ADIRONDACKS—Beech leaf disease is in the Adirondacks, and scientists need help gathering data on the newly emerging forest pest. To teach community scientists how to identify and report beech leaf disease, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program will host a free webinar from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, called “Forest Pest Hunters: Surveying for Beech Leaf Disease.”
Beech leaf disease was first detected in Ohio in 2012 and in New York state in 2018. In 2022, the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed the presence of beech leaf disease in over 30 counties in New York including Herkimer County, the first documented infestation in the Adirondack region. Beech leaf disease can kill mature beech trees in six to 10 years, while young trees can be killed in as little as two to three years.
On July 15, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that Beech Leaf Disease (BLD), which affects all species of beech trees, was identified in 35 counties in New York State to date. The DEC began tracking BLD in 2018 after it was confirmed in Chautauqua County. Fourteen of the counties with BLD were confirmed in 2022, and more are likely to be identified.
“Many American beech trees are already heavily impacted by beech bark disease, but Beech Leaf Disease appears to be an even bigger threat,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The decline of beech in New York could have far-reaching consequences, including significant changes to the composition of our northern hardwood forests and the loss of a valuable food source for wildlife. Beech Leaf Disease affects all beech, so the impacts would also be felt in our urban forests where ornamental beech trees, including the popular copper beech cultivar, are widely used for landscaping and street trees.”
Much is still unknown about BLD, including how it spreads, but it can kill mature beech trees in six to 10 years and saplings in as little as two years. There is no known treatment for infected trees. BLD symptoms are associated with the nematode Litylenchus crenatae mccannii. It is unknown whether the nematode causes all of the damage, or if it is in association with another pathogen such as a virus, bacteria, or fungus.
That’s right – beech decline has led to a beech proliferation so extreme that in some places they are a barrier to forest regeneration. I’d call this an oxymoron, but don’t want to insult the bovine community. Strategies do exist to address this problem, though.
I’ve always found slender, sharp, yellow-ochre beech leaves alluring, and it’s endearing how they cling onto saplings late into the fall. However, Fagus grandifolia, the American beech, tends to get a lot of flak from foresters.
The trees are plagued with beech bark disease, which ruins any timber value, and they can dominate the understory, shutting out sugar maple and prized yellow birch. Quick to arrive after most logging jobs, they sprout and sucker their way into dominance. » Continue Reading.
Several years ago, a friend of mine from England came visiting with his wife. I was living in rural central New York at the time, and it was summer. Because I was gone most of the day at one job or another, David and Karen had lots of time on their hands to explore.
One of the things they enjoyed greatly was watching the many birds and squirrels that lived around the property, especially the chipmunks. I was surprised when David told me that in England chipmunks were sold as pets in the pet stores. Jokingly I told him we could make our fortune: I’d send him chipmunks, he could sell them and we’d split the proceeds. » Continue Reading.
The sturdy, long-lived and stately American beech, Fagus grandifolia, has been slowly dying out since 1920, when a tiny European insect pest was accidentally released on our shores. Because of this lethal but unhurried tragedy, many forest tracts across the Northeast are being choked out by too many beech trees.
That’s right, beech decline has led to a proliferation of beech so extreme that in some places it is a threat to the health of future forests. With apologies to all the bovine readers out there, this qualifies as an oxymoron, I’m pretty sure. The ultimate cause of this weird situation is the aforementioned pest, but the proximate cause is a bad case of hormones being out of whack. » Continue Reading.
If you’ve ever seen chevrons on the bark of an American beech, you know you’re looking at a tree that’s been hugged by a black bear. And you’ve likely been impressed with the bear’s climbing ability. And perhaps looked over your shoulder while you were busy being impressed.
But bear-clawed beeches aren’t as common as they once were. The American beech, Fagus grandiflora, has become another member of the North American “trees-devastated-by-imported-pests-and-diseases” club.
Beech trees are still out there in the forest. But many of the big ones are gone, victims of the notorious beech bark disease. It’s a one-two punch — a tiny scale insect bores holes in the bark and a fungus marches in and infects the tree. » Continue Reading.
Forests, the final frontier. These are the voyages of forest pest surveyors. They’re lifelong mission: to explore strange new woodlands, to seek out invasive insects and pests that harm trees, to boldly go where no pest surveyor has gone before.
Invasive insects are to conservationists like Romulans are to Vulcans. Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, and balsam woolly adelgid threaten the economy with costly tree removal, environment with adverse impacts to forest health, and public safety with dead limbs that fall on cars and homes. They found their way from their Eurasian home range to the United States in nursery stock and wood packing materials. Without the natural checks and balances found on their home turf, they reproduce as fast as tribbles. Forest pest surveys are important because early detection leads to rapid response and better management options. » Continue Reading.
