combined with low temperatures made it feel unusually cold. The combination of warm weather and additional rain has drastically changed the appearance of the landscape. Maintained turf has completely greened up. Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry), Cornus officinalis (Japanese cornel dogwood), Corylopsis sp. (winterhazel), Dirca palustris (leatherwood), Lindera sp. (spicebush) and Forsythia sp. (forsythia) are adding bursts of yellow. Many Magnolias including M. kobus (Kobus magnolia), M. salicifolia (willow leaved magnolia), M. x soulangiana (saucer magnolia), M. stellata (star magnolia) and their many hybrids are adding white and shades of pink and pale purple. Early ephemerals Anemone nemorosa (wood anemone), Corydalis solida (spring corydalis) and Jeffersonia (twinleaf) are flowering. The unusual very early evergreen Rhododendron praevernum is in full bloom.  Pests/Problems: Annual weed seeds continue to germinate. Acer seedlings can be found in mulched beds, bare soil and unmanaged turf. Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) has formed masses of green carpets and is in full bloom with yellow flowers in unmanaged moist areas. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioca) are flourishing. Winter moth has hatched and has begun feeding inside buds. White pine weevil adults are active and have begun feeding on pine shoots.

Metro West (Acton)

General Conditions: Despite the random snow piles still in the landscape, it finally looks and feels like spring! The grass is greening up; lawn crews are out in full force completing spring clean ups; Arbor Day is less than a week away, on the 24th and soils are moist and can be worked. Woody plants seen in bloom this past week are Acer rubrum (Red Maple), Betula spp. (Birch), Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsuratree), Corylus spp. (Filbert), Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood), C. officinalis (Japanese Cornelian Cherry Dogwood), Forsythia spp. (Forsythia), Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' and H. 'Arnold Promise' (Witchhazel), Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill', Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia), Lindera obtusiloba (Japanese spicebush), Pieris japonica (Japanese Pieris), Contributing even more color and interest to the landscape are some flowering herbaceous plants and spring ephemerals including: Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow), Crocus spp. (Crocus), Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), Helleborous x hybridus (Christmas Rose), Hyacinthus spp. (Hyacinth), Narcissus spp. (Daffodil), Omphalodes verna (Blue-eyed Mary), Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny Spurge), Petasites japonicus (Japanese Butterbur), Pulmonaria longifolia (Lungwort), Puschkinia libanotica (Striped Squill), Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill), Symplocarpus foetidus (Skunk Cabbage) and Viola spp. (Violet).  Pests/Problems: Winter burn on evergreens is apparent especially on Buxus sp. (Boxwood), Ilex sp. (Holly) and conifers. Ticks are active so continue to monitor yourself and others for these parasites. Wear light color clothes to make the job easier on you. Seen flourishing everywhere are Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard) and Ranunculus ficaria (Fig Buttercup).

Central Region (Boylston)

General Conditions: The march into spring continues as gardens and landscapes continue to color up. Spring blooming trees and shrubs are now adding to the scene - Forsythia, Abeliophyllum distichum, Lonicera x purpusii, Corylopsis pauciflora, Corylopsis spicata, Daphne mezureum, Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’, Acer rubrum, Ulmus americana, Cornus mas and C. officinalis, Pieris floribunda, P. ‘Brouwers Beauty’ are in full bloom. Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’, R. dauricum, Magnolia stellata and Prunus are beginning to show color. The buds of Amelanchier, Magnolia x soulangeana, and Malus are swelling and showing great promise. On the ground plane Narcissus, Sanguinaria, Corydalis, Scilla, Chionodoxa, Helleborus x hybridus, Vinca minor, Galanthus, and Puschkinia are blooming prolifically. Recent rains have provided adequate moisture, though the winds continue to dry out leaf litter making the fire hazard high.  Pests/Problems: We continue to see more and more winter damage to evergreens. Ticks and deer continue to be problematic.

Pioneer Valley Region (Amherst)

