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Branching Out
Spring 2014


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In This Issue
Celebrate Arbor Day on April 25
Washing Out Winter
Featured Tree: Chanticleer Pear/Cleveland Select Pear
They're Back!!! EAB Returns with a Vengeance
Conditions Affecting Your Trees
What a Winter It Has Been!
Featured Customer: City of Cedarburg
International Society of Arboriculture Conference coming to Milwaukee!
Watch Wisconsin Tonight This Friday on TODAY'S TMJ4 For EAB Detection and Prevention Tips From Ken Ottman!
In celebration of Arbor Day, this Friday, April 25, our very own Ken Ottman will be featured on Wisconsin Tonight, offering tips on EAB detection, prevention and treatment.  

Be sure to tune in to TODAY'S TMJ4 at 6:30 p.m. on Friday to learn how you can help save Wisconsin's ash trees from this deadly and destructive insect population.


Celebrate Arbor Day on April 25



On April 25, tree enthusiasts across the country will celebrate Arbor Day with the planting of trees, arbor-themed activities and lessons on the importance of trees in daily life.  Arbor Day dates back to the 1850's when pioneers moved to the Nebraska Territory.  Among those pioneers was journalist and tree enthusiast, J. Sterling Morton.  His position as the editor at Nebraska's largest paper gave Morton the platform he needed to spread agricultural information and share his enthusiasm for trees with a wide audience.  Morton advocated tree planting by individuals, groups and civic organizations throughout the community. 


Having moved from an area with many trees to the open plains of Nebraska, the pioneers not only missed the visually appealing nature of trees but found them to be a necessity to help block the wind and keep soil in place.  Trees also provided fuel for fires, building materials and shade from the hot sun. 




 On April 10, 1872, the first Arbor Day was held in Nebraska, with prizes being offered to the counties and individuals who properly planted the largest number of trees.  It is estimated that more than one million trees were planted on this day.   In 1885, Arbor Day was named a state holiday in Nebraska and was celebrated with numerous tree plantings, a speech delivered by Morton and a grand parade.


Since then, other states have passed legislation to observe Arbor Day as a holiday.  Today, the most common date to celebrate is the last Friday in April, but a number of states observe the holiday at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather. 




 This year, Arbor Day will be celebrated on April 25.  Catch the Arbor Day spirit and plant a tree with your family or friends.  


To learn more about Arbor Day, please visit www.arborday.org.


Washing Out Winter 

While salt may be a necessity on driveways and roads during the winter, it can be damaging to trees.  After the snow has melted, the salt remains in and around tree beds.  Inevitably, it will seep down into the soil, making it difficult for plants and trees to uptake water and may actually draw water out of the roots.  This type of salt damage can leave trees severely disfigured or even kill them.



To avoid problems caused by salt usage near trees and shrubs, be sure to flush out tree beds and soil surrounding shrubs several times.  Rinse walkways, driveways and any areas that drain into tree beds to wash away any residual salt.  To avoid any further damage force the rinse water away from your landscape beds.  These actions will help to restore your tree's health and allow it to flourish throughout the growing season.


Featured Tree: Chanticleer Pear/Cleveland Select Pear

As one of the first trees to bloom in spring, the Chanticleer Pear, also known as the Cleveland Select Pear, epitomizes the essence of the season.  With small white flower clusters blooming in April and May, the Chanticleer Pear is a vision of beauty after a cold and dark winter.




Once the tree has bloomed, it produces small, round and hard pears that are about the size of a pea.  Despite the fact that the bitter fruit is distasteful to most people, it provides a good source of food for birds and other wildlife well into the winter. 


The Chanticleer Pear is a shallow-rooted tree and although it prefers moist, well-drained soil, it can tolerate a wide range of conditions including dry, clay and alkaline.  As a low maintenance tree, the Chanticleer Pear withstands climates with hot, dry summer months and can handle the weight of ice and snow come winter.  These traits, along with thriving in full sun and the ability to tolerate pollution, make the Chanticleer Pear the perfect addition to streetscapes, parks and yards.



  The Chanticleer Pear is a tight, narrow, pyramidal-shaped, ornamental pear tree that typically grows 25 to 35 feet tall and 15 feet wide.  Ornamental pear trees are native to China and Taiwan.  They were brought to the United States in 1917 and have been used to enhance landscapes across the country ever since.  


Tree Quote


 "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now."


 - Chinese Proverb

Contact Us


If you have specific concerns about your trees, please contact your arborist: 


Stevens Point (Mark/Paul) 



Wausau (Mark) 



Southeast WI - Mequon Office (Nolan/Ken/Jeff) 



Marshfield (Mark) 



Junction City/ Plover/ Nekoosa/ Wisc. Rapids (Mark/Paul) 



Waupaca (Paul) 



Tree Resources
Season's Greetings!

