Back to top

Landscape Message: Nov 6, 2015

Nov 6, 2015

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 monthly October - December. The next and final message for 2015 will be available on December 4.  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: October started off with wet, windy, and chilly weather and finished with above average temperatures and beautiful sunny skies. In between, Marstons Mills saw two frosts, thunder and lightning, and drenching downpours. The first several days of the month were very chilly, with temperatures in the 40s F and quite a bit of rain! The weather turned dry and mild until 10/13, when Marstons Mills received 1.3”, Falmouth received 1.5”, and Centerville received 2.4” of rain. A low of 35º F was recorded in the Mills the morning of the 17th and by Monday, the 19th, a low of 29º F produced a light frost. A second frost occurred on the 29th, effectively ending the growing season for Marstons Mills. Brief snow squalls occurred over the outer Cape on Sunday the 18th! However, Centerville and points east closer to the water have yet to see a killing frost. Lawns are still actively growing and mowing is expected to continue until that stops. ‘Clara Curtis’ and ‘Sheffield Pink’ hardy chrysanthemums are in full bloom and look spectacular. Montauk Daisy is also still blooming. Fall color has been just OK this year, with some foliage turning brown and crispy as a result of earlier excessively dry weather. The oaks are finally turning and offering some nice color on many parts of the Cape.

Pests/Problems: There is little in the way of landscape pest activity. Deer tick adults are active so be sure to do thorough tick checks after performing fall clean-ups. While major pruning should wait until late winter, do prune out any dead or broken limbs that may have happened during one of the many high wind days that have occurred this fall.

Southeast Region (Hanson)

General Conditions: Hanson received 3.25 inches of much needed rain and more is needed. October rainfall was below average. The first hard freeze of the season came overnight on Oct. 18-19, with the temperature dropping to 28º F. Fall foliage color came later than usual, possibly with the drought being a factor. Many trees are now dropping their leaves but many plants are still displaying fall color: Cornus controversa, Cornus kousa, birch, oaks, Enkianthus, Styrax japonica, Clethra, Hydrangea quercifolia, Japanese maples, Calycanthus sp., Fothergilla sp., witchhazels, Viburnums and Chionanthus virginicus, to name a few. Depending on location, on many other trees, the leaves simply turned brown and dropped. There are still a few flowers on landscape roses like Rosa 'Martha's Vineyard', and also some flower color provided by Nippon daisy, Corydalis lutea, Persicaria sp., fall asters, and late blooming Chrysanthemums like Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’. Fruits of viburnum, hollies, Kousa dogwood and flowering dogwood are also adding to the fall landscape. It appears to be a good year for holly berry production on numerous species of holly. Invasive plants like oriental bittersweet, burning bush and bayberry are also displaying their colorful fruits along with fall foliage color. It is not too late to dig and destroy, or prune back hard, these invasive plants. Lawns remain green and mowing will continue until the lawns go dormant. Remind clients to continue to water newly planted lawns and also trees and shrubs during dry weather.

Pests/Problems: No new pest problems to report, however, depending on geographic area, winter moths, Bruce spanworm moths and fall cankerworm moths will be emerging in a few weeks. Adult deer ticks are active and will remain so, anytime the temperature is above freezing. Continue to conduct tick checks frequently and take precautions and use a repellent like DEET, especially during fall cleanups when handling and raking leaves. With the killing frost, mosquito populations are done for the year. Although the spring season saw numerous mosquitoes, for some reason, maybe drought, mosquito numbers were low from mid-summer through fall. Asian ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis), Western Conifer Seedbugs, spiders and other “fall invaders” have started to enter buildings, seeking shelter from the cold. Deer have started browsing landscape plants and voles and field mice remain active. Continual use of deer repellents may help to deter deer from establishing feeding patterns, making certain landscapes their primary dining area. Continue to cut back perennials and remove plant debris and weeds from landscape beds and around woody plants, to hinder vole and mice habitat.

North Shore Region (Beverly)

General Conditions: Average daily temperatures in October were higher than normal for this time of the year. Average daily temperatures were in the 50s with a few days in low 60s. Maximum day temperatures were in the 60s with temperatures above 70 degrees recorded on three days in October: the 7th, 12th and 22nd. The first frost of the season was recorded on October 18th and 19th when the thermometer registered 28ºF on October 18 and 26ºF on October 19. Although the rainfall totals were above the monthly October average of 4.25 inches, most days in the month were relatively dry. A total of approximately 6.27 inches of rainfall was received at Long Hill in the month of October. Most of the rain was recorded on October 1st (4.6 inches) and October 29th (1.19 inches) with the rest of the rainfall (0.48) spread over several days in the month in very small amounts. The few plants observed in bloom include: American Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta), Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) and hardy fall blooming cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). Fall foliage color is creating great interest in the landscape. Some of the plants providing great fall colors include Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), different oaks, Chinese Stewartia (Stewartia chinensis), and Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Pests/Problems: Ticks are still active. Take precautions when raking leaves. Use repellents containing DEET to protect yourself. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and invasive species such as burning bush (Euonymus alatus) are displaying fall foliage color in the woods.

