An Emerald Ash Borer Information Session

Come to the Ewing Green Team’s February meeting to learn from the experts about the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) threat, how it will affect your property, options for managing your ash trees, and potential solutions.

The Emerald Ash borer has been found in Ewing Township.  (See the Rutgers  EAB Rapid Ash Survey Report and Management Options, Prepared for the Township of Ewing, Mercer County , NJ, By The Rapid Ash Survey Team (RAST) October 2015.)  As this invasive pest can easily spread to neighboring trees, all residents should check their ash trees for symptoms of infestation.

“The emerald ash borer will kill 99 percent of all ash trees within the next few years,” said Bill Brash, the NJ State Certified Tree Expert with whom the EGT has been working about the EAB threat to the municipal tree canopy. “Residents should identify ash trees on their property and monitor for signs of damage or decline such as unusual woodpecker activity or missing bark.”

EAB Facts

eabinfosessionSince the discovery of emerald ash borer in Michigan in 2002, the beetle has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America. In May 2014, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture confirmed New Jersey’s first detection of the emerald ash borer in Bridgewater in Somerset County, NJ.

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic green, non-native invasive pest. Trees can be infested for years before the tree begins to show symptoms of infestation. Symptoms include canopy dieback, woodpecker activity, missing bark, D-shaped exit holes, shoots sprouting from the trunk, and S-shaped larval galleries under the bark.

Ash Tree Management

If a tree is already infested or in poor health, it may be best to remove the tree before it becomes infested and poses a hazard to people and surrounding structures. But for those residents with high-value ash in good health, trees can be treated before they become infested.

A Certified Tree Expert can help residents evaluate, then treat or remove ash trees. Contact the Board of Certified Tree Experts at 732-833-0325 or for a list of professionals serving your area.

Report any signs. If any signs of the EAB beetle are found, call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609-406-6939. Visit for more information and check out our own EAB resource page.

untitled-5This program is being provided by the Ewing EAB Partnership, a coalition composed of Ewing Green Team  and Environmental Commission members and representatives from Mercer County, Rutgers University and PSE&G under the direction of NJ State Certified Tree Expert Bill Brash.  It is funded by a 2016 PSE&G grant Partnering for the Restoration of the Community Forest: The 3P Plan, Partnerships-Plan-Planting which funded development of partnerships  to manage the spread and removals of trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer on Ewing municipal lands.

Date: Wednesday, February, 22nd, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center, 999 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing
Details:  Free and open to the public. No registration is required.
Additional Information: Contact EGT Co-Chair, Joanne Mullowney at 609-883-0862 or email:

Eastern Redbud, the March 2015 Tree of the Month

by Ann Farnham, LLA

The Eastern Redbud, cercis canadensis, is among the first trees to bloom here. Blooming occurs in March-April when the buds turn into pink, white, or pink-purple legume-shaped flowers in clusters, depending on the variety, for up to three weeks. This tree is a breath of fresh air after a long and cold winter. The flowers are followed by bean-like seed pods several inches long, which drop from the tree when fully developed.

Redbud, a native deciduous tree, is found in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9, from New England and the middle Atlantic states, south to Georgia, and to Illinois and Wisconsin in the Middle West.  Ewing is in zone 6b.

The Redbud leaf, from three to five inches long, is heart-shaped and alternately arranged on a zig-zag branching habit, and is reddish-purple when new.  By summer the leaves turn shiny green, but gradually change to yellow in the fall. One variety, ‘Forest Pansy’, has purple leaves. There are, among more than 20 varieties of Eastern Redbud, some with variegated, green and white leaves.

The Eastern Redbud typically ranges from a mature height of 8’ to 20’, depending on the variety, with a spread of 6’-35’.  Some varieties have a weeping habit and this usually small-sized tree normally has multiple trunks. A specimen in Morris County has been documented as having a trunk 8’-2” in diameter, a true “Champion” Tree. Redbud does well in most soils, but not in very wet, poorly drained soil.  It likes full sun or light shade. This tree, used as an ornamental specimen, is best planted young as it does not transplant well.

Diseases do not seem to be a great problem for this beautiful tree, although Canker and Verticillium Wilt do occur. Some caterpillars enjoy the leaves as do Japanese beetles, borers and web-worms. Regular watering, pruning out dead branches, and fertilization help keep Eastern Redbud healthy.

Another name frequently used for Eastern Redbud is “Spicewood Tree”, because in the southeastern mountains of Appalachia the twigs were once used as seasoning for wild game such as venison.

In the past, the bark of the Redbud was used as an astringent in the treatment of dysentery. The flowers can be eaten in salads, or fried. Cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks and pheasants, deer and squirrels enjoy the seeds.

