Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Now that new leaves and needles are out, you may be noticing something peculiar about them. It is common for trees and shrubs to experience nutrient deficiency, which is noticeable from the color or stunted size of the leaves or needles. Whether the tree or shrub is low on iron, manganese or any other type of micronutrient, more than likely you will be able to identify this by observing the leaves.

A micronutrient is required by plants in very small quantities, as opposed to macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium or sulfur, which are required by plants in large quantities. Plant tissues are made up of mostly macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and the others, therefore they are required by the plants in larger quantities. Micronutrients are minerals in the soil that are also required for healthy, stable plants. Micronutrients such as iron, manganese, silicon, copper and zinc are commonly present in the soil where a landscape plant is experiencing signs of nutrient deficiency, it is simply that when a soil has a high pH (is more alkaline as opposed to acidic), these micronutrients are in a form that cannot be taken up by plant roots.

Testing the soil pH can help determine whether or not a specific soil type will be suitable to easily sustain a tree or shrub. If a landscape plant is already established and is showing signs of nutrient deficiency, there are several fertilization techniques (micronutrient and macronutrient) that Integrity Tree offers that can temporarily strengthen the health of your plants. Temporary, meaning that the treatment will most likely be needed again the following season, as the micronutrient is applied for the plant and does not change the overall soil pH.

A few common micronutrient deficiencies are iron chlorosis and manganese deficiency. The leaves will be yellowing and will be greener along the leaf veins. The leaves or needles could also be stunted, not being able to grow to their full potential because they do not have the proper nutrients.

If you are thinking your landscape plants may be experiencing nutrient deficiencies, please call our office. We offer soil testing and can explain what fertilizer and fertilization technique would be best for your landscape.

What is Verticillium Wilt?

Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that attacks many tree species. Common symptoms include wilting and browning leaves, falling leaves and quite commonly, a whole side of a tree or a single branch of a tree dying off. Checking the sapwood under the bark of the infected branches, brown streaks may be observed. These symptoms are caused by a soil-borne fungus Verticillium albo-atrum, which begins in the root system and travels through the vascular system of the tree. This causes blockage and prevents water and nutrients from reaching all of the branches. The tree responds to this infiltration by plugging the infected tissues and this increases the blockage of water and nutrients, thus causing leaf wilting and branch death. Symptoms commonly occur in the middle of summer when the climate is dry and hot.

There is no fungicide treatment for Verticillium wilt. Once a tree or shrub is infected with Verticillium wilt, it will eventually die. Resistant species should be planted in place of it after it is removed. Observe a tree if it begins to develops symptoms, as opposed to immediately removing it. Trimming out the dead branches as well as keeping the tree watered and fertilized may delay the infection. Once a tree is infected, however, there is no curing it. The fungus that causes Verticillium wilt can affect many tree species, however yews and conifers are not affected. What is more, the fungus can thrive in the soil for many years, therefore if a maple for instance dies of Verticillium wilt and if the maple is removed, another maple should not be planted in its place, for the fungus is still present in the soil. Common susceptible trees species are ash, boxwood, catalpa, cherry, elm, lilac, magnolia, 
maple, redbud, serviceberry and tulip trees. Common resistant trees are apple, beech, birch, ginkgo, hornbeam, linden, oak, pear, poplar, rhododendron, sweet gum and walnut. For a complete list of Verticillium wilt susceptible and resistant plants, please check online.

A tree can become more susceptible to Verticillium wilt if environmental conditions are poor, such as if the tree is experiencing drought, girdling roots, compaction, scorch or nutrient deficiency. Any stress on a tree can more readily allow infection to take root or can cause a tree to decline more quickly. Depending on the tree and conditions, a tree may die in a single growing season from Verticillium wilt or a tree may decline over the course of many years.

If you think Verticillium wilt is present in your landscape, please call (616) 301-1300 ext 118 to schedule an appointment with one of our certified arborists. To make sure a tree is suffering from Verticillium wilt, Integrity can take a plant sample and send it to the Michigan State University plant diagnostic lab in order to get it tested. The sample must come from the infected area of the tree, as the fungus is not usually throughout the whole tree. Several different branches about 1 inch diameter thick of live tissue should be taken to ensure accuracy. The test will cost $75 and will take 1-2 weeks for results to come back.