East Region (Boston)

General Conditions: Fall color continues; despite many leaves falling, many trees and shrubs continue to highlight the landscape with a variety of color from yellow, orange and red. We received a heavy frost on October 18th, officially ending the growing season, which began on April 5th, at 195 days. September ended with very warm above seasonal temperatures in the high 70’s and mid 80’s before a heavy rain system passed through from the evening of the 29th to the early morning on Oct 1st. The storm dropped a total of 2.9 inches of rain and brought cold temperatures to the area as highs during the first four days of the month were in the mid- to high 50’s, more than 10 degrees below average. Seasonal temperatures returned and we finished the month with an average high of 62º F and an average low of 43º F. We received a handful of small rain events throughout the month and on the 29th/30th, we received a much needed 1.65 inches of rain. Despite this rain, soil conditions have remained dry, but have made for easy leaf cleanup. Colorful fruit remains on many Callicarpa sp. (beautyberry), Sorbus sp. (mountain ash), Viburnum sp. (viburnum) and has also begun on many Ilex sp. (holly). Hamamelis vernalis (Ozark witch-hazel) and Hamamelis virginiana (common witch-hazel) are in full bloom.

Pests/Problems: Although we received 2.29 inches of rain in October, abnormally dry conditions persist. With temperatures fluctuating in the mid 60’s, winter annuals have germinated and are visible in the landscape. Many biennials are greening up and in rosette stages in mulched beds. Dandelions continue to flower in unmanaged turf. Mid-October saw redheaded pine sawfly actively feeding.

Metro West (Acton)

General Conditions: Despite some cool October evening and day temperatures, growing degree-days continued to accumulate during this four-week recording period, especially over the Columbus Day weekend and in the first few days in November. The Acton area gained a total of 64 GDD. A high temperature of 78º was recorded on the 12th; a low temp of 24° was recorded on the 17th and the first frost was recorded on the 17th. Even with the 1.84” of rain recorded, as a result of Hurricane Patricia, the precipitation total for the month of October totaled 2.48” and was below the monthly average of 4.32”. Two perennial plants seen in bloom this week are Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’ (Ornamental Onion) and Aster tataricus 'Jindai' (Tatarian Aster). Fruits, pomes, seeds and early fall color are providing some additional interest in the landscape. Seen are the red fruits on Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood), C. kousa (Kousa Dogwood) and Ilex verticillata (Winterberry), a variety of colors and sizes of fruit on Callicarpa dichotoma (Beautyberry), Chionanthus retusus (Chinese Fringetree), Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood), Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn), Lindera angustifolia (Oriental Spicebush), Malus spp. (Apple and Crabapple), Sorbus spp. (Mountain Ash), and Viburnums spp. and nuts on Castanea spp. (Chestnut), Carya spp. (Hickory), Juglans spp. (Walnut) and Quercus spp. (Oak).

Pests/Problems: Showing some fine fall color are some of our worst landscape pests including Celastrus orbiculatus (Oriental Bittersweet), Euonymous alatus (Burning Bush) and Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy).

Central Region (Boylston)

General Conditions: After a cool start to the month we wound up with many lovely warm days. Though the long dry spell was broken by periodic rains we continue to be below normal for the year, and are finding dry spots in soil & turf as we complete our fall planting. Autumn foliage color on red maples (Acer rubrum), Paperbark Maple (A. triflorum), Low Sumac (Rhus aromatica 'Gro-low’), Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Fothergilla gardenii, Smokebush (Cotinus ‘Grace’), Oaks (Quercus sp.) our native Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) continue to brighten the landscape. Barks and berries and colorful twigs are beginning to strut their stuff as well - look for Winterberry (Ilex verticillata cultivars and species), Cornus sericea cultivars, Salix alba subsp. vitellina ‘Britzensis’, Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum cultivars), Beautyberry (Callicarpa species and cultivars) to name a few. In bloom this week is our native Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Aster tataricus, Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’, Aster novae-angliae, and Crocus sativus.

Pests/Problems: Ticks continue to be a problem and bees and wasps are active on warm days.

