Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Asian Longhorned Beetle - Anoplophora glabripennis (ALB)

 The Asian Longhorned Beetle - Anoplophora glabripennis (ALB) is a serious pest from China, it has made it's way to the United States and has been observed attacking our trees. This beetle's larvae tunnels into trees, causes girdling of stems and roots, repeated attacks can lead to die back usually beginning with the crown of the tree and eventually the entire tree. It is thought that the Asian Longhorned Beetle traveled to the United States inside solid wood type packaging material from China, it has been intercepted at various ports through the country. Within the United States it appears that this beetle prefers trees in the Maple species (Acer), such as Red, Norway, Silver and Sugar Maples and Box Elders. They have also been found on Birches, Buckeyes, Horse chestnut, Willows and Elms.

Photo Citation (Infestation/Tree Damage) Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service,

The ALB are unique in appearance and quite easy to spot. Adults have a deep black bodies with white spots on the back. They are 3/4 - 1 1/4 inches long and have very long antennae that are usually 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 times the actual length of their bodies. The antennae are clearly marked by white bands or stripes on each segment. The egg laying sites within a trees bark is generally oval or round and are chewed out by the female beetle before she deposits a single egg into each. Some trees- Maples most notably, will ooze sap from the egg laying sites as the larvae feed inside during the summer months. Around the base of infested trees there will be an accumulation of coarse sawdust usually found at the point where the branches meet the trunk, this sawdust is caused from the larvae boring into the tree, stems and branches. When the adult ALB finally exits the tree it leaves a large round hole that is about 3/8 of an inch in diameter on branches or trunks. ALB only have one generation per year and adult beetles are usually only found from July - October. A female can only lay 35- 90 eggs in her entire lifetime and eggs can hatch in 10-15 days. The larvae will live under the bark and continue to feed within the tissues of the tree, they then bore deep into the tree to pupate. The adults emerge from pupation sites by boring tunnels in the wood and creating round exit holes.

Photo Citation (Adult ALB) Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Currently in the United States the only way to eliminate the pest is to remove infested trees and destroy them by chipping or burning of the material. There are many quarantines in effect around the country to help prevent further spread of the insect (and other insects). As with most pests early detection is the best defense allowing for rapid treatment/removal, this is the only way the pest can be truly eradicated from an area.

If you suspect that the Asian Longhorned Beetle is in your area it is asked that you collect an adult beetle in a jar and immediately notify officials in your area. You can contact your State Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, State Forester, Department of Natural Resources, or State Entomologist. You can also call toll free to 1(866)-702-9938 . To learn more about the ALB you can visit:  or

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Saturday, July 6, 2024

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family) Tomatoes, Potatoes

 In the family Solanaceae (Nightshade Family) there is a genus called Solanum it contains 1500-2000 varieties of herbs, shrubs and trees. Of these varieties two are major food crops in North America, Potato and Tomato and another less Popular including Eggplant. In other regions there are varieties such as the Ethiopian eggplant, Gilo (S. aethiopicum), Naranjilla or Lulo (S. quitoense), Turkey Berry (S. torvum), Pepino (S. muricatum), Tamarillo and Bush Tomatoes (which includes several Australian species). Most of the members of this family are native to the American Tropics, 65 occur in North America (only 35 are native). Even though two of our largest food crops are included in this genus most of the green parts of the plants and unripened fruits are poisonous, but some bear edible parts in the form of fruit, leaves or tubers. Also included in this genus are Nightshades, Horse Nettles and many other plants cultivated for their ornamental flowers and fruits. The species grows in various habits including annual, perennial, vine, subshrub, shrub and even small trees.

Image Citation: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University, - Subject: Buffalobur (Solanum rostratum) Dunal

Image Citation:  Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,  - Subject: Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) L.

Most of the plants have green simply shape leaves that are ovate or elliptic. Flowers can range in color depending on the variety but generally have 5 petals. The fruits can vary from small and insignificant to large and very visable - berries, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Some produce fruit from the leaves while other grow underground (like the potato). Many plants in the Solanum genus are an important food source for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (Butterflies and Moths), these include various Angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), various members of the Bedellia species, the Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae), Common swift (Korscheltellus lupulina), Garden dart (Euxoa nigricans), Ghost moth (Hepialus humuli), Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), Tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata), and Turnip moth (Agrotis segetum) to name a few.