Ken Ottman


Spring has sprung and we couldn't be happier to kiss those cold winter months goodbye!  Unfortunately, we're not the only ones.  Just as we enjoy the rising temperatures that go hand-in-hand with the changing season, so do the most invasive and destructive tree-killing diseases and insect infestations. 


With warmer weather right around the corner, now is the time to evaluate and treat trees, making sure they are healthy and ready to thrive in the summer months ahead.  In this issue of Branching Out, you will find more information about Emerald Ash Borer, Dutch Elm Disease and Oak Wilt, as well as Arbor Day, vole damage, frost cracks and winter burn.  And be sure to check out the section on the upcoming ISA Conference being held in Milwaukee!  The event features tons of arbor-themed activities and events that will be fun for the whole family!  


Ken Ottman, Owner, First Choice Tree Care 

They're Back!!!  EAB Returns with a Vengeance


After the polar vortex hit Wisconsin this winter, many people were left hoping the frigid cold temperatures would wipe out the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) population.  As cold as it was, temperatures didn't drop low enough to make this dream a reality.  The EAB will be back again this year and new infestations have already been identified in several regions across the state.


This invasive, wood boring beetle already has 21 counties under quarantine in Wisconsin including Brown, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Douglas, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Sauk, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha and Winnebago counties. 


The danger increases this year as the EAB is making its annual resurgence for at least the sixth time in Wisconsin.  During the early years of an EAB infestation, insect populations steadily grow, but cause relatively little visible damage.  However, as the invasive beetle population begins to multiply, the mortality rate of trees skyrockets.  Locally, nearly 100 percent of all untreated ash trees will die within twelve years of the initial EAB detection in the area.


With more than 770 million ash trees, the species makes up about seven percent of Wisconsin forests.  In urban areas, an estimated 20 percent of trees are ash, all of which could be wiped out completely in the near future if left untreated.


It sounds scary, but there's no need to fear the Emerald Ash Borer.  Our professional arborists at First Choice Tree Care are implementing a powerful treatment designed to kill the EAB and restore your tree to perfect health.  We are so confident in our treatment plan that we guarantee it will work, 100 percent of the time. Don't wait until you have an EAB infestation to treat your ash trees.  Call your local First Choice arborist to discuss preventative treatment options and save your ash trees from future infestations.


Emerald Ash Borer Tips:

  • A cure for EAB exists.  Research shows, when treated, infected trees will survive.  The treatment is nearly 100 percent effective.
  • Get to know the signs of EAB to better detect an infestation.
  • The first sign that you have an EAB infestation may be woodpecker damage.  Look for peeling or flaking bark as it is a strong indication that EAB are present.
  • Look for D-shaped emergence holes in the bark.  The holes will be about 1/8 inch in diameter and are a sure sign that EAB has already infested the tree.
  • Do not move firewood.  Purchasing local wood on trips and using all of it will help reduce the chance of spreading the disease to new areas.
If you suspect you have an infestation, call a tree care professional right away to discuss your options.  Keep in mind that treatments are a more economical approach to EAB management than removal or replacement.

Conditions Affecting Your Trees


Along with warm weather, spring brings new life to plants and animals that have been lying dormant all winter long.  Unfortunately, tree-killing diseases and insects are also spurred into activity and have the potential to stop the rejuvenation of some trees species dead in its tracks.


Dutch Elm Disease

Affecting elm trees across Wisconsin, Dutch Elm Disease (DED) is one of the most destructive shade tree diseases in North America.  Born of a fungus, and often spread by elm bark beetles, DED infects the water conducting system of elm trees, resulting in decreased or clogged water movement to the crown.  The dehydration causes visual symptoms, as the infected tree begins to wilt and turn yellow or brown in color.


If the fungus enters the tree through the roots, symptoms may appear in the lower crown first and then continue to spread to the entire crown very rapidly.  If the infection begins higher in the crown, symptoms often appear on individual branches, possibly in several locations, and progress downward.  Symptoms are typically seen early in the summer (think 4th of July), but may also be exhibited any time during the growing season. 


Luckily, DED is a manageable disease.  The most effective treatment is to remove diseased trees or branches in areas with large elm populations to reduce breeding sites for elm bark beetles and to eliminate the source of the fungus.   Fungicides have proved to show significant results in preventing the infection.  Through a process known as macro-infusion, the fungicide is injected directly into the root flares of the tree, killing the fungus and preventing future infiltration.  If you suspect that your tree has Dutch Elm Disease, contact your tree care professional right away to explore your treatment options.