Pioneer Valley Region (Amherst)

General Conditions: This past reporting period started out on a soggy note, as the Pioneer Valley dried out from the heavy rainfall left from the 9/30 storm. Accumulations throughout the area ranged from 2–3". However, the valley wouldn’t experience significant rainfall for nearly a full month, as October continued the pattern of dry and sunny weather we experienced most of this growing season. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, October temperatures were slightly above-average in Franklin and Hampshire Counties, while Hampden County was slightly below-average. As is typical of autumn weather, conditions have varied widely as we make our way towards the winter solstice. The first half of October was sensational, as always, with bright foliage and temperatures consistently in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Despite worries of weak fall colors due to the dry conditions in late summer, the show was spectacular in the valley. The warm days and lack of frost allowed trees to continue their production of carotenoids (yellow foliage) and anthocyanins (red foliage) that become visible once chlorophyll production ceases as the days become shorter. Isolated pockets of frost were observed in the valley in mid-October before the first widespread freeze of the season that took place on the mornings of 10/18 and 10/19. Temperatures of 21º F and 18º F were recorded at Barnes Airport in Westfield. This abrupt descent into freezing temperatures immediately dampened the foliage display and accelerated leaf loss. Trees and shrubs with typical dull fall colors (Kousa dogwood, panicle hydrangea, etc.) took on a brown, burnt appearance. As we approached the end of October, a large, low pressure system lumbered through the northeast on 10/28 and 10-29. The resulting accumulations ranged from 2.5–3.5". The rain was much needed, as soils were once again dry from nearly four weeks of little to no rain. Lawn grass benefited from the soaking and remains green and robust in most locations. November has started with above-average temperatures in the region. Sun and highs in the low 70s have been welcome for those not yet ready for the cold, as memories of the past two winters aren’t far below the surface. Witchhazels are still providing some color on the landscape while monkshood and asters are mostly done flowering.

Pests/Problems: Nearly all pests and pathogens are dormant for the season. Reports continue to emerge of white pines with blighted needle tips. Their distribution remains patchy, with one or a few symptomatic trees grouped with trees that appear completely healthy. A hard look at the literature points to a phenomenon that may provide some explanation as to what is happening. The symptoms we have observed this season appear to match descriptions of a condition known as semimature-tissue needle blight (SNB). SNB has been reported sporadically from the Lake States and Northeast dating as far back as the 1920s. Since only the current year’s growth is immature in late spring and early summer explains why only these needles are affected. Research from the 1960s points to abnormal spring weather, among other factors (needle blight fungi), as the cause. However, much remains unknown about the specific factors and how they interact to cause damage on these tissues. For trees and shrubs that have suffered from foliar diseases, raking and removal of leaves is one of the most important ways to help control these pathogens on the landscape. Ticks have been very active, especially in oak-dominated regions around the Quabbin.

Berkshire Region (Great Barrington)

General Conditions: For the most part, daily high temperatures in October were higher than normal with a maximum temperature of 75º F on October 12th. The first frost of the season occurred on the morning of October 17th when the thermometer registered 30º F. That was followed by hard freezes on the 18th (22º F) and the 19th (19º F). Snow squalls occurred on the 18th. October also proved to be a relatively dry month with total precipitation (2.28 inches) being 1.72 inches below normal. Fall foliage remains colorful though primarily limited to oaks and certain shrubs. Maples, birches, ash and cherry have dropped their leaves except for juvenile specimens. The question arises as to why certain trees, notably oaks, American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) , and hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) retain their leaves – a condition referred to as marcescence (pronounced: mar-sess-sense) well into winter. Normal leaf drop occurs as a result of formation of an abscission layer at the base of the leaf petiole which in turn leads to separation of the leaf from woody twig. Formation of the abscission layer is prompted by photoperiod. Trees which retain their leaves, do not form an abscission layer. Leaves on such trees are either physically worn off by wind, rain, snow, sleet, etc., or are pushed off by developing buds in spring.

Pests/Problems: Black-legged ticks (a.k.a. deer ticks) are plentiful. A common habitat for these ticks is among fallen leaves. People raking and gathering leaves, as well as hikers through woodlands, are the most likely to play host to these pernicious pests. Application of DEET-based repellents is crucial to prevent attachment of ticks. Mosquitoes remain active despite the occurrence of freezing temperatures. Next to ticks, the biggest concern of many is the home invasion of certain pests, namely Western conifer seed bug, lady beetles, box elder bug, and spiders. Voles and moles are active and plentiful. Browsing on landscape plants by deer is occurring but not yet a major concern. The problem is that deer are creatures of habit and once they discover a food source, they tend to return. Ideally, application of repellents to valued landscape plants should begin in spring and continue on a regular schedule throughout the year. However, applications can and should be made now if browsing is occurring.