Food Crop production in the Solanum genus is extremely important throughout the world. In 2013, the recorded world production of Tomatoes was 163.4 million tonnes, with China producing 31% of the total, followed by India, the United States and Turkey. In 2012, Tomato production was estimated to be valued at 59 billion dollars, making it the eighth most valuable agricultural product worldwide. In 2013, the recorded world production of Potatoes was 368 million tonnes. Two thirds of the global production is eaten by humans, the remaining third is consumed by animals or used in starch production. Potatoes remains an essential crop in Europe, where per capita production remains the highest in the world. The most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. As of 2007, China led the world potato production, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes were harvested between China and India. It is believed that the geographic shift in potato production has been moved from wealthier countries toward low income areas of the world because it is a cheap and plentiful crop that is able to grow in wide varieties of climates and locales. Only about 5% of the world's Potato crop are traded internationally because of the perishability. In 2013, the recorded world production of Eggplants was 49.4 million tonnes, 57% of which came from China, 27% from India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey were also major producers all total account for 97% of the world production. More than 4,000,000 acres are devoted to the cultivation of eggplants in the world.

Many members of the Solanaceae:Nightshade family members can be grown in your own landscape some in your vegetable garden and others in you flower gardens. With 1500-2000 varieties and counting I am sure you can find one that is right for you! Hardiness zones vary by plant and within the family can range from zones 4-12.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

American Plum - Prunus americana

 American Plum - Prunus americana is best recognized by the combination of flaking scaly bark, sharply toothed leaf margins and red or yellow fruit.  It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that is capable of reaching heights of around 25 feet.  Generally it grows in an erect form with a single trunk, the young shoots are often thorn tipped.  

Image Citation: David Stephens,

The bark is smooth and reddish brown with horizontal lenticels that becomes tan, buff or grey with age.  The leaves are alternate, simple, elliptical, and oblong with a rounded base.  They are green in color with a hairless upper and lower surfaces, and blades that are 4-12 cm long.  The flower is generally 20-25 mm in diameter with 5 petals.  Generally the flowers are white in color and may become pink with age, they appear in Mid Spring to Early Summer.  The fruit is a rounded or ellipsoid, red, orange, or yellow drupe.  The fruit appears in late summer and is often glaucous with a white waxy blush on the surface.  

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

The American Plum is native throughout the Eastern United States and continuing West through the Rocky Mountain region.  It prefers rich, moist, loamy soils, open woods, woodland margins, fence line and stream banks.  American Plum is sometimes considered to be thicket forming in woodland areas, though it is believed these thickets are formed by seedlings rather than root suckers.  American Plum can be found at most nurseries in the native region.  Currently there are over 260 varieties that have been developed from the American Plum which greatly improve the reach of it's growth range.

Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Shumard Oak / Buckley Oak - Quercus shumardii

   The Shumard Oak / Buckley Oak - Quercus shumardii, is a deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 120 feet tall in ideal growing conditions.  It grows in an erect form with a single trunk that is sometimes fluted or buttressed near the base.  Generally the Shumard Oak is high branching with the trunk remaining branchless until the canopy.  The crown is open and spreading with ascending and broad spreading branch habit.

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

It is most easily identified by a combination of deeply cut leaves, hairless terminal buds and a shallow acorn nut that encloses less than 1/3 of the nut.  The bark is pale gray in color, smooth when young, becoming finely ridged and deeply furrowed with age.  The twigs are gray or light brown in color, slender in form and hairless.  Terminal buds are generally egg shaped and range in size from 4-8 mm long.  The leaves are alternate, simple in form, elliptic or obvate with a wide angled flattened base.  Upper leaf surface is a pale yellow-green color, lustrous, hairless, the lower surface is similar in color to the upper.  The leaves turn brownish with small purple spots in Autumn.  The leaf blades 7-20 cm long and 6-15 cm broad.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup 7-12 mm deep, enclosing 1/3 or less of the light brown nut.  

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

The Shumard Oak is among one of the largest Red Oaks in the Southeastern United States.  Under ideal conditions they are fast growing, tolerant of harsh and dry conditions and varying soils.  It is considered a poplar landscape tree in the South and is used frequently in medians, parking lots, roadsides and larger suburban lawns.  In natural settings it does not form pure stands but instead occurs individually within the forest canopy, it is often found growing alongside American Elm, Winged Elm, Green Ash, White Ash, Cherrybark Oak, Southern Red Oak, Water Oak and White Oak. 

