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Native Trees Under Attack


So many of our native trees are struggling.  It is really sad to see so may tree species under attack; American elm, oaks, sugar maples, hemlocks, ash and beech. It’s especially obvious when you see an entire forest of the same trees that are dead or sick.  Whether you’re on a hike in a stand of American beech, driving down a road of dead oak or visiting state park full of sick hemlocks the loss of natives is becoming obvious at an alarming rate.

In this video, our expert arborist, David Anderson, walks through how to identify Beech Trees and Hemlock Trees that are being attacked by Diseases and Insects.

These native trees have been hit hard in recent years and if you have them on your property it is important to be proactive to keep them healthy and safe from disease and insects.


Dutch Elm Disease - University of Minnesota

Photo courtesy: University of Minnesota Extension

American Elms

We are still lucky enough to have some healthy American elms.  A truly wonderful tree that has been devastated since a disease was accidently imported into the US in the 1930s.  This tree is one of the first trees to be widely used as an urban tree in the northeast.  It was easily transplanted from wetlands and grew rapidly.  Because it grew fast, was very strong and has a graceful shape it was over planted.  

Monocultures or planting too many of the same species help these imported insects or disease run a muck wiping out trees.  American elms were the first obvious example on East Coast of The US.    Still to this day Dutch Elm Disease is a black eye for arborists because we still don’t have a cure or many great options to preserve our elms.


Photo courtesy: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources


The remnants of a few scattered gypsy moth caterpillar infestations (now called spongy moth) are evident by the stone dead white and red oaks. Gypsy Moth Caterpillars are a large hairy and ravenous.  Feeding on lots of trees but white and red oaks are their favorite They usually feed in early June and can defoliate a large tree easily. We monitor spongy moth population so we can be prepared to treat them if they show up close to home again.  

However, if trees get defoliated two years in a row the odds are they will die. Fortunately, this happens less often recently but we still see dead trees everywhere from the last appearance of the gypsy moth caterpillar.  

Dead trees are very dangerous because they are brittle.  The leaves allow the tree to absorb water, the water obviously makes the tree strong and flexible.  The longer the tree stands dead the more likely the tree will brake potentially causing damage. 


Our beautiful sugar maples are struggling.  Although there is no single cause for the decline of individual sugar maples and the overall population. However, there are a number of factors that affect them.  

Scientist theorize that as our climate gets warmer the sugar maples cannot handle the longer warmer summers.  This is also exacerbated by chronic drought stress.  For a big strong tree, they can look sickly and die back from the top rapidly.  This is truly sad to see.

It seems more and more that a happy healthy sugar maple in Massachusetts is more of an aberration.  If you have sugar maples, be sure to proactively fertilize mulch and water them to keep them healthy. 

If they start to decline (die back) from the top they can be difficult if not impossible to save.  Unfortunately, as they die back from the top they rot quickly and limbs begin to drop.

maple tree in autumn
Native Trees Under Attack


Canadian and Carolina hemlocks, native to the eastern united states are under attack from two invasive insects; hemlock adelgid and elongate hemlock scale.  

The adelgid is a type of aphid that looks like cotton balls on the small branches where the needles meet the stems.  

Elongate hemlock looks like acne on the underside of the needles.  This scale has multiple generations so it populates quickly and can really cause hemlocks to die back quickly.  

The good news is we have a very effective treatment to control these insects and save trees.  The bad news is that not all trees can be treated especially those on public lands.  Again, as trees die, they usually decline from the top down becoming fragile over the course of time.   A stand of hemlocks is one of the most beautiful forests to walk through and it is truly sad to see these trees dying.

Green and White Ash


Green and white ash trees have been under attack from Emerald Ash Borer for several years.  If finding a healthy sugar maple is rare finding a healthy ash is a unicorn.  If you are lucky enough to have a healthy ash tree, be sure to have it on a treatment and fertilizer regiment to keep it healthy.  

If you own ash trees they are struggling it is difficult if not impossible to preserve.  Furthermore, if all trees become brittle when they die back, ash trees are one of the most brittle.  If you have an ash tree that is dying you should have it removed before it starts to fall apart.

Emerald Ash Borer


Our native beech and the European beech trees used in so many of our landscapes are under attack by a nematode that feeds on the leaf buds.  There is not much known about this new disease beech leaf disease but it is damaging and potentially killing beech trees indiscriminately.  Although there are a few experimental treatments that may help abate the effects of this devastating disease at this point there is no cure. 

The damage is especially obvious when you see entire stands of American beech with shriveled leaves looking really bedraggled. This is a very important and common stand of trees.  American beech not only perpetuate by seeds (beech nuts) but more commonly they form new trees by sending up shoots from their roots.  Scientists suspect that is part of the reason the American beech are suffering from this disease at a much faster rate. 

This disease has made an exponential jump since last spring when you would see it occasionally now its rare to see a healthy beech.    Like a hemlock stand a healthy American beech stand has a truly primeval feel like you are in a vast forest alone.    If you love to hike and enjoy nature enjoy them while you can.


It is a shame what has been happening to so many of our native trees.  Although it is sad it is not hopeless.  We encourage all of you to contact us so we can guide you on the solution that is best for you.  We will arm you with the best advice for you and your trees.  As we always say being proactive with your tree care is the best way to keep your trees happy and safe.


Mayer Tree Service and our expert arborists are here to help. Feel free to give us a call, contact us through our chat bot here on our website, or contact us through our contact form.

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