Oak Wilt

Oak Wilt is another fungus that has significantly affected trees across the state.  This fungus also invades the water supply system inside the tree, creating balloon-like bumps that plug water movement up the tree. 


Oak Wilt can be spread both below and above ground.  The fungus can spread when roots from diseased trees become intertwined with roots from a healthy tree.  This generally occurs between oaks of the same species and is more common among red oaks.  The disease can also be spread by sap-feeding beetles.  Fungal mats caused by the disease develop under the bark of some trees and can force the bark to crack open.  The fungus produces a sweet odor that attracts these beetles, which then fly to healthy oaks, carrying the fungus with them.    


Oak Wilt can be very difficult to detect.  Leaves on diseased oaks often develop yellow veins that eventually turn brown.  Infected trees also lose their foliage much sooner than healthy oaks and may have visible narrow cracks in the bark leading to hollow areas  between the bark and the wood that give off a distinctive odor similar to fermenting fruit.


The best treatment for oak wilt is to avoid it in the first place.  To prevent the spread of Oak Wilt, avoid pruning, cutting or wounding oak trees from April until October or whenever temperatures are above 50 degrees.  An often used control measure for oak trees that are located close to one another is the construction of a root graft barrier which disconnects any shared root systems between the trees.  Finally, in areas where oak wilt is prevalent, trees may be effectively treated with a systemic fungicide injection to prevent the infection.


Once infected, oak trees in the red oak family (those with pointed lobed leaves) cannot be saved.  The white oak family of trees (those with rounded lobed leaves) may be cured of the disease if it is detected and treated early.  To have your oak trees examined for Oak Wilt and to discuss treatment options, please contact the disease control experts at First Choice Tree Care.  


 What a Winter It Has Been!


There is no doubt that this past winter was a cold one.  Suffering through the polar vortex, below freezing temperatures and icy cold winds had us all wishing for warmer weather.  Unlike the rest of us, our trees were not able to retreat indoors and had to withstand Mother Nature's brutal force.  Although winter may be over now, you might still see some lingering effects of the wicked temperatures and winter storms.


Winter Burn
You may have noticed that your evergreens are not green anymore.  If the needles have started to turn brown or yellow, it doesn't necessarily mean the tree is dying.  The cause of spring browning of needles may be disease related, as we have discussed in much of the last three newsletters.  However, after this year's extreme winter, the browning of needles is likely just a symptom of winter burn.  

Although the temperatures may have been cold, evergreens and shrubs enjoyed the warmth of the sun's rays all winter long.  This sunshine causes evergreens to lose water vapor through early photosynthesis.  To replace the water that they have lost, needles pull water up from the tree's roots.  Therein lies the problem. 


When the ground is frozen, the tree's roots cannot absorb water and the needles become dehydrated.  Without a sufficient water supply, the tree cannot complete the photosynthesis process that gives the needles their rich, green color.  When the weather becomes warmer, the rate of evaporation increases, resulting in drying and discoloration of the tree's needles. 




Yellow or brown needles caused by winter burn are generally found on the side of the tree or shrub that faces the sun and/or the side exposed to the wind.  This is where the rate of evaporation is the greatest so the amount of discoloration will also be increased. 


Although it may not look pretty, in all likelihood, the tree or shrub is not dead.   Check the fine branches by lightly scraping off the bark.  If the tissue below the bark remains green and pliable the tree or shrub is not dead.  Simply watering the plant will provide the essential material to allow new buds to begin their spring growth.  It may take some time, but you will eventually see green needles again.


To protect your trees, especially young evergreens from winter burn, our arborists recommend having your evergreen trees and shrubs sprayed with Wilt Pruf in the fall.  This product guards against moisture loss and will help to minimize the effects of winter burn.  In addition, it is important to regularly water evergreen trees and shrubs so that they have an ample water supply going into the winter season. 


Frost Cracks 

Another lingering sign of the frigid winter temperatures is cracks and splits along the side of trees.  These frost cracks are caused when the inner and outer wood in the tree's trunk expands and contracts at different rates when the temperature changes. 


Wisconsin winters can be especially finicky, with relatively warm daytime temperatures suddenly dropping below zero when the sun goes down.  When this happens, the outer wood of the tree contracts rapidly.  The inner wood, however, is protected by the outer layer and is able to retain heat better.  This layer of wood will not contract as quickly.  Since the outer wood is contracting much more quickly than the inner wood, the force is too great, causing the outer wood to crack.  This cracking of the outer wood is usually accompanied by a loud snap. 


