I received a picture the other day from our lawn care franchise owner in Fulton, IL , Don McLuckie. Don asked if what he was seeing was normal to see on an ash tree. I had seen these on ash trees in my neighborhood. I always thought the fuzzy-looking balls were some type of seed pod. That was the answer that I sent to Don, but I wasn’t 100% sure. After doing some investigating on the Internet, I discovered that my diagnosis was incorrect. What I was seeing on the picture that Don sent in was the result of an Ash Flower Gall Mite.
How Do Ash Flower Galls Form?
Ash flower galls are abnormal growths that are caused by insects, mites or plant diseases. A tiny eriophyid mite causes the male flowers to develop ½ to 1 inch diameter tumor-like growths, which are the galls. These mites can also cause leaves to distort as well. Ash mites are too small to see without a hand lens or even a microscope. They are worm-shaped and spend the winter under the buds of the new leaves and flowers and begin feeding in the spring.
Are Ash Flower Galls Harmful to the Tree?
Besides being somewhat unsightly, the Gall Mite activity does little to effect the overall health of the tree. The worst thing that can happen to the tree would be if the mite activity was severe and too many galls formed, putting extra stress on the limbs. The galls can remain on the tree for more than one season, which can result in a more unsightly look. Although, it does add a little winter interest to the tree.
Can I Control Ash Flower Gall Mites?
Trying to control the ash flower gall mites requires spraying on the day that the buds first start forming. Trying to control the mite after the galls begin to develop will not be effective. Also, if the trees are large, spraying them will be difficult. The galls really do not hurt the tree. If you live in the eastern half of the US, Ash Flower Galls do far less damage than the Emerald Ash Borer . There is a very good chance that the ash tree in your landscape will probably have to be replaced anyway due to the destructive nature of EAB.
For much of the country, it has been very wet as of late. However, as summer begins, the likelihood of a prolonged dry spell seems probable. The recent rain has allowed trees and shrubs to grow well and produce lots of leaves. If the rain stops for an extended period of time, some plants may drop some of the extra leaves as the plants adjust to the drier weather. Depending on the extent of the dry weather, a few leaves dropping should not be too concerning. Keep an eye open for drooping, though, as it could be a sign that you may need to water your trees and shrubs.
Water Your Trees and Shrubs When They Begin to Droop
Many people concentrate their watering efforts on their lawns and forget about the trees and shrubs. If the leaves on your plants are drooping, it usually means that they are in need of water. The best way to water a larger tree or shrub is a slow, steady trickle from a garden hose directed at the base of the plants. Leave it at the base of the plant for 15 to 20 minutes and check the soil to see if it is getting wet more than an inch or so. The goal is to keep the soil wet down to 8 to 12 inches. Move the hose and water different areas under the tree to get the entire area watered. Most sprinklers are designed to water large areas, so they usually don’t work well to water established trees or shrubs.
Possibility of Disease
If, after watering, your plant is still drooping, you may have a bigger problem such as a disease or insect infestation. This may require you to contact a tree care service to have them come out and check your plants. There are numerous other possibilities that could cause a plant to lose its vitality. It is better to have someone who can identify these problems and provide the best recommendations to help your plants grow.
I have received several pictures of trees with what looks like some type of weird growth on the bark. I have received these questions many times in the past and what people think is a tree disease is actually an organism known as lichens.
Lichens are a composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner growing together in a symbiotic relationship. They are known to grow in almost every climate found on earth. They can grow in deserts and in the arctic. They will grow on rocks, buildings, walls, roofs and trees and shrubs. They are long-living organisms that can survive droughts and floods. They can be used to make dyes and serve as food for many creatures, even humans. Lichens are very beneficial to nature’s ecosystem.
As lichens grow on rocks or inhabit barren areas, they trap dust, silt and clay, helping to create new soil. They have the ability to trap nitrogen from the atmosphere and release it to other plants when it rains. As they die, they contribute to the decayed organic matter in the area where they grew, allowing seeds from other plants to germinate. Many people become concerned when they see these weird looking growths on their trees or shrubs. They are worried that they may be parasitic and causing damage to the plant.
I think this thought can come from the fact that lichens appear to grow more on dead branches than on live branches. This is not always the case, but lichens will often grow more on dead branches since those branches will often receive more sunlight, which favors the development of the lichens.
Lichens will grow on healthy plants as well, but have little effect on the health of the plant. The best thing to do is enjoy the shape and color of the various lichens as they grow on your trees and shrubs. Realize that they are part of nature and its complex ecosystem. There are more important things to be concerned about than lichens growing on your trees.