The sign in the window, which read, “Clearance! Hats and Gloves 50% off,” puzzled me. Snowflakes swirled on gusty winds. The bitter cold stung my fingertips—I wondered if I should buy warmer gloves while I had the chance. Clearance? Temperatures hadn’t climbed above freezing for days; the warmth of spring was a distant dream.
Blow out your boots, or lose your wool hat in winter, and when you go looking for a replacement you are likely to find sandals and sun hats on display. I used to rail against such a setup, assigning it to an insatiable human propensity for speed, afraid that at some point we might just lap ourselves. But when I began to study trees, and learned how their growth patterns transcend traditional seasonal boundaries, I softened my stance. » Continue Reading.
On a frigid morning in late December, I teamed up with a good friend and hiked the Lake Durant campground in Indian Lake in search of aliens. We were not on the lookout for little green martians, but invasive insects.
I met Tom Colarusso of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the campground parking lot. It was a windy day and the vehicle swayed a little as I dug around the back seat in search of my hat and gloves.
I was armed with a GPS system to document coordinates in case something suspicious was found, and tucked a pen and pad into my pocket for notes. Tom looped a pair of binoculars around his neck and then we were off. 2013 marked our fifth year of teaming up to survey Hamilton County’s forested areas for alien invaders like Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. » Continue Reading.
Hard mast, the term used to refer to the nuts wild trees produce, is humbling this way. We know that, generally speaking, trees require a lot of energy to produce nuts, and so a tree won’t produce them every year. The books say every two or three years for beech nuts and three to seven years for oaks, but take it all with a grain of salt.
There are advantages, from a tree’s perspective, to being unpredictable. Abundant years followed by lean years keep seed predators in check. (Biologists call this predator satiation.) In a good year, the woods are flooded with nuts – more than any squirrel or mouse can eat. The next fall, when rodent populations are high thanks to all the easy living, the trees take the year off and the surplus rodents starve. » Continue Reading.
It’s a good year for beechnuts and acorns. Beechnuts – the fruit of the American beech tree – are a small three-sided edible nut. Since they are high in protein and fat, they’re favored by Adirondack wildlife along with acorns, or oak nuts, the nut of the oak tree. Both are in the beech family (fagaceae) and play an important role in Adirondack forests. These natural nut crops, known as mast, are very plentiful this year.
Early this summer, while harvesting trees in Warren County, I could tell it was going to be a good year for beechnuts and acorns, as the canopies were full. As the beechnuts matured I often found myself enjoying their bounty – they make a nice snack in the middle of the woods. These crops are not always there for the deer, squirrels, bear and turkey, so I am sure they appreciate the extra snack as well. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Stacy McNulty, Associate Director of SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. McNulty and her colleagues recently conducted a study of how the availability of forest mast affects small mammals.
Have you noticed a mouse explosion in your camp or garage this summer? Are black bears making mincemeat of your garbage cans?
This summer, reports of stories of Adirondack bears breaking into in candy stores and making off with campers’ food abound. The dry spring has contributed to the scarcity of food in the woods. Yet there is another reason why we’re sometimes overrun with these animals. » Continue Reading.
In the days prior to and immediately following a full moon, there is often enough light in the hours after sunset for a person to meander along a well established woodland trail without the aid of a flashlight. By walking slowly and quietly, one can occasionally detect a small gray squirrel rustling about the dead leaves on the forest floor, climbing up a large trunk, or moving along the limb of a tree. While most squirrels strongly prefer to be active during the light of day, the flying squirrel favors the darkness of night and is the most common nocturnal tree dwelling mammal within the Park.
The flying squirrel is characterized by a loose fold of skin, called a patagium that extends from it front and hind legs and connects to its sides. This thin, furry membrane acts as a wing or airfoil when the animal stretches its appendages outward and enables it to glide forward as it slowly descends after leaping from a tree. The wide and flat tail of this rodent provides additional lift and greatly helps an airborne individual alter its flight path so it can accurately land at a selected spot. » Continue Reading.
Strong and frequent southerly breezes, a disappearing snow pack at low elevations and the presence of large stretches of open water along streams, in the backwater of rivers and in marshes prompt the return of numerous forms of waterfowl to the Adirondacks.
Even though mid March is early for the arrival of some migrants from their wintering grounds, when the opportunity arises to reconnect with the area used for breeding, these flat-billed, webbed-footed birds take advantage of the favorable conditions and fly north. Included with these returning birds is one of the most colorful and handsome species of waterfowl in North America – the wood duck. » Continue Reading.
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