General Conditions: Spring continued its fast forward trajectory throughout the Pioneer Valley. During the beginning of this past reporting period, high temperatures hovered steadily in the upper 60s and even reached the upper 70s on Saturday, 4/18. Fire danger remained high during this time with gusty winds, low humidity and an abundance of bone-dry organic matter. A maximum wind gust of 39 mph was recorded at Barnes Airport in Westfield on 4/18. But, considerable precipitation over the Patriots Day holiday has helped to significantly reduce the fire risk. First, light precipitation developed on Friday, 4/17 but accumulations were mostly around 0.1” or less. Then on Monday, 4/21 heavy rainfall occurred throughout the valley and lasted into Tuesday, 4/22 with up to 1.5” of accumulation in some areas. During the (very) early hours of 4/22 a large thunderstorm barreled northeast through the region packing high winds and window-rattling rumbles of thunder. The rain caused the Connecticut River to swell to a height just below ‘action stage’ according to the NWS river forecast center, with minor flooding in spots that typically see spring flooding (Aqua Vitae Road in Hadley, for example). The latest rainfall was part of a large, low-pressure system that is stalling in the region, ushering in a pattern of rain showers and cooler temperatures. The long-term forecast calls for highs in the low 50s with scattered rain and thunderstorms. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center (, the first half of April was significantly drier than average in the valley, especially in Franklin County. Additionally, the valley was cooler than average during this timeframe, with eastern sections of Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties experiencing a 2-4º F departure from normal temperatures. Therefore, the recent precipitation was welcome for trees and shrubs preparing for leaf-out and lawn grass has greened up considerably. Soil temperatures remain cool in the upper 40s and have even dropped a degree or two since the past reporting period, most likely due to the heavy rain.  Pests/Problems: Apple and crabapple varieties are leafing out, thus beginning the treatment window for diseases like apple scab, cedar-apple rust and frogeye leaf spot. Cedar-apple rust has been particularly severe in recent years on dwarf apple varieties. Winter injury is more obvious now on rhododendron and andromeda. In some cases, it’s clear where snowpack covered and protected shoots and buds while upper canopy branches that were exposed are burned and killed. Continue to monitor young, open-grown eastern white pine and Norway spruce for the white pine weevil. Adults overwinter in organic matter at the base of trees and crawl or fly to the terminal leader on susceptible trees. They are especially active on warm, sunny days. Feeding on the terminal shoot then ensues, followed by egg-laying. Females typically lay up to 100 eggs in feeding cavities. Several other pine species are also attacked, such as Scots pine, Japanese red pine and limber pine.

Berkshire Region (Great Barrington)

General Conditions: After a week of mostly mild and sunny weather, the forecast ahead looks much less promising with colder than normal temperatures and the prospect of several frosty mornings. Nevertheless, this past week was just what was needed to spur growth, though plant development lags anywhere from 10-15 days behind normal. Some plants coming into bloom during the past week include Pulmonaria saccharata, common hyacinth, grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides), Vinca minor, and Daphne mezerium. Flower buds on Pieris floribunda are just beginning to open. Some of the hardy cultivars of Forsythia x intermedia are in full bloom while older cultivars are either very sparsely flowered or are showing no bloom at all. It is still mud season in many locales, yet a few farmers have begun to plow fields. In some cases, the soil was still quite moist and clumping of soil was noticeable. Even before the rains of April 20 and 21, standing water and soggy, saturated soils were not uncommon; this despite little rain during most of the month. Poor drainage is a likely cause, though the very deep frost levels (many reports of frost to depth of 7 feet) this winter may be a factor. High wind events have characterized these first four months of the year and the past week was no exception. Strong, gusty winds brought down more tree limbs, many quite large. Especially hard hit were trees with dead or decaying branches and trunks, and trees with narrow crotches. Soil moisture levels remain high. Honey bees seem to be abundant and can be seen visiting the flowers of crocus and pansies.  Pests/Problems: Pest development continues to be slow. Other than animal issues, i.e. browsing by rodents, rabbits, and deer, no plant pest activity has been observed, except for the larvae of Boxwood Leafminer. Tearing open the blisters on leaves of boxwood will expose the yellow larvae which are feeding between the leaf surfaces. Pruning infested leaves now will provide some control. Be sure to collect and destroy or dispose of the clippings. Carpenter bees and carpenter ants are active as are many winter house invaders. Blacklegged ticks continue to find human hosts but are also attaching themselves to pets which wander about outdoors. Body checks of humans and pets should be a daily routine for anyone or any pet spending time outdoors. (Don’t ask how pets are supposed to do body checks.) Symptoms of winter injury to pachysandra beds are a common sight. Injured plants are susceptible to Pachysandra blight (Volutella pachysandrae). Damaged plants should be removed from these beds. As the weather warms, more winter injury, especially desiccation, is becoming visible. Among the plants most commonly affected are dwarf Alberta spruce, hollies, rhododendrons, and boxwoods.

Environmental Data

The following growing-degree-day (GDD) and precipitation data was collected for an approximately one week period, April 16 through April 22. Soil temperature and phenological indicators were observed on or about April 22. Total accumulated GDDs represent the heating units above a 50° F baseline temperature collected via our instruments for the 2015 calendar year. This information is intended for use as a guide for monitoring the developmental stages of pests in your location and planning management strategies accordingly.


