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Landscape Message: Sep 18, 2015

Sep 18, 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 bi-weekly July-September. The next message will be available on October 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: This reporting period saw a cool-down at the beginning and a warm of up the end of the period. A low temperature of 51º F was recorded early on the morning of the 6th and Labor Day weekend on the whole was mild and sunny during the day with cool, fall-like temperatures overnight. It quickly returned to hot and humid until a line of very strong thunderstorms ushered in a cold front on the 10th. One storm in the morning produced a whopping 1.45 inches of rain in the rain gauge in Marstons Mills, with another inch recorded over the next 24 hours. The weather has remained sunny and mild and dry since then. Soils are still warm, making this an excellent planting time before the onset of colder temperatures in October. Bees are buzzing all over Heptacodium. Panicle hydrangea continues to provide interest in the landscape. Fall asters are beginning to bloom.

Pests/Problems: Drought stress remains the most significant problem in the landscape. Even though we did receive significant rainfall on the 10th, the damage had already occurred. Brown leaf margins, premature fall coloration, and dry, crispy lawns are all good signs of drought. While this is a good time to plant woody plants, the need for regular irrigation will continue well into November. Insect activity has tapered off considerably, except for the chorus of crickets and katydids at night. Activity of Deer tick adults increase as the temperatures cool down. Wasp and hornet colonies are at their largest at this time; be careful when working near hedges where there may be a nest and be on the lookout for ground nesting species.

Southeast Region (Hanson)

General Conditions: Hot, dry weather continued over the past two weeks and the extremely dry soils were given some relief when Hanson received 1.5 inches of rain. Other areas in the Southeast received more rain with a report of 1.69 inches in Bridgewater and over 4 inches in South Dartmouth. Temperatures have been warm in September with many days in the mid-high 80’s and a few 90 degree days. No one seems to be complaining too much, thinking back to last winter and ahead to next winter. However, with the high temperatures there also has been a lack of rain, and soils remain dry. If dry conditions prevail, continue to remind clients to water landscape plants throughout the fall until the ground freezes. The following plants remain in bloom: Heptacodium miconioides (Seven-Son Flower), Butterfly bush, Hydrangea paniculata, Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis), roses, Actea (Cimicifuga) simplex, Kirengeshoma palmata, Rudbeckia trilobum, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, Sedum sp., Perovskia atriplicifolia, Physostegia sp., Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', Japanese anemone, ornamental grasses, Corydalis lutea, Coreopsis 'Harvest Moon', Coreopsis tripteris, goldenrod and Caryopteris divaricata. Rose-of-Sharon, Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm, Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun’, Joe-pye-weed and Phlox paniculata are ending bloom. Fall asters are beginning bloom. The warm weather of August and September has provided the extra heat for tropicals and annuals, all of which continue to provide robust landscape color. Additional color is also showing up in the fruits of: crabapples, Staghorn sumac, Kousa dogwood, hollies and viburnums.

Pests/Problems: The same story continues that hot, dry weather continues to be the biggest landscape concern. Hanson has received only 4.05 inches of rain over the past 8 weeks and many landscape plants are showing signs of drought stress, which can be a significant problem. Most insect activity has slowed down. Birch sawfly, dogwood sawfly, and scarlet oak sawfly remain active, although they are all almost done. Continue to monitor pines for red-headed pine sawfly which can feed until frost. The following insects remain active: Boxelder leaf beetles, katydids, lacebugs, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, earwigs, slugs, snails, aphids and mites. Now is a good time for lawn renovations or to begin fall planting. Remind clients to water these new plantings on a regular basis. Goldenrod, grasses and Japanese knotweed continue to bloom, but ragweed is ending bloom and setting seed in many areas. Crabgrass is setting seed. The fruits of invasive plants like barberry, autumn olive, Oriental bittersweet and burning bush are ripening and turning color and now is a good time to cut back or dig out the plants before more seed is spread and become nuisance weeds next year. Giant tar spot is evident on Norway maples but does not appear to be as bad as in previous years.

North Shore Region (Beverly)

General Conditions: Summer temperatures continued during this first reporting period of September, with hot, humid and dry weather. Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded for three days during this period. Average daily day temperatures were in the high 70s and in the mid 60s during the night. Significant rainfall was only recorded for two days during this period. Approximately 0.75 inches of rainfall was received at Long Hill during this period. Woody plants seen in bloom include: Bush clover (Lespedeza thunbergii), Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis), Russian Daphne (Daphne x transatlantica) and Crapemyrtle, (Lagerstroemia indica). Herbaceous plants seen in bloom include: New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), hostas (Hosta spp.), Autumn joy sedums (Sedum spp.), Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta), Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida), Catmint (Nepeta racemosa), Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis), Corydalis (Corydalis lutea) and Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale). Different kinds of annuals are also contributing color in landscapes.

