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Landscape Message: Oct 2, 2015

Oct 2, 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 message will be available on November 6.  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: This reporting period has seen the advent of cooler temperatures, especially overnight. Lovely, sunny days were in the 60s F, while overnight temperatures fell into the lower 50s and upper 40s F. A low of 42º F was recorded in Marstons Mills on 9/27. The Cape saw a return of milder temperatures starting on the 27th and continuing until the end of this reporting period, 9/30. The drought has continued until 9/30, when heavy downpours dropped 2.7” in the rain gauge by 4:30 PM. The forecast is for continued rainfall over the next several days, with the potential of a hurricane or tropical storm by next week. It is still too early to have an accurate storm track so stay tuned to the weather! Even though the Cape really needed the rain, it came down so heavily that much of it was lost to runoff. There is little in the way of fall color yet. Usually by now Red maple, Acer rubrum, has started to turn but this year it is dropping drought stressed leaves. Fall asters are in bloom, with Chrysanthemums well budded up. Montauk daisies are beginning to open.

Pests/Problems: The season long dry weather has remained the real issue in the landscape, with browned margins and crispy foliage apparent on many plants. Soil temperatures are still quite warm. Some relief from the drought arrived on 9/30 but the damage has been done. Continue to irrigate landscapes until the ground temperatures drop into the low 40s F if possible. Any new fall plantings must be irrigated to help them get established before winter arrives. There are still larvae of the Hibiscus sawfly feeding on perennial hibiscus foliage. Sod webworm damage has been observed on irrigated lawns. Cutworms are also still active. Wasps, hornets, solitary bees, bumblebees, and honeybees are all still active. Mushrooms are popping up in lawns.

Southeast Region (Hanson)

General Conditions: For the past 14 weeks, warm weather and dry soils have been a big part of the Landscape Message. In that time, Hanson received only 8.55 inches of rain. The past two weeks, we saw daytime temperatures in the 80’s for the first week, dropping down to the mid 60’s –mid 70’s in the second week. Nighttime temperatures were in the mid-forties and mid-fifties with one overnight registering 36 degrees; overall, a warm, dry September. Hanson received much needed rain on September 30, recording 3.20 inches, with more rain expected. It was the only rain in the past 2 week period. Butterfly bush, Hydrangea paniculata, roses, Persicaria sp., Eupatorium rugosum, fall asters, Actaea (Cimicifuga) simplex, Kirengeshoma palmata, Tricyrtis formosana ‘Gilty Pleasure’, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, Sedum sp., Japanese anemone, Corydalis lutea, goldenrod and Caryopteris divaricata continue to bloom. Monarch butterflies continue to appear but in much lower numbers than in previous years. Hummingbirds left the area around September 19th.

Pests/Problems: There are no new pest problems to report. Lacebugs, wasps, hornets, earwigs, slugs, snails, aphids and mites remain active but insect activity is slowing down. Hibiscus sawfly remains active; however, birch sawfly, dogwood sawfly, and scarlet oak sawfly appear done for the year. Continue to monitor for hemlock woolly adelgid. Also continue to monitor pines for red-headed pine sawfly, which can feed until frost. Adult deer ticks should be active and will remain so, anytime the temperature is above freezing. Continue to take precautions when working outdoors, especially during landscape cleanups, raking and handling leaves, etc. Conduct tick checks frequently, use insect repellent, etc. Mosquito populations appear to be down, however, still take precautions as West Nile virus has been found in a few towns. Triple EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) has not been reported in Plymouth County this year, as of Sept 30th. The drought continues to be the biggest challenge to landscape plants. Many trees and shrubs continue to show signs of drought stress: marginal browning, premature leaf drop and premature fall color. Fruits of hollies and kousa dogwood appear undersized due to drought. Unirrigated lawns also appear drought stressed. Remind clients to water newly planted trees and shrubs as well as new or renovated lawns.

North Shore Region (Beverly)

General Conditions: Dry and warm conditions continued during these last two weeks of September. Some of the days felt like the middle of summer. Day temperatures in the first few days of this reporting period were in the 80s. The rest of the reporting period day temperatures were in the 70s. Night temperatures were in the 50s with few nights going down into the 40s. There was no rainfall recorded in the last two weeks until the night of Tuesday, September 29 when a large weather system started to bring the rain. The rain continued through the day on Wednesday and by Thursday morning we had accumulated 4.6 inches of rainfall at Long Hill. Only a few woody plants remain in bloom at this time. Those still in bloom are Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis), Russian Daphne (Daphne x transatlantica). Herbaceous plants seen in bloom include: False aster (Boltonia asteroides), Chocolate joe pye weed (Eupatorium rugosum), Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), Immortality reblooming iris (Iris germanica), Turtle head (Chelone sp.) Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis), Hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen coum), Autumn joy sedum (Sedum spp.), Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta), Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Japanese anemone and Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale). Some annuals are also contributing color in the landscape.