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),

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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Invasive Plants and Trees in North America

 At this time of year most of us have made a few trips to the local nursery to find some new items to spruce up our homes landscaping.  One of the last things most of us consider is if our new planting is an invasive species or something non-native to our area that could actually harm or starve out our natives.  Most of the common plant species thriving in the United States came from somewhere else originally, mostly Europe or Asia. The same goes for most invasive insects that are harming our natives. While they are often considered to be beautiful and desired additions, many of these plants spread rapidly in an environment that has not evolved to keep its growth in balance naturally.  If not controlled an invasive species of plant can take over and harm or prevent native species from surviving.

Below is a quick list of some of the top invasives in North America. How many can you find in your own backyard?

Kudzu - Pueraria montana

Photo Citation: Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Commonly seen growing as a high climbing, rapidly growing vine throughout the southeastern United States, the perennial known as Kudzu originally hails from Asia and was introduced in 1876.  The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that kudzu spreads up to 150,000 acres annually and The Forest Service estimates that the weed spreads by 2,500 acres per year. Either way this invasive is capable of covering anything in its path, from trees, fences, and other permanent structures.  When a tree or shrub is covered by Kudzu, the Kudzu usually wins and the "host" tree or shrub is often killed or significantly degraded. Flowering Kudzu is a fast-growing vine/legume with a grapelike odor and deep green leaves.

Image Citation: Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,  (Kudzu overtaking native plants)

English Ivy - Hedera helix

Image Citation: Randy Cyr, Greentree,

How many of our Grandmothers had a patch of English Ivy in their yards?  (Mine did for sure!) English Ivy was originally brought to America by early settlers/colonists who sought to recreate the charms of their homeland. In this new environment English Ivy quickly became invasive, destructive and covered (even toppling) trees, low growing native species and climbing (charmingly) up the walls of houses.  This one can be bought as a "houseplant" still even though it is restricted in most parts of the country as highly invasive.

Wisteria - Wisteria sinensis

A native of China, Wisteria is beautiful, fragrant and waterfalls over anything it covers. The beautiful Purple curtain like flowers are one of the biggest reasons so many fall for the beauty of Wisteria. Beware of planting Wisteria on your property, it grows so vigorously that it can quickly become difficult to manage.  Like English Ivy, Wisteria has the ability to overtake anything in its path even killing mature canopy trees. 

Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,


This one is quite surprising as Barberry is commonly used as a shrub by many landscapers.  I have some planted in various locations in my own yard but am very careful to keep them trimmed and under control.  Believe it or not both common barberry and Japanese barberry are banned from sale in many areas of the United States (Not yet the Mid Atlantic region where we live). Originally introduced in the late 1800s, not only is it invasive, but it also provides an ideal hiding place for deer ticks which are a carrier of Lyme Disease.  

Image Citation: Britt Slattery, US Fish and Wildlife Service,

Butterfly Bush - Buddleja davidii

This one is another that is surprising as this can be found at most nurseries and even some big box stores this time of year.  Butterfly bush offers much-needed nectar for many pollinators like butterflies and bees, but it is also considered an invasive or noxious weed in many states.  Butterfly bush is known to push out native species and spread into uncultivated areas where it is not wanted.  If not trimmed frequently Butterfly Bush can overtake an area in a single growth season. 

Image Citation: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Purple LoosestrifeLythrum salicaria

Purple loosestrife is a beautiful but aggressively invasive and hardy perennial.  It is most commonly the cause of native plant growth restriction in natural and disturbed wetland areas.  Once established it most often out competes and replaces native grasses, sedges and other flowering plants that would provide more nutrient rich sources of food for native wildlife.  Originally introduced in the Northeast United States and Canada in the 1800's for medicinal and ornamental uses, it can now be found growing wildly in every state except Florida.  

Image Citation: L.L. Berry,

Norway Maple

Norway Maple is a vigorous grower and an adaptable species loved by many homeowners. Norway Maple surprisingly are also on the invasive plant list in many states. The Norway's shallow, dense root system often competes with lawns, other landscape plants and hardscaping causing not only annoying roots that can trip you, a bumpy mowing process and even lifting sidewalks and shifted retaining walls.

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College,

Japanese Honeysuckle -Lonicera japonica

Honeysuckle has been used for decades along highways for effective erosion control. Japanese honeysuckle however can cause more harm than good by threatening native plants, it is famous for hoarding light, space, and nutrients in an established area suffocating out all of the native weaker plantings.

Image Citation- Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia,

Black Locust -Robinia pseudoacacia

Black locust spreads quickly, and is also short lived.  Its branches are brittle and break easily when exposed to high winds. As a result of its ability to propagate quickly, it is considered invasive and is on the do-not-plant list in many areas throughout the country.  Even so, it is still commonly planted by many commercial landscape firms on roadsides and within communities.