Frost cracks often occur on trees where the trunk has been injured in the past due to improper pruning, lawn mower impacts, string trimmer damage, etc.  They  are most common on young trees with smooth bark.  The good news is, these cracks do not seriously hurt the trees and often close on their own.  If damage does occur, simply remove any loose bark from the edge of the crack with a sharp knife.  For trees with large, serious cracks, professional arborists can also bolt the crack shut.


   Animal Damage

As the snow melts away, you might start to see that bark is missing from the bottom of your trees.  If the affected area is below the winter's snowline, it could be a good indication that your yard is infested with voles. 


Voles, also known as meadow mice, can cause severe damage to trees and shrubs.  They construct surface runways under the protection of the snow cover, as well as underground tunnels, throughout large areas of land.  With rapid rates of reproduction, vole infestations become more and more difficult to control the longer they go untreated.   


Throughout the winter, these pesky rodents gnaw at the bark and cambium of trees and shrubs, removing it on all sides.  Trees and shrubs that have been damaged by voles may exhibit signs of disease or insect infestations including dead or disfigured branches.  Infestations of voles, as well as damage caused by rabbits and other animals, may eventually kill the tree or shrub.   Newly planted trees and shrubs are more likely to die due to animal damage.


To control a vole infestation, it is recommended that property owners use traps or toxic baits.  Mouse traps bated with peanut butter can be used to control small populations.  For larger infestations, rodenticide blocks and toxic grains designed for vole management are the most effective.  We suggest that rodenticides be protected so that pets or unintended animals do not ingest the poison.  This is easily done by placing the chemical block into a 15 inch long piece of PVC pipe and placing the pipes in areas of active feeding. 



Featured Customer: City of Cedarburg

For a small community, the city of Cedarburg is a progressive leader in urban forestry.  Located just 20 miles north of Milwaukee, the city boasts award winning school systems, seasonal festivals, visual and performing arts and a thriving local commerce.  Close to the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, Cedarburg has an endless supply of parks, bike trails and rivers. 


The city of Cedarburg takes pride in its streets and local surroundings, working hard to beautify the area and provide a more welcoming experience for visitors and residents.  Taking part in the city's Friends of the Community Forest non-profit organization, the entire community lends a hand in raising funds for tree planting, tree care and city beautification projects.   As the first municipality in Wisconsin to proactively treat its public ash trees for the Emerald Ash Borer, Cedarburg is cutting-edge in terms of forestry and has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA for 24 consecutive years.




As a loyal client, the city of Cedarburg has developed a relationship with First Choice Tree Care over the last ten years.  First Choice has assisted the city in planting thousands of street trees, removing fallen limbs and trees after storms and eliminating dead and hazardous trees in the Cedarburg park system.  The arborists at First Choice also preventatively treated the city's trees for Dutch Elm Disease. 


"First Choice has a very knowledgeable and professional staff that is dedicated to the profession.  They bring a lot of urban forestry experience to the table that most private contractors just can't," said Kevin Westphal, Superintendent of Parks and Forestry for the City of Cedarburg. "They have a unique expertise in street trees and street tree planting - there are not many contractors out there that can do it as efficiently as First Choice can."




The city is continuing to diversify their street trees, planting 17 different species last year alone.  With 94 percent of the city's streets already stocked with trees, Cedarburg is working to attain its goal of 100 percent street tree stocking population.  First Choice Tree Care is excited to continue working with the city of Cedarburg in beautifying the streets, parks and surrounding areas.


To learn more about the city of Cedarburg, please visit http://www.ci.cedarburg.wi.us/.


International Society of Arboriculture Conference coming to Milwaukee!

The ISA Annual International Conference and Trade Show will be held in Milwaukee this year on August 2-6.  As an informational and networking forum for arboriculture professionals, the conference provides an opportunity for researchers, educators, practicing arborists and urban foresters to share their knowledge with each other and the surrounding communities.  The five-day event features the International Tree Climbing Championship, an Arbor Fair and educational sessions that are open to the public. 



As a participant in this year's event, the arborists at First Choice Tree Care are excited to spread their knowledge and enthusiasm about arboriculture with the state of Wisconsin.  One exciting event Wisconsinites can look forward to is the Tour des Trees.  On July 29, cyclists will ride across the state, beginning at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee and traveling up to Steven's Point, where they will be greeted with a reception hosted by First Choice.  From there they will make their way back down to the finish line at Mount Mary College arriving in the middle of the arbor fair.  With arbor-related games and activities, this event promises to be fun for the whole family!