Plant Fungal Diseases





Integrity Tree Services treats for a variety of plant fungal diseases such as anthracnose, needle cast, apple scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust and tip blight. All of these treatments begin to take place in early spring, before it is warm enough to have airborne fungal spores. As Tree & Shrub Care proposal renewals are filtering in for the 2015 season, customers are making sure to sign up for fungicide treatments early to ensure proper timing of treatment. Timing is very important when dealing with fungal pests and most treatments occur in sets of three applications between 10 and 14 days apart.

If you think part of your landscape is subject to fungal diseases, give us a call and we will come out for a free estimate. We will diagnose the fungal issue, prescribe a treatment and execute it depending on the time of season. If a fungal problem is noticed late summer, it is best to wait until early spring the following year for the fungicides to be effective. Not all fungi are bad, but many can cause unsightly appearances and can deteriorate your landscape over time.

Some simple tips in deciphering if your landscape plants have fungal problems:

• Do leaves or stems have black/brown spots or patches?
• While looking up close, do the needles of the evergreens have tiny
black spots?
• Is there a white powdery or sooty appearance on the leaves and buds?
• Are the tips of the plant wilted and dying?
• Are there gelatinous gobs oozing from the stems and leaves/needles?
• Is the interior of the plant dying?

If you witness any of these symptoms or suspect fungal problems, let us know and we will be happy to assist you. Many of these issues can stem from overwatering (such as a sprinkler hitting trees and shrubs every day), dark and thick plant interiors (such as a tree that has not been pruned or thinned-out lately), or if a plant is under stress or is in poor health to begin with.

There are some fungal problems that will persist and deteriorate a tree year after year, such as needle cast. These types of fungal diseases are necessary to treat with a fungicide. However, as a reminder, there is always fungus present in the natural landscape. It is possible for a tree or shrub to have a fungal disease but be hearty and healthy enough to withstand it. We can assist in determining if a fungal problem exists and if remedies need to occur in order to sustain the life of your landscape plants.

How to Identify Your Oak Trees

Daylight savings, melted snow, brown grass turning green, tree buds swelling—these are all wonderful signs that spring is (hopefully) here. As the temperature in Michigan slowly begins to increase, the time approaches to discourage pruning oak (Quercus) trees. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends avoiding oak pruning between April 15th and July 15th. Although wounding in oaks may be accidental such as severe storms breaking branches or animals scratching or pecking into the bark, oak wilt is most preventable if pruning ceases in spring and summertime.

Michigan climate does indeed vary greatly. Therefore, why between the dates April 15th through July 15th should oak trees remain undisturbed? It is not solely the wounding that makes the tree susceptible to oak wilt, it is the beetles that feed on the oak sap and transmit oak wilt fungal spores from an infected tree to a healthy tree. Mid-April is generally when the beetles become active and they remain active until mid-to-late summer, around July 15th. Although these dates are arbitrary, it does remind us that during this time of year oak trees are most susceptible to become infected with the oak wilt fungus. We recommend if you are going to use these dates, prune or trim your oaks either much earlier than mid-April or much later than mid-July to ensure beetles are not still active. If you’re ever skeptical about whether it is a proper time of year to trim your oaks, give us a call. We are more than willing to you determine whether the time of year is right. After all, once an oak (depending on the type of oak) is infected with oak wilt, unless treated immediately, it is likely to die within a few months to a few weeks.

Not all oak trees are extremely susceptible to oak wilt. While red oaks are extremely susceptible to oak wilt, white oak trees are much more resistant. If you’re thinking of planting oak trees on your property, depending on your soil type and landscape environment, we strongly recommend planting white oak trees since you will have a
better chance of having oak trees with long lives. For some reason unknown to scientists, the oak wilt disease progresses much more slowly in white oaks than it does in red oaks. Simple clues in identifying what type of oak tree you have are red oaks have pointed lobes and white oaks have rounded lobes. If you need assistance in identifying your oak tree, please send pictures of the oak leaf, bud, twig, bark and whole tree to along with your name and phone number.