Image Citation: Richard Webb,


This woody, perennial vine is native to Asia, and although it has beautiful berries in winter, it is considered an invasive species due to the way it starves out otherwise successful native plants.

Image Citation: Chris Evans - University of Illinois -

Japanese Knotweed

Introduced to the United States from East Asia in the late 1800s, Japanese Knotweed has been considered problematic since the mid-20th century. It spreads quickly, crowding and shading out native vegetation.

Image Citation: Randy Westbrooks, Invasive Plant Control,

Common Buckthorn 

Like so many invasive species, Common Buckthorn was introduced to this nation's gardens by well-meaning botanists in the late 19th century. Besides crowding out native shrubs, it plays host to many pests, and the decomposition of its leaf litter can change the pH of the surrounding soil, which can cause problems for other nearby plants.

Image Citation: Jan Samanek - Phytosanitary Administration -

Dame’s Rocket 

Dame’s Rocket, with its fragrant white, pink or purple flowers blooming in spring, has long been a traditional garden favorite. But it is an invasive species, and no matter how beautiful, it has the potential to damage entire natural ecosystems.

Image Citation:  Leslie J. Mehrhoff - University of Connecticut -

Burning Bush 

Known for its bright red, fall color, burning bush is a popular landscaping shrub throughout North America. It has many invasive traits, however, that allow it to spread aggressively. It’s not recommended for planting near uncultivated areas, and may end up on official invasive species lists in the near future.

Image Citation: Richard Webb -

Giant Hogweed 

Giant hogweed is not only on invasive species lists, it is officially classified as a noxious weed. Though it was originally cultivated as an ornamental plant, contact with its sap can cause terribly painful burns, scarring, and even blindness.

Image Citation: Terry English - USDA APHIS PPQ

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Purpleosier Willow - Salix purpurea

 The Purpleosier Willow - Salix purpurea, is a deciduous clone forming shrub or shrubby tree that reaches heights of 4-20 feet tall.  Growing in an erect, upright form or arching, usually with numerous branches and multiple trunks.  Originally introduced from Europe, it has been cultivated and is now naturalized in various wetlands throughout much of the Eastern United States as far South as Georgia, west to Minnesota and Iowa and sporadic in the West.  

The leaves of the Purpleosier Willow are alternate or opposite, simply shaped, narrowly oblong and often widest around the base of each leaf.  The upper leaf surface is dull or slightly lustrous, dark green in color and hairless.  The lower leaf surface is bluish-white in color and hairless.  Each leaf blade os 2-10 cm long and 1.5- 3 cm broad.  The flowers are unisexual, with male and female occuring in catkins on separate plants.  Male catkins are 25-33 mm long and 6-10 mm in diameter, while the female are 13-35 mm long and 3-7 mm in diameter.  Flower occur each Spring prior to the appearance of the new leaves.   The fruit is an egg shaped capsule that ranges in size from 2-5 mm long. 

Image Citations (Photos 1-3): Robert Vid├ęki, Doronicum Kft., 

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud, Cercis canadensis

 Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud, Cercis canadensis is a dwarf cascading Redbud variety with a huge impact on any setting.  At only 6-8 ft tall and 5-6 wide at maturity this compact tree will fit in almost any garden, it even does well in containers (for those of you without a garden).  Ruby Falls boosts ease of care with a high tolerance of most soil conditions with the exception of poorly drained saturated soils.  It will have success in partial to full sun. Blooms area a brilliant Lavendar color and they contrast beautifully off of the red stems of the tree.  The leaves are small, semi-glossy, and heart-shaped. Leaves turn yellow in fall and are maroon to dark purple in the Spring and Summer seasons.  Even in the winter when the tree is bear it still offers interest with it's flowing branches and weeping habit.

The Ruby Falls Redbud is very unique and can be perfect for any space.  We have three on our property, two on either side of our front porch and one in our pool yard. They are medium to moderate rate growers.  This variety is both pest and disease resistant and is even drought tolerant making it extremely easy to care for.  Recommended for USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.  Redbuds are native to North America

Ruby Falls can be purchased from most large online nurseries and limited local nurseries.  I have not yet seen them available for purchase at the big box centers or smaller garden centers (unless they have a  local grower that stocks for them).  This variety has greatly increased in popularity in our area over the last few years and for very good is absolutely gorgeous!

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( Leaves/Tree) Photo Credit: Amy Gilliss - Arundel Tree Service -