Pests/Problems: There is no pest activity to report. However it is important to remember that ticks are still active and they will continue to be so until we have freezing temperature. Some weeds continue to thrive. Goldenrods continue to display full color bloom in some unmanaged landscapes. Drought has be been the main concern for most landscapes. Thank God for the recent rains. Unirrigated turf is showing drought stress and stressed trees are showing early foliage color change and some are dropping leaves early.

East Region (Boston)

General Conditions: Hot and dry conditions continued through the previous two weeks. We started and ended this period with high temperatures in the 80’s; between September 20th and the 27th, highs were more seasonal ranging from 62º F to 74º F. The average high temperature was 76º F. Lows averaged 54º F, the warmest evening was 64º F on the 29th and we dipped down to a chill 39º F on the 27th. We received no rain over the past two weeks until the evening of the 29th, when the start of a large system approached. By 6:00 am on the 30th, we had accumulated 0.25 inches of rain with plenty more on the way. We gained 210.5 GDDs bringing us up to 2908.5 on the year. Fall color has begun, yellow color is visible on several Betula sp. (birch), Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura), Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) and Phellodendron amurense (Amur cork tree). Red and purple colors are starting on Acer sp. (maple), Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), Decodon verticillatus (waterwillow), Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon), Hamamelis sp. (witch hazel), Nyssa sylvatica (black tupelo), and Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper). A couple of plants remain in bloom at this time of year, including Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Montauk daisy), Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (stonecrop), and Abelia chinensis (Chinese abelia), on which a monarch was spotted feeding.

Pests/Problems: Drought stressed plants are the main concern at this time. Mature collections are senescing early, with or without fall color as they are shutting down for the season. Two of the three ponds are completely dry, as water levels are low in the third. Ptelea trifoliata (common hoptree) are covered with white egg masses laid by tree hoppers. Nut fruit is abundant this year as oaks, hickories and walnut continue to drop large amounts of acorns and nuts.

Metro West (Acton)

General Conditions: Fall is here; it officially arrived mid-reporting period and brought with it cool mornings and nights and some early fall foliage color. The dry weather pattern continued throughout this reporting period and finally broke on the 30th. The average monthly precipitation for September is 3.77” and thanks to the late breaking precipitation, the total measured for the month, so far is 4.1”. Rain is forecasted to continue throughout the day and into the next few days. Let’s hope that the forecast is correct! The Acton area gained 149.5 GDD during this two-week recording period. Plants seen in bloom this week are: Aster spp. (New England Aster, New York Aster, Smoother Aster, White Wood Aster), A. tataricus (Tatarian Aster), Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis), Colchicum spp. (Fall Crocus), Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy), Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' (Black-Eyed Susan), Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Upright Stonecrop), and Solidago spp.(Goldenrod). 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 verticilata (Winterberry), a variety of colors and sizes of fruit on the Callicarpa dichotoma (Beautyberry), Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood), Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn), Malus spp. (Apple and Crabapple), Sorbus spp. (Mountain Ash), and Viburnums spp. and nuts on Carya spp. (Hickory), Juglans spp. (Walnut) and Quercus spp. (Oak).

Pests/Problems: Signs of drought stress on woody plants are evident in the landscape. And are appearing in the form of leaf wilt, discoloration and drop.

Central Region (Boylston)

General Conditions: Temperatures have been generally warm and conditions quite dry (until today) for the two week reporting period. The dry stretch ended with heavy rains through the day on September 30th. Temperatures dipped into the mid 30’s on the morning of September 26th resulting in damaged foliage on very tender plants like Coleus (Solenostemon). Among the plants in bloom are Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis), Harlequin Glorybower (Clerodendron trichotomum), Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.), Kirengeshoma palmata, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Actaea simplex, Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’, Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’, Aster tataricus, A. linariifolius, and A. nova-angliae, as well as many annuals. Ornamental grasses are hitting their stride, and the fruit on Ilex verticillata, Malus sp., Callicarpa, Cornus mas, Cornus kousa, Magnolia virginiana, Viburnum dilatatum, and V. seiboldii are coloring up nicely.