If you have any questions about the oak wilt disease in Michigan or if you would like to know more, call us or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources webpage. Oak trees have more of a chance by prevention of infection and a part of prevention is sharing knowledge about oak wilt.

There’s A Fungus Among Us

With the spring finally here, we’re constantly thinking fungus. A wet spring brings about new growth coming on the trees, so we have to think about treating these trees for fungus. The trees that have struggled the last few years are evergreens, mainly spruce trees. Many of the trees we are seeing decline are the older, more mature trees. New research is showing that there is another type of fungal issue to watch for other than needle cast.

Phomopsis is a canker causing fungal pathogen known to cause branch death. We now know that a group of Phomopsis strains of unknown species are at the center of the current landscape spruce problems that we are now calling “Phomopsis spruce decline”. Normally, Phomopsis, a fungal pathogen, is only found on young trees in nurseries and on tree farms, including Christmas tree farms. For some unknown reason, this pathogenic fungus has moved out of the nurseries and tree farms and is now causing mature tree defoliation, branch death, and, in some rare cases, tree death. Phomopsis appears to cause these symptoms by establishing cankers (bark infections) on older branches, usually on the lower half of the tree. The cankers can be found somewhere on the large branches near the dying small branches extending from the branch. We have also found trees with severe defoliation throughout the trees but without too much branch death (terminal buds are still alive). This would look very similar to a true needle cast disease. Keep in mind that on spruce there are other cankers caused by other pathogenic fungi, such as Cytospora and Diplodia, but the predominant canker-causing pathogen currently appears to be Phomopsis. It may appear as a needle cast problem, but it is a canker disease and finding the canker without skinning all of the thin bark from the branch 
is difficult.

There is not much outward appearance to the canker infection. That is, there is little in the way of a sunken canker that can be observed without removing the bark. What we believe is occurring is a fungal infection that expands around the branch, girdling the current year’s sap-conducting vessels or phloem. As the fungus grows deeper into the resinous branch, the branch begins losing connections with the main stem and the needles begin to drop from the older portions of the branch outward. It is similar to cutting a branch off a tree and putting it in a vase of water. It will stay fresh for a while but, sooner or later, the nutrients and water resources are lost and the branch begins to fail and finally dies. This is why we are seeing so many spruce trees dropping needles which is followed by branch death. The progression of the symptoms will depend on how much of the branch is girdled by the canker caused by the Phomopsis infection and how long the infection has been in present on the tree.


The primary objective of pruning young trees is to develop a framework of sturdy, well-spaced branches on a strong trunk. Good branch structure, proper form, and tree strength all develop with training pruning.

Pruning done early in a tree’s life removes weak branches and corrects form when branches are relatively small. This reduces the size of pruning wounds, which results in faster closure and less opportunity for decay.

Properly pruned and trained trees will live significantly longer, are healthier, and require less corrective pruning later. They will also be less susceptible to storm damage due to improved structure, and are therefore safer.

Pruning is especially critical in the first 15-20 years of a tree’s life. The pruning cycle should begin 2-3 years after planting and should be done at regular intervals. The pruning process removes portions of the tree to correct or maintain tree structure and form. Every cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree. Good pruning technique removes structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree and the branch collar.

The goals of early structural pruning are trunk development and branch positioning.

Efforts are concentrated on removing crossing, rubbing, broken, diseased and weak-angled branches in the upper portion of the tree. We strive to eliminate double leaders and basal sprouts, selecting and developing one main leader on most species. “3-D” pruning is done to remove dead, damaged, and diseased portions.

The best form for most young trees is a single dominant leader growing upward. This leader is not pruned back nor are secondary branches allowed to outgrow the leader. Double leads, known as co-dominant stems, can lead to structural weakness, so it is best to remove these while the tree is young.

Temporary branches are not part of a mature tree’s crown, but do contribute to trunk development and protect the trunk from sun and mechanical injury. Temporary branches are in the lower third of the crown. They will eventually be removed when they become an inch or larger. They should not obstruct or compete with selected permanent branches.