January Tree of the Month – Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir is a “false fir”, as its botanical name, Pseudotsuga menzesii  implies : pseudo = false, and Tsuga is the genus name for hemlock, which resembles firs. Despite its name, this tree is a handsome, large evergreen, named after David Douglas (1799- 1834), a Scotsman reputed to be the greatest of all botanical explorers.

Douglas Fir is native to the western United States and Canada but now grows all over the country, including Ewing, NJ. It is among the tallest conifers in the world, second only to Coast Redwoods, and has been known to reach 330’ in its native habitat; 40’ to 80’ tall and 12’-20’ in spread is more common, however, and its USDA Hardiness Zone is 4-6 (Ewing is USDA Zone 6b).     It is reported to live more than 500 years in good habitats, and one tree is reported to have survived 1000 years.

The leaves ( needles), are flat and spirally arranged on the stems. The bark is thin, smooth and grey in youth, turning reddish-brown and ridged, with resin “blisters” in maturity; the needles are deep green; it has a resinous, fruity odor. The pendant cones are oval, usually reaching 2-3” long and have long bracts projecting from the scales. The cones persist into winter. The shape of the tree is open-pyramidal with straight, stiff branches. The lower branches in older specimens droop but are retained for a long time.

Douglas Fir does poorly in windy or crowded areas. It needs deep, cool, well-drained, neutral to slightly acid soil, and full sun. It seems to be fairly fire and drought-tolerant. It transplants well balled and burlapped. Be warned, however, that Pseudotsuga menzesii hosts many insect pests and needs monitoring in residential and park landscapes.

This is a very ornamental tree which is outstanding in the landscape as a specimen or in a group. The seeds are important food for mice, voles, chipmunks and squirrels, and the tree is a favorite habitat for many species of birds. The needles are a favorite food for porcupines and blue grouse.   The buds are used to flavor eau de vie and colorless fruit brandy, and it is very popular as a Christmas tree, especially since the needles do not fall easily.

This tree, with its very strong but lightweight wood, yields more timber than any other North American tree: it is used for dimensional lumber, timbers, plywood, railroad ties, furniture, posts, fencing and flooring.

Ann Farnham, LLA

Email the Ewing Environmental Commission with your suggestions for the Tree of the Month.

Tree of the Month – Christmas Trees

Among the pleasures we enjoy in December is choosing a Christmas tree. The choices are many: the firs (Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir), pines (Scotch, Eastern White), red cedars, and spruce (Colorado Blue, Norway, Concolor). Throughout the United States there are more than 35 different evergreen species grown for the holidays. They are available either cut, in containers, or balled and burlapped.

If you choose to purchase a cut tree, try to prevent the trunk from being exposed to the air for more than three to six hours; it should be put into a container with water as soon as possible. Next, trim off the lowest branches which might interfere with the tree’s staying upright in a stand, and then remove ragged branch tips or unattractive branches. Saw off an inch of the trunk so the tree can absorb water freely, and fasten it to its stand, which should contain plenty of water. The water, especially at first, should be replenished often.

Artificial Christmas trees are often made of PVC, a dangerous chemical, are not biodegradable, and do not have the wonderful fragrance of a real tree. However, they may be used for many years and are maintenance free.

A live tree, while somewhat more labor intensive to care for, may also be planted in your yard after its holiday use, and enjoyed for years to come. You must do some planning before you take the tree home but it is well worth while.

  1. Determine what spot on your property affords the correct exposure (full sun) and room. Check a good source or the internet to determine how much space your particular species of tree will require when mature.
  2. Dig the hole NOW before the ground freezes. Digging a frozen hole is no fun. Make the hole approximately 2 times the width of what you expect the container or root ball will be. This is important; and do not dig the hole any deeper than the height of the container or root ball. Fill the hole with leaves or mulch as insulation, and cover the hole and the pile of soil with a tarp and more leaves or mulch to avoid freezing. Throw away whatever sod was dug up as you do not want it included in the backfill.

Your live tree should be indoors as briefly as possible; place it at first (in a waterproof tub or container) in a garage or porch to allow it to acclimate to warmer temperatures. You can water it lightly and frequently, or place ice cubes over the root ball to keep the moisture levels up. Spraying the tree with an antidessicant such as Wiltproof will help control moisture loss through the needles.

When the tree is ready for planting, roll it into the hole and orient it so that its best side faces your house or the street. If the hole is too deep, add soil into the bottom and compact it until it is the right depth. Remove as much of the burlap around the root ball as possible; if it is in a container, remove the container. If it is in a wire basket, cut off as much of the basket as you can. Then, begin to backfill with the soil you set aside. Water it thoroughly and slowly as you fill the hole; this will push out air pockets and saturate the sides of the hole as well as the back fill.