Pests/Problems: Dry conditions have taken their toll on trees, shrubs and turf. Many leaves are scorched, coloring and/or dropping early.

Pioneer Valley Region (Amherst)

General Conditions: The dry conditions would have dominated the story line during this past reporting period if it weren't for a massive storm system that barreled through the northeast on 9/29 and 9/30. Light rain developed during the late evening hours of 9/29 and, just like the storm system on 9/10, a hole in the system developed over the valley. But, by the time the rain ended at midday on 9/30, 2–4.5" of rain accumulated in the Connecticut Valley. The Springfield area was the recipient of “only” 2–2.5" while the hill towns in western Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties, along with Greenfield, recorded a staggering 4–4.5" of rain. The Easthampton rain gauge checked in at 3.62" over the roughly 15-hour storm period. Soils are now saturated after this major rain event, which is hard to believe given how dry they have been over the past two months. Looking ahead, Hurricane Joaquin may bring more heavy rain to New England by early next week. At this early stage, the storm could take several different tracks, so New England is not firmly in the crosshairs just yet. This past reporting period began unseasonably warm for mid-September, with high temperatures in the middle to upper 80s from 9/16 through 9/19. After this point, we settled into a pattern of near perfect autumn weather, with full sun and high temperatures in the upper 60s to upper 70s and low temperatures in the high 40s to upper 50s. To date, there have been no frosts in the valley and the lowest temperature of the early autumn season has been 38, recorded on 9/27 at Barnes Airport in Westfield. The cool nights have caused the crabgrass to brown and fade while turfgrasses remain relatively green, especially in shaded settings. Fall colors have started with red and sugar maples displaying the most prominent foliage. Many landscape trees have canopies with foliage that is scorched or has a mottled yellow to brown appearance. Several mature Katsura trees on the UMass campus shed nearly all their leaves early, likely due to the dry and warm conditions in late August and early September.

Pests/Problems: The heavy rains were welcome for trees and shrubs in desperate need of a deep watering. A pattern of cooler weather is also good news as trees begin the acclimation process to withstand winter temperatures. Unseasonably warm weather during the autumn can delay cold hardiness development, making trees susceptible to freeze injury if we experience a frost soon. Adequate soil moisture also helps to ensure trees are efficient in their cold hardiness acclimation, as drought disrupts this process. For some trees and shrubs, unfortunately, the rain came too late to stave off the effects of drought stress. Drought is the primary predisposing stress that facilitates insect infestation and disease development. With the dry and unseasonably warm weather in mid-September, spider mites continued to damage trees and shrubs in the area. The oak spider mite has been particularly destructive this season, but infestations of spider mites on Wisteria, Pieris, serviceberry, maple along with numerous conifers have all been observed. Spider mites are easily dislodged from infested foliage, so the heavy rain likely washed a good percentage of the active mites off trees and shrubs with open, broad canopies. Minor pests like the birch leafminer and oak skeletonizer have been active on the landscape as well. Several wood-decaying fungi have been spotted in recent weeks and the saturating rain and cloudy weather forecasted is likely to force many more to emerge. Scout near declining hardwoods and conifers for clusters of Armillaria. The honey fungus has a relatively narrow window of time it can be observed fruiting.

Berkshire Region (Great Barrington)

General Conditions: For the third consecutive year, September has been an unusually dry month, not counting the over-night and early morning rainfall of September 29th and 30th of this year. Until this current rain the last 15 days had been bone dry. The lack of rain and high heat resulted in considerable leaf drop. With last night and today’s rain, the total rainfall for the month has actually exceeded the norm. Soils are now saturated. Fall color is starting to develop, with most of the color change occurring at the higher elevations in the county. It is anticipated that the peak of fall foliage color will be around Columbus Day for much of the region. No frost has yet been reported anywhere in the county though temperature dipped to 36º F in Great Barrington on the morning of September 27th. It was a very warm month with the high temperature on every day but one (Sept. 14th) exceeding the average high for the day. Highest temperature of 88º F occurred on the 7th and 8th.