Permanent branch selection is determined by the tree’s function and location in the landscape. Proper selection and establishment of these branches is a critical part of pruning. Branches selected as permanent branches must be well spaced along the trunk. Branches with a much narrower angle of attachment than is typical of the species are removed. All branches should be less than half the trunk diameter.

Remember, pruning is an ongoing process to be done regularly throughout a tree’s life. Proper training pruning will get your tree off to the best start. Pruning is both an art and a science. Let the certified arborists at Integrity Tree Services make your trees be the best they can be.

We know the growth habit of a tree before beginning the pruning process. Over-thinning and over-pruning are avoided. The leaves of each branch must manufacture enough food to keep that branch alive, as well as contribute to growth of the trunk and roots. We strive to remove no more than 25% of the foliage–10-20% maximum is usually the goal.

Schedule an appointment today with one of our certified arborists!

Water: The Elixir of Life





Water is the greatest component of most living things. We know how revitalizing a drink of water can be when thirsty. Water has been found to be the most limiting factor for plant growth. The results of lack of water may not show up immediately on large trees, but will become evident in the next few years.

Tree systems shut down under dry conditions. Water uptake and photosynthesis are 
reduced. Fine roots desiccate and die. A dangerous spiral of decline starts.

Adequate water can stop this spiral. Most trees require the equivalent of an inch of water per week. If nature does not provide enough water, you will need to supply supplemental 
water. Proper watering will be crucial for your tree’s health in 2014 and the future.

Water deep enough to soak the soil to a 6” depth and repeat only when the top 3” 
become dry. This promotes a deeper, healthier root system. Irrigation systems are set up 
primarily for turf grass (which can recover more readily from drought than trees, and is cheaper to replace). These irrigation systems produce a very shallow watering several times a week. Do not depend on your irrigation system to properly water trees.

Always check soil moisture before watering. Trees’ roots can be drowned with too much water. Water where it will do the most good, at the roots. Start watering a few feet from the trunk to well beyond the drip line of the tree. Avoid wetting the foliage. Mulch with organic materials such as bark wood chips to conserve moisture and moderate fluctuations.

Proper watering will help maintain your valuable trees and avoid stressing them. If you need guidance, the certified arborists at Integrity Tree Services are available to assist and guide you with tree care.

Deer & Vole Damage

In many areas, we see a great deal of damage from both deer and voles throughout the winter months.
How can you recognize this type of damage?

Deer: Where deer populations are too high, you will see evidence of leaves and twigs 
disappearing on numerous plants from the ground up to 5-6’ high. It usually begins in late fall through winter as other food sources disappear. However, the worst areas can be hit year round. Deer seem to prefer Yew, Cedar, Holly (mostly evergreens) and the tender buds from many other landscape trees and shrubs.

• For new landscaping, choose deer resistant plants.
• Place netting over plants for protection.
• Use deer repellents sprays.
• Work with the Department of Natural Resources to introduce ways
of reducing the deer population.
• Erect deer fencing.

Voles: Typically property owners do not notice that voles are destroying their prized trees/shrubs because they like to feed on the bark of the plant that’s out-of-sight. The damage will always be at the base of the tree or on the limbs/trunk of some plants as the snow begins to cover them giving the voles the privacy they like. In most cases, we receive a call in the spring that the tree/shrub is not looking very well. By that time, the damage is done and very often we have to remove it and replace it, costing our clients hundreds of dollars.

• Keep ground cover 6-12” from the trunks of trees/shrubs.
• Do not pile mulch above the root flare of trees/shrubs.
• Monitor your landscape in fall and winter for early
signs of damage.
• Use well placed bait and traps.

Both Deer and Voles can be difficult to control.
If you suspect either of these issues on your property, contact us immediately. We will send an arborist out to help you develop a realistic plan to gain back control of your landscape. Do not hesitate…your investment could be at risk.

Helping Drought-Stressed Trees

The big concern arborists have is what the extent of reaction to the great heat and drought of 2012 will be. Efforts to mitigate, ease, and compensate this reaction will increase the survival rate and reduce the loss of roots and crown that would occur otherwise.