(1-Week Gain)

(Total 2015 Accumulation)

Soil Temp
(°F at 4" depth)

(1-Week Gain in inches)

Cape Cod










North Shore










Metro West










Pioneer Valley















n/a = information not available


Phenological indicators are a visual tool for correlating plant development with pest development. The following are indicator plants and the stages of bloom observed for this period:

Indicator Plants - Stages of Flowering (BEGIN, BEGIN/FULL, FULL, FULL/END, END)
Magnolia soulangiana (Saucer Magnolia) * begin/full begin begin begin * begin *
Forsythia x intermedia (Border Forsythia) begin full full full begin begin begin begin
Rhododendron mucronulatum (Korean Rhododendron) begin full * begin/full * * begin *
Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) begin full begin/full begin/full begin/ full begin begin/full *
Pieris japonica (Japanese Pieris) begin/ full full full full full full full begin
Cornus mas (Corneliancherry Dogwood) full full full full * full begin/full begin/ full
Acer rubrum (Red Maple) full full full full full full full full
* = no activity to report/information not available
  • CAPE COD REGION - Roberta Clark, UMass Extension Horticulturist for Barnstable County - Retired, reporting from Barnstable.
  • SOUTHEAST REGION - Deborah Swanson, UMass Extension Horticulturist for Plymouth County - Retired, reporting from Hanson.
  • NORTH SHORE REGION - Geoffrey Njue, Green Industry Specialist, UMass Extension, reporting from Beverly.
  • EAST REGION - Kit Ganshaw & Sue Pfeiffer, Horticulturists, reporting from the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain.
  • METRO WEST REGION – Julie Coop, Forester, Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, reporting from Acton.
  • CENTRAL REGION  -  Joann Vieira, Superintendent of Horticulture, reporting from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston.
  • PIONEER VALLEY REGION - Nick Brazee, Plant Pathologist, UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab, reporting from UMass Amherst.
  • BERKSHIRE REGION - Ron Kujawski, Horticultural Consultant, reporting from Great Barrington.

Landscape Turf

Management Practices

See a case study into winter injury that occurred this past winter at the UMass Joseph Troll Turf Research Center, including an extensive photo gallery:


Invasive crane flies (leatherjackets):  In normal years we begin to see the pupae of invasive crane flies (Tipula oleracea) between the middle of April and the middle of May. Remember that the pupae look like small twigs sticking out of the ground. They can be quite noticeable on short-cut grass, such as golf course fairways and tees, but are less obvious on turf maintained at lawn heights. We have had confirmation of these crane flies from many parts of eastern Massachusetts, and had reports (unconfirmed) from areas north of Hartford and east of Springfield, so they can occur inland as well as in coastal locations. The forecast is for continued cool temperatures through the end of this week (see the above paragraph!), but my guess is that we could begin seeing the pupae in warmer sites (south-facing slopes, for example) as early as next week. If you notice the pupae, please send me pictures and a heads up as to the location where you are seeing them, so I can pass that information along.

Report by Pat Vittum, Professor and Extension Entomologist, UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Interim Director, UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.

Other Relevant News/Pest Alerts

Happy Arbor Day!  National Arbor Day is celebrated every year on the last Friday in April.  Arbor Day was founded in 1872 by Julius Sterling Morton in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  On the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872 an estimated 1 million trees were planted... will you plant one today?

Additional Resources

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For a complete listing of upcoming events, see our Upcoming Educational Events page.

For commercial growers of greenhouse crops and flowers - Check out the New England Greenhouse Update website

For professional turf managers - Check out Turf Management Updates

For home gardeners and garden retailers - Check out home lawn and garden resources. UMass Extension also has a Twitter feed that provides timely, daily gardening tips, sunrise and sunset times to home gardeners, see

Diagnostic Services

A UMass Laboratory Diagnoses Landscape and Turf Problems - The UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab is available to serve commercial landscape contractors, turf managers, arborists, nurseries and other green industry professionals. It provides woody plant and turf disease analysis, woody plant and turf insect identification, turfgrass identification, weed identification, and offers a report of pest management strategies that are research based, economically sound and environmentally appropriate for the situation. Accurate diagnosis for a turf or landscape problem can often eliminate or reduce the need for pesticide use. For sampling procedures, detailed submission instructions and a list of fees, see Plant Diagnostics Laboratory

Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing - The University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory is located on the campus of The University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Testing services are available to all. The function of the Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory is to provide test results and recommendations that lead to the wise and economical use of soils and soil amendments. For complete information, visit the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory web site.   Alternatively, call the lab at (413) 545-2311.

Ticks are active at this time! Remember to take appropriate precautions when working and playing outdoors, and conduct daily tick checks. UMass tests ticks for the presence of Lyme disease and other disease pathogens. Learn more