Pests/Problems: Some plants are showing signs of drought stress. Some are yellowing and showing early foliage color change. Powdery mildew (Microsphaera alni) is still being observed on lilac. Leaf margin burn probably caused by anthracnose was observed on stewartia. Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) was observed on chokecherry. Deer damage was observed on hostas. Crabgrass and other weeds are thriving in the landscape. Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is in full bloom continues to thrive. Mosquitoes have slowed down but they are still active at dawn and dusk. Ticks are also active.

East Region (Boston)

General Conditions: We received some much needed precipitation from September 10th through the 11th amounting to 0.85”. An additional 0.14” fell on the 13th and 14th, bringing us to around an inch of rain. Despite this precipitation, soil conditions remain extremely dry. So far this month we have recorded high temperatures above 90º F on four occasions, which included a 3-day heat wave starting on the 7th through to the 9th where temperatures reached 93º F, 96º F, and 94º F respectively, breaking high temperature records on the 8th and the 9th. Highs over the last two weeks averaged 82º F, more than 5º F warmer than usual with average lows of 61º F. We gained 300 GDDs bringing us up to 2698 on the year. A wide variety of colorful fruit is adding interest to the landscape; black, orange, pink, red and yellow can be found on Malus (apple), Prunus (cherry), Sorbus (mountain ash), Viburnum (viburnum) and many others.

Pests/Problems: Lack of precipitation is the main concern at this time as drought conditions are visible throughout the landscape. In addition to recent transplants, mature collections are showing signs of stress: Acer (maple), Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura), Cersis (redbud), and Stewartia (stewartia). Collections throughout the grounds have been receiving supplemental irrigation. Perennial weeds have begun to disperse seed, Cynanchum louiseae (black swallow-wort) seed pods have opened. Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelain berry) and Celastrus orbiculatus (Oriental bittersweet) fruits are maturing. Lace bugs and mites continue to feed on many plants particularly Rosaceae and many conifers.

Metro West (Acton)

General Conditions: Summer isn’t over yet! Despite the cool nights, the hot, humid and dry weather pattern continues into September. Four 90° plus temperatures were recorded during this past two-week reporting period and a high temperature of 97º was recorded on the 8th. That is the highest temp recorded this season. The Acton area gained 257 GDD during this two-week recording period and received 1.85” of much needed rain. With the lack of any significant rain, soils remain dry. Not a good thing, entering into the fall planting season. Woody plants seen in bloom this week are Buddleia spp. (Butterfly Bush), Franklinia alatahama (Franklin Tree), Heptacodium miconioides (Seven-Son Flower), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose-of-Sharon), and Rosa 'Knockout' (The Knockout family of Roses). A woody vine in bloom is Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis). Contributing even more color and interest to the landscape are a few flowering herbaceous plants including: Alcea rosea (Hollyhocks), Aster spp. (New England Aster, New York Aster, Smoother Aster, White Wood Aster), Calamagrostis acutifolia 'Karl Foerster' (Feather Reed Grass), Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Plumbago), Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats), Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower), Hemerocallis spp. (Daylily), Hosta spp. (Plantain Lily), Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Waxbells), Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass), Patrinia gibbosa (Patrinia), Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage), Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' (Dwarf Fountain Grass), Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' (Black-Eyed Susan), Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Upright Stonecrop), S. 'Rosy Glow' (Low Stonecrop), S. sieboldii (Low 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) and C. kousa (Kousa Dogwood), a variety of colors and sizes of fruit on Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn), Malus spp. (Apple and Crabapple) and Sorbus spp. (Mountain Ash) and nuts on Carya spp. (Hickory), Juglans spp. (Walnut) and Quercus spp. (Oak).

Pests/Problems: Lack of any significant amount of rainfall continues to be a problem and the rain in the forecast is marginal. Signs of drought stress on woody plants continue to appear in the form of leaf wilt, discoloration and drop and lawns are turning brown. Powdery mildew is rampant with the hot and humid weather and is evident on Monarda (Bee Balm), Phlox, Rosa (Rose), and Syringa (Lilac). The first and only Asian Longhorned beetle of the season thus far was caught in a trap within the Worcester County ALB regulated area on the August 14th in Worcester so continue to check your trees for oviposition sites, frass, exit holes and the beetle. Monitor the 13 host genera which are: Acer (Maple), Betula (Birch), Ulmus (Elm), Salix (Willow), Aesculus (Horsechestnut), Fraxinus (Ash), Platanus (Plane Tree), Populus (Poplar), Celtis (Hackberry), Sorbus (Mountain Ash), Albizia (Mimosa), Cercidiphyllum (Katsura) and Koelreuteria (Golden Raintree) for signs of this invasive pest.