Pests/Problems: Tiny gnats, often referred to as eye gnats, proved a nuisance to anyone working outdoors. Yellow jackets and other wasps were very active during the heat of the past month. Yellow jackets, in particular, are very aggressive at this time of year. In the late summer and early fall their food preference changes from proteins to sweets, which explains why they are so attracted to anyone munching on sugary foods and drinks. All but the new queens will perish with the onset of cold weather. Spider mites remain active on ornamental sumac. Euonymus and magnolia scale crawlers are still active and, as such, present an opportunity to control these pests. Horticultural oil at this time can be effective. Vole activity remains unabated. They continue to feed on tender plant parts. They are so numerous that a nest of voles was found in the instrument shelter at this monitoring site. At this time of year, many herbaceous perennials take on a ragged, worn-out look due to drought, disease, insect activity, or simply have run their course for the season. Landscapes will remain attractive if ragged plants are cut back. Diseased plant material should be disposed of. Composting such material may be risky as high enough temperatures to kill disease-causing fungi and bacteria are not easily attainable or sustainable. Plants with airborne fungal diseases are best buried.

Environmental Data

The following growing-degree-day (GDD) and precipitation data was collected for an approximately two week period, September 17 through September 30. Soil temperature and phenological indicators were observed on or about September 30. 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.


(2-Week Gain)

(Total 2015 Accumulation)

Soil Temp
(°F at 4" depth)

(2-Week Gain in inches)

Cape Cod




(as of 4:30 PM 9/30)





(as of 5:10 PM 9/30)

North Shore




(as of 9:00 AM 10/1)





(as of 6:00 AM 9/30)

Metro West




(as of 5:00 PM 9/30)


n/a n/a n/a n/a

Pioneer Valley




(as of 5:00 PM 9/30)





(as of 11:00 AM 9/30)






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

Infestation of privet thrips (Dendrothrips ornatus) on privet (Ligustrum sp.). Hedge is approximately 75-years-old and 75’ in length. A 20’ section of the hedge is declining with leaf browning and premature shedding. Submitted foliage exhibited “flecking” symptoms and adult thrips were visible upon microscopic evaluation. The hedge borders a busy road and sidewalk and is mulched with manure compost every spring.

Birch anthracnose, caused by Discula betulina, on paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Tree is less than 15-years-old and has been present at the site for only two years. The majority of the foliage is stunted and browning but some limbs have foliage that appears healthy and vigorous. Discula betulina usually produces brown-colored blotches on the leaf margins that lead to premature leaf shedding. The tree resides close to the ocean and has been actively treated for winter moth.

Needle tip blight, caused by Colletotrichum, on a dwarf, variegated pine (Pinus sp.) and Japanese cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonicum). The pine is approximately six to seven-years-old and has been present at the site for one year while the Cryptomeria is roughly five-years-old and was planted six months ago. On the pine, needle tips became necrotic this summer before they were prematurely shed. On the Cryptomeria, needle tips wilted and turned black in June. After a brief incubation, pink-colored masses of Colletotrichum spores covered the blighted needle tips. While uncommon on conifers, Colletotrichum has a very broad host range and was likely an opportunistic colonizer of trees weakened by transplant shock.

Infestation of the maple spider mite (Oligonychus aceris) on red maple (Acer rubrum). Tree is 16-years-old and has been present at the site for 10 years. Foliage began to yellow this summer and upon closer examination displayed the flecking symptoms typical of spider mite infestations. Girdling roots were removed from the tree three years ago and supplemental water is provided.

Brown rot of stone fruits, caused by Monilinia fructicola, on peach (Prunus persica). Landscape tree that is approximately 10-years-old. Branch tip dieback, scattered evenly throughout the canopy, was observed this summer. Along with the blighted stems and foliage, the shriveled fruits displayed the characteristic “mummified” look and were coated in a brown-colored mass of spores. The lemon-shaped spores are produced in long chains from infected fruits. When the mummified fruit is left in the canopy, it allows the pathogen to overwinter at the site.

Stem cankering caused by Phomopsis and feeding by Gypsy moth caterpillars on a dwarf blue spruce (Picea pungens). Tree is 20-years-old and resides in full sun without supplemental water. Minor dieback was observed in the past but this year, over half of the canopy has died. Gypsy moth feeding was evident on the submitted sample and, increasingly, Phomopsis is associated with declining spruces. No needle cast fungi were detected.

Cooley spruce gall adelgid (Adelges cooleyi) on blue spruce (Picea pungens). Common hosts for this pest include blue spruce and Douglas-fir.      Maple spider mite (Oligonychus aceris) infestation on red maple (Acer rubrum).

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

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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

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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