Trees feeling the effects of summer's extremes

Reproduced from The Newton TAB Community Newspaper
Summer 1998

Trees feeling the effects of summer's extremes
By Don Seiffert

When Newton residents look out their windows, they see that many trees in the Garden City have turned brown already.

Experts say this season's premature defoliation of trees especially the Norway maples that line the streets is because of a number of factors, but mostly to the extremes of weather this summer. The floods in June, followed by a virtual drought during July and August, have combined to put an unusually heavy stress on the trees, causing many of them to lose their leaves before autumn.

Maureen Lupien, a certified arborist and owner of Lupien Tree and Landscape, said that Norway maple trees, the kind with the helicopter-like seeds, are being hit the hardest. The ones growing between the street and sidewalk already have severely restricted root systems, and the recent lack of rain has caused many to wither, she said.

"I'm looking out my window now, and all the leaves are brown," she said from the company's offices in Newton. "What's happening is, we' re not getting the rain they need."

She said that a recent report from the University of Massachusetts predicts leaves turning colors and falling off much earlier than normal this year. While the wet June caused trees to sprout abundant new growth, that growth was not supported because of the dryness, in addition to maple trees, she said that the smaller branches and leaves of many ashes, birches and oak trees can be expected to wither.





D.J. Snyder, owner of A.A.D.J. Snyder Tree Service in Newton and a consulting arborist, said any extremes in weather stress the roots of trees. The dry weather has caused a condition known as verticillium wilt, a root fungus that causes leaves to turn yellow, while the moist weather earlier this year has caused the disease anthracnose to become

But in addition to the lack of water and the restricted root systems, street trees are routinely subjected to road salt which causes new buds to dry out, he said. When the warm weather in March caused many trees to sprout buds early, the subsequent cold weather as well as the spray of salt from passing cars caused much of the new growth to die off.

Snyder said that the soil's pH, or acidity, is very important to how a tree gets nutrients.

"Improper pH is like changing a 10-lane highway to a three-lane highway. You have everything you need, but it turns into a big bottleneck to get through," he said.

Watering the roots of a tree during the dry spell can help the pH balance to return to normal, he said..

Snyder said that with all of the street trees lining both sides of the approximately 300 miles of roads in Newton, keeping all of them healthy can be a difficult task. "There could be 600 miles of trees," he said. 'That's an awful lot of trees to manage."

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