Pruning is helpful in this effort. In addition to increasing tree health through a carefully considered Crown Cleaning Pruning that a certified arborist can do. This same pruning can reduce the tree’s demand for energy, water, and nutrients. Branches that are diseased, infested, damaged, rubbing, etc, necessitates the tree to devote resources to them—detracting from the energy needed by the tree for basic life functions. This energy is even more limiting during drought conditions. Removing these kinds of branches has a lasting beneficial effect for years to come. Healthy branches make food (energy) for the tree and should not be removed during drought.

Heat and drought reduce fine root mass immediately. Branch death follows and will likely continue and could easily initiate a decline spiral. Decline spirals are notorious for continuing until the tree is dead, deformed, or rendered too compromised. Proper pruning along with watering can play a role to help interrupt this decline 
tendency and save a valuable shade tree from having to be removed or from losing health or stature.

All of the methods that help ease drought stress and damage should be employed and are listed here:
• Pruning to increase health and preserve energy (as described above).
• Applying mulch over the root system to conserve moisture and create an environment that promotes feeder 
 root replacement.
• Watering widely beneath the tree once per week, giving (at least) one inch per week will help the tree retain 
 roots and help the tree maintain its life functions.
• Spring Fertilization including root biostimulants will help restore lost vigor by supplying needed nutrients and 
 promoting feeder root replacement.
• Mycorrhizal root inoculations (beneficial symbiotic fungi) are especially useful for increasing drought 
 tolerance by increasing nutrient and water uptake.
• Compost Tea root zone injection will increase beneficial soil life to help restore the root rhizosphere and the soil 
 food web. This will also increase the performance of the root system and drought tolerance.

Certified Arborists are able to assess the conditions of each of your trees and help determine the best management plan. 
Take advantage of the knowledge, training, and experience our certified arborists have to help you and your landscape.

Simplifying the Emerald Ash Borer

Wouldn’t it be nice if all questions had simple answers? Life would be so much easier if all answers could be summed up in one word. Although there are no easy answers to 
the emerald ash borer. Hopefully we can help make your decision on what to do with your ash trees a bit easier.

Let us start with a couple of facts. We know that untreated ash trees are vulnerable to emerald ash borer (EAB). We also know that ash trees found to have EAB could still be saved if the borer population is low enough in those trees. Note: Trees with >40% crown thinning are heavily infested and no longer savable.

The confusion usually begins with the following questions: (1) When do I start treating my ash trees? (2) Do the treatments work? (3) How often will I have to treat my ash trees?

The answers to these questions may vary significantly depending on your circumstances. A search on Google, will reveal reports that are outdated along with some misinformation put out there by non-professionals. By the time you finish your research, you may end up having more questions than you started with.

Based on current university research, we will explain what our Tree & Shrub Care division is recommending to help protect your ash trees from EAB.

Where to start: Only treat the ash trees that you want to save. Determine which trees are the most important for your landscape and then have them assessed to determine if they are good candidates for treatment.

When to start: Once you have determined which ash trees you want to treat you should initiate a treatment plan as soon as possible.

What Treatments Work

Tree age insecticide: If any of your ash trees are within 15 miles of a known infestation and have not yet been treated or are already exhibiting signs of possible EAB activity, this is the product to start with. Tree age has thus far been proven to be the most effective product for helping save ash trees with light EAB activity. Note: There are no treatments to save heavily infested trees.

Imidacloprid: If your ash trees are farther than 15 miles from a known infestation, do not exhibit signs of EAB activity, or your ash trees have been getting soil injections of Imidacloprid already, then soil injections of Imidacloprid at the proper rate should be very effective at deterring EAB.

How Often to Apply

Tree age insecticide: The Tree age trunk injection is effective for two years at which time you can either continue with those treatments every other year or switch to the less invasive method of yearly soil injections containing Imidacloprid.

Imidacloprid: These soil injections, applied at the proper rate, need to be applied once annually.

So far, all of the research indicates that these options are currently the best for your ash trees in the given situations above. As you can see, there are many different factors that help determine what is best for your tree. The key to making any of these methods work for you is to have a professional come to your property to assess your ash trees.
Schedule an appointment today with one of our certified arborists. Call 616.301.1300!