Environmental Data

The following growing-degree-day (GDD) and precipitation data was collected for an approximately four week period, October 1 through November 4. Soil temperature and phenological indicators were observed on or about November 4 as of the dates/times specified below. 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.


(4-Week Gain)

(Total 2015 Accumulation)

Soil Temp
(°F at 4" depth)

(4-Week Gain in inches)

Date/Time of Readings

Cape Cod





11/4 1:58 PM






11/4 5:30 PM

North Shore





11/4 11:30 AM






11/4 5:00 PM

Metro West





11/4 6:30 AM






11/4 5:00 PM

Pioneer Valley





11/4 4:00 PM






11/4 10:00 AM







n/a = 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 the Long Hill Reservation, 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.

Woody Ornamentals

Diseases & Insects

Phyllosticta needle blight on arborvitae (Thuja sp.). Large hedge row of trees, approximately 40- to 50-years-old, with browning foliage. The pathogen, Phyllosticta thujae, creates an abundance of small, black pads of tissue that dispel large number of spores. The browning needles are easily distinguished from naturally senescing needles, which appear yellow. Extended dry periods this season may have predisposed the trees to infection.

Rhizosphaera needle cast and stem cankering caused by Phomopsis on blue spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca ‘Hoopsii’). Tree is approximately 8’ tall and was planted in late August. Growing conditions were appropriate for blue spruce with full sun and supplemental watering. However, a large number of needles on interior branches, especially those in the lower canopy, turned yellow after planting. The number of yellowing needles was more than what is typical of natural senescence. The tree was removed and another blue spruce will be planted in its place.

Possible drought stress and winter injury with a secondary needle cast infection from Rhizosphaera on eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Several trees, approximately 30-years-old, with thin canopies and browning/yellowing needles. The trees are treated with horticultural oil three times per season (spring, summer and fall) to control adelgid. Repeated oil applications are known to degrade the cuticle, making needles more susceptible to drought and winter injury. No other pests or pathogens were detected from the sample.

Suspected herbicide injury on dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica). Several plants in a small area of a residential landscape showed symptoms of herbicide exposure. Symptoms included stunted and irregularly curved foliage. One tree, a kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) failed to leaf out this spring and is presumed dead. All of the plants were relatively healthy last year. The homeowner recently changed landscapers and foul play is suspected. No pests or pathogens were detected.

Diplodia shoot blight, caused by Sphaeropsis sapinea, on Norway spruce (Picea abies). Tree is 15-years-old and has been present at the site for only one year. In August, the tree began shedding a significant volume of needles. The tree was planted in full shade in a wooded plant bed and provided with supplemental water. Norway spruce prefers full sun and likely developed under those conditions prior to transplanting. The transition to full shade likely weakened the tree, making it susceptible to Diplodia shoot blight. While most common on hard pines, the pathogen can attack a wide array of conifers. However, on non-pine hosts, trees are usually in a weakened state prior to attack.

Infestation of the oystershell scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi) and leaf and stem blight caused by Volutella on pachysandra (Pachysandra sp.). Planting is approximately 15-years-old and this summer, bare spots were observed in locations were lush growth previously occupied. Upon closer examination, stems were blackened and leaves were curled and brown.

Septoria leaf spot and trunk cankering on quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). Tree is 10-years-old and was planted three years ago. Numerous, brown and grey-colored leaf spots were abundant on the submitted foliage. There was also a large section of the main trunk that was badly cankered, with sloughing bark and woodpecker injury. Septoria can also cause trunk cankers on Populus, but this material was not submitted so the causal agent is not specifically known. Tree is badly disfigured and will likely be removed.

Verticillium wilt on red maple (Acer rubrum). Tree is 12-years-old and was planted three years ago. In early September, upper canopy branches began dying back. The managing arborist initially suspected drought stress but some minor olive green streaking was observed in recently killed stems. The tree resides in a mulched bed near the road in a residential setting.

Stem cankering caused by Cytospora on Japanese maple (Acer japonica ‘Green Leaf’). Tree is 25-years-old and has been present at the site for roughly 20 years. Over the past two years, scattered branches have developed scorched foliage. The thin bark of Japanese maple makes is highly susceptible to opportunistic stem cankering pathogens like Cytospora. When stressed, by drought in this case, these pathogens can become more aggressive and cause considerable damage.

For more detailed management information for woody plant diseases in the landscape, refer to UMass Extension's Professional Management Guide for Diseases of Trees and Shrubs.

Report by Nick Brazee, Plant Pathologist, UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab, UMass Amherst.

Additional Resources

To receive immediate notification when the next Landscape Message update is posted, be sure to join our e-mail list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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