Central Region (Boylston)

General Conditions: Some much needed rain finally came to Central Massachusetts between September 10th and 14th. Though turfgrass and herbaceous plants have rebounded there is much previous damage to foliage that is still showing on trees and shrubs in particular. We're still running low on precipitation for the year and no rain is in sight at the moment. Gardeners and landscape professionals should remain attentive to irrigating until the weather breaks or the ground freezes. Though the nights have cooled most days have been unseasonably warm. Vegetables and annuals remain lush and productive and late blooming perennials are making a show. Among the plants in bloom are Colchicum species & cultivars, Clerodendron trichotomum, Caryopteris divaricate and C. x clandonensis, Kirengeshoma palmata, Geranium 'Rozanne', and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. The fruits of crabapples (Malus sp.), Winterberries (Ilex verticillata cvs.), and Beautyberries (Callicarpa sp.) are also coloring up nicely.

Pests/Problems: Though we've had some much needed rain we are still running behind. Fall webworm, powdery mildew, and Cornus sawfly continue to be a problem.

Pioneer Valley Region (Amherst)

General Conditions: We saw it all during this past reporting period in the valley: unbearable summer heat, steady but light rain, brief but pounding rain and finally, calm early autumn weather. September began with temperatures in the high 80s to 90º F before a brief respite on 9/4 and 9/5. The mercury rose to extraordinary heights from 9/7 to 9/9, with ambient air temperatures in the low to upper 90s. The highs on Tuesday, 9/8 (94º to 96º F) overpowered previous high temperature records throughout the Pioneer valley and much of the Northeast. A large, low pressure system brought much needed rain to the region on 9/10 & 9/11. However, a large gap in the storm developed over the valley and accumulations were considerably lower compared to the Berkshires and points east in Worcester County. Even still, much of the valley received upwards of 1″ of rain. The wet times continued with scattered afternoon rain showers on Saturday 9/12 and some brief, but heavy rain late in the day on Sunday 9/13. An additional 0.5 to >1″ was recorded at many gauge stations over 9/12 and 9/13. Overall, this four-day stretch (9/10 to 9/14) in the valley saw total accumulations from 1.5 to >3″. Franklin County was the recipient of the highest totals, a common trend during this 2015 growing season. Since the rain, beautiful early autumn weather has prevailed, with full sun and highs in the low 80s but cooling at night into the low 50s. Lawn grass has greened considerably and should continue to thrive with the cooler weather. We’re shedding daylight at a rapid pace right now as the equinox approaches. The slow march to winter solstice is upon us. Climatologists are in agreement that a strong El Niño has developed and will persist through the winter of 2015-16. El Niño is characterized by unusually warm water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which has a strong influence on weather patterns in North America. In the northeast, we can expect (but are not guaranteed) a warmer winter with storms producing more rain instead of snow. After last winter’s record snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures in February, this is welcome news.

Pests/Problems: Many trees are in various states of decline due to many interacting stresses. Marginal leaf scorch, brought on by drought stress, is widespread throughout the landscape now. The rain was welcome but was too late to stave off the effects of drought for many trees and shrubs. The U.S. Drought Monitor ( shows much of the Commonwealth in an “abnormally dry” state. Supplemental watering should continue for recent transplants and young trees/shrubs in well-drained soils. Spider mites continue to be active on a number of different plants. This has been a good year for Tubakia leaf blotch on oaks. This disease typically does not appear until July and results in leaf blotching that can consume entire leaves. There are other late season diseases (e.g. tar spot of maple and elm leaf spot) that are mostly trivial, since annual growth is all but complete. Wood-decay fungi are appearing on the landscape, so careful scouting for these pathogens should take place now on mature, high-value hardwoods and conifers.

Berkshire Region (Great Barrington)

General Conditions: The early part of this reporting period was characterized by the hottest weather of the year with at least one record breaking day. A single rain event accounted for all the precipitation during this period. This had been the pattern for the past two months, i.e., dry spell with infrequent but heavy rain. This most recent storm brought the heat wave to an end. The rain was welcomed as soils had become quite dry. Night time temperatures are now cool and near or a little below normal. Despite the dry intervals, landscapes appear lush and flowering plants are vibrant. Several observers have commented on the size (height) of herbaceous perennials in both, managed and unmanaged landscapes. Turfgrass is also growing well and any which struggled in mid-summer have recovered and are thriving. Despite the general health of the landscape, there are some woody plants that have dropped most if not all their leaves and/or are showing pre-mature fall color. This is a good time to take note of these plants and assess the cause(s) of such abnormal development. With the most recent rain, soil moisture levels are good.