It is not necessary to stake or guy the tree. Cover the area – to the drip-line- with 2-3” of double-shredded, hardwood bark mulch, keeping the mulch 2” away from the trunk. Water your Christmas tree every day for a week, twice the second week, and then once a week until the ground freezes and your hose becomes useless.

By Ann Farnham, LLA
December 2014

Best Wishes For The Holidays From Your Ewing Environmental Commission!

Volcanoes Killing Local Trees

I was walking with my dog Maddie in the Mountainview section of Ewing when we noticed a landscaper placing mulch around the trees in a nearby yard. In particular he was piling the mulch high and deep around the base of a beautiful, large (perhaps 75 years old) oak tree. These mulch structures are known by tree experts as “volcanoes” because of their obvious shape.

I see this far too often nowadays; almost achieving the status of a fad. I can certainly see why. Volcanoes look neat and orderly. People see them and want them for their property and landscapers are happy to oblige; sells a lot of mulch too. It has to be good for the trees right?

Well it isn’t. And, as a member of the Ewing Environmental Commission and Sustainable Ewing Green Team, I want you to know better.

I spoke to the gentlemen doing the tree mulching. He shrugged and pointed me to the foreman in charge. I explained briefly that heavy mulching at the base of trees can kill them. The foreman gave me a mischievous smile and nodded affirmatively as if he understood and would take mitigating measures. I hoped for the best. Sadly, a week later I was again walking alongside Maddie past the same property and there were volcanoes around all the trees in the yard. My heart sank.

Worse yet, all around Ewing I am seeing “volcano imprisoned trees” – some even dying from a cancerous looking decay slowly creeping up their bark. Eventually owners are forced to cut them down long before their time, but, they’re clueless as to why their treasured trees perished.

The majesty and sheer size of trees make them seem invulnerable.  But, the truth is quite the opposite. Trees are gentle but vulnerable giants. It’s tough enough fending off insects, disease, heavy rains, high winds and drought but we humans routinely abuse them by improperly cutting off their limbs, driving in nails, digging, weed whacking, mowing, dumping waste, riding cars and heavy equipment on their roots or worse. All of these things can over time do in the sturdiest of trees. They may look healthy for a time but slowly die years later making cause and effect seem oddly disconnected.

Now add to that the recent epidemic of tree mulching volcanoes and there is trouble afoot. The problem is that, according to the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry and the New Jersey Shade Tree Federation, mulch softens the bark. Mice, insects, and fungus then feed on the living parts of the tree, killing tissue, cutting off water and nutrient supply as well as causing other serious problems that can greatly damage and kill a tree.

That’s not to say that mulching isn’t beneficial to trees – it is, if done properly. It helps retain moisture, keep down weeds, prevents soil erosion and moderates temperatures. It is particularly good at helping young trees survive. But, here are a couple simple recommendations:

  1. Mulch should never be piled against the bark but kept 6 inches from the trunk, 2 to 4 inches deep;
  2. Use of bark chunks or shredded bark that is at least 3/8 inch in size, pine bark, pine needles, one-year old wood chips or leaves that are shredded and composted for at least 3 months is encouraged.  DO NOT use fresh grass clippings, fresh wood chips, fresh organic mulch, bad smelling mulch, peat moss, sawdust, pebbles, rocks, cobble stones, bricks, pavement, plastic sheets or ground up rubber tires. And, DO NOT mix mulch with soil;
  3. Use only one layer of woven landscape fabric if needed for weed control; and
  4. If your tree is already engulfed in a mulch volcano don’t remove it all at once. It is recommended that you contact a NJ Certified Tree Expert. A free directory is available from the Forest Service, listed below.

I think of trees as stoic old friends. They add beauty and esthetics to our lives silently watching over our children as they grow, providing cool UV protected shade, filtering the air we breathe, reducing noise, moderating winds, controlling moisture and erosion, providing a home for various critters, increase property values and establish a sense of hometown community. If they occasionally fall in a severe storm and cause damage, they don’t mean to. When they are old and frail we take them down, their remains providing dry glowing heat and flickering comfort on cold, damp winter nights. It is in all our interests to educate ourselves on how to properly care for our tall green companions or at least do them no harm. Maddie agrees.

Joseph-Mark Mirabella

For more information contact:

NJ Division of parks and Forestry Forest Service – Community Forestry Program
PO Box 404
Trenton, NJ 08625-0404
(609) 292-2532
Fax: (609) 984-0378

New Jersey Shade Tree Federation
93 Lipman Dr.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 246-3210