Pests/Problems: Pest pressures are currently low in landscapes. Other than nuisance pests, i.e. wasps, mosquitoes, eye gnats, deer ticks, millipedes, centipedes, sow bugs, and earwigs, the only frequently observed pests were red spider mites, aphids, oak lace bugs, euonymus scale crawlers, and magnolia scale crawlers. Fall webworm activity is very low. Skunk damage to lawns via digging continues to be a problem. Also, vole activity has not abated. The vole population has been very high this year. Hopefully, the predator population will catch up with the prey population. Complaints of damage to trees, mostly crabapples, by the yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) have been numerous of late, though it is likely that most of the damage was done this past spring. The sapsucker bores holes in the trunks of trees and feeds on the sap. Though the damage is not often severe, repeated drilling in the same tree year after year can result in dieback or death of the tree. There are no known full-proof methods of preventing such drilling. Many of the usual home invaders, i.e. lady beetles, Western conifer seed bug, box elder bugs, stink bugs, and spiders, have begun their annual migration to the interior of homes.

Environmental Data

The following growing-degree-day (GDD) and precipitation data was collected for an approximately two week period, September 3 through September 16. Soil temperature and phenological indicators were observed on or about September 16. 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










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)
Heptacodium miconioides (Seven-Son Flower) full full full full/end full full full *
Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis) full full full end 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 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

Needle blight caused by Pestalotiopsis and an infestation of the spruce spider mite (Oligonychus ununguis) on Leyland cypress (× Cupressocyparis leylandii). Several trees planted as a border screen, approximately 12-years-old and present on the site for roughly 10 years. This summer, excessive browning and shedding of interior needles was observed.

Coral spot canker caused by Nectria cinnabarina on honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos). Tree is roughly 15- to 20-years-old, present at the site for less than 10 years. This spring, significant winter injury was observed on the tree with dieback of branches 1-3″ in diameter. Prolific epicormic sprouting developed as a result. Pink-colored pads of fungal tissue ruptured through the bark adjacent to branch cankers (pictured below). Nectria has a very broad host range and can be difficult to eradicate once it establishes.

Terminal shoot dieback caused by the white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi), needle cast caused by Rhizosphaera and an infestation of the cryptomeria scale (Aspidiotus cryptomeriae) on Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens). Tree is roughly five-years-old and was planted two years ago. Several weevil larvae were observed in the pith of infested shoots. The cryptomeria scale infestation is not yet severe but could become a major problem without treatment. Sporadic, supplemental water is provided and the tree does receive some partial shade.

Green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) infestation on Vinca. Symptoms developed in July of this year and included wilted foliage and distorted and twisted terminal leaves. This insect pest begins the season on species of Prunus. After multiple, asexual generations the aphids developed a winged form that disperses to one of >100 plants to feed during the summer months. Symptoms on this particular plant were the result of direct feeding but the aphids can also transmit several viruses.

Stem cankering caused by Cytospora and Phomopsis on Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Several trees from varying locations, all with symptoms of premature leaf shedding, marginal leaf scorch and twig dieback. Other agents may be involved in some cases but could not be accounted for based on the submitted samples. Dense canopies and thin bark facilitate the disease. Many healthy trees harbor minor populations of these fungi but when stresses mount, a proliferation of twig dieback can develop.

Branch cankering caused by Botryodiplodia and Phomopsis on a DED-resistant American elm (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton/Valley Forge’). Tree is 20-years-old and last year, branch dieback was observed by the homeowner. A bordering forest is home to several American elms that are in varying states of decline. Elm bark beetle tunneling was observed but there was no obvious vascular staining present and Ophiostoma could not be detected.

Leaf and branch dieback of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) caused by the fungal pathogens Volutella, Macrophoma and Fusarium. Boxwood mite damage was also common and a minor infestation of the oystershell scale is present. 500 plants, approximately 10-years-old, were planted at a private residence one year ago. Shrubs were planted too close together, limiting air circulation, and suffered from winter injury and typical transplant stress. Just after the new growth flushed this spring, it was sheared off, further stressing the plants. Drip irrigation is provided.

Severe infestation of the spruce spider mite (Oligonychus ununguis) on larch (Larix sp.). 20 trees that are 20-years-old and have been present at the site for 12 years. Last autumn, the trees were diagnosed with larch needle cast caused by Mycosphaerella laricina. They were treated twice this season after needles elongated and appeared healthy most of the growing season. Now, three of the trees are exhibiting serious needle yellowing that initiated in the lower canopy and spread upward. The symptoms developed only in the past few weeks and intensified rapidly. No needlecast fungi were isolated from the submitted samples.

Coral spot canker, caused by Nectria cinnabarina, on honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos). Note the pink-colored pads of fungal tissue rupturing through the bark adjacent to the canker.     Overlapping cluster of fruiting bodies produced by the mossy cap polypore (Oxyporus populinus) on sugar maple (Acer saccharum). The mossy cap polypore causes a trunk rot of hardwoods and is particularly common on maple. It typically becomes established through wounds on the lower trunk. This mature tree resides on the UMass campus and has no symptoms of butt rot or dieback in the canopy (photo taken 09/15/2015).

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.

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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