Dogwoods a springtime delight

With the wild explosion of blooms, it's hard to focus on any single tree or bush right now. But if you turn your attention to dogwoods, you won't be disappointed because their blooms are magnificent.

Credit: southeasternoutdoors.com - Todd Ratermann

The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is the species of dogwood now in bloom. Dogwoods are small, relatively long-lived trees that normally grow in the understory of upland forests, especially those inhabited by the oaks and hickories. Dogwoods flower in late April, and then in September bear a red-colored berry that is considered a delicacy by many of our native birds. The leaf of the dogwood turns a dark maroon color in the fall, lending much to the autumn landscape.

Because of its beautiful spring blooms and fall coloration, the flowering dogwood has been cultivated for a number of years and many cultivars exist. Dogwoods can either have a white or pink flower, and some trees have both. The pink dogwood (Cornus florida rubra) is a prized landscape tree, and many of these varieties show more resistance to the anthracnose fungus, a disease that can cause the eventual demise of flowering dogwoods.

Dogwoods can also be attacked by the dogwood borer, an insect that usually attacks trees that have been wounded by lawn mowing equipment or stressed by drought. This borer can girdle and kill a dogwood fairly quickly. Keeping a dogwood healthy and happy can be a tricky proposition. The best course of action is to plant dogwoods in well-drained, loamy soils where there will be plenty of air circulation. The best spots are somewhat open, but not in direct sunlight. Water them if a prolonged drought persists. A happy and healthy dogwood will treat you with many spring blooms and fall colors, and it will be a favorite of the neighborhood birds.

Eastern tent caterpillar

You may have noticed a few of the silky nests that eastern tent caterpillars build, especially if you travel around New Market or Jefferson . Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is a native insect in the moth and butterfly family that emerges early in the growing season and builds silky nests on trees from the rosaceous family particularly black cherry, crabapple and plum.

These insects feed on the new leaves as they unfurl and can cause some localized defoliation. The larvae pupates in late May, then emerges as a small, brown-colored moth that is more active during the nighttime. After mating, the female lays its eggs on suitable trees, then dies.

In large concentration, the tent caterpillar can cause some local defoliation especially on smaller trees. This defoliation usually will not harm the tree but it could interfere with fruit production or harm a young newly planted individual, so control may be necessary if you have young trees you wish to produce fruit

Eastern tent caterpillar is sometimes misidentified as gypsy moth, but gypsy moth does not build the silky cocoons. The fall webworm also builds cocoons but the webworm emerges in late July or August long after the tent caterpillar has finished its lifecycle. Last year's cool, moist conditions favored the growth of bacteria and virus that affect gypsy moth and other Lepidopterous insects so it is unlikely that these tree defoliators will do much damage this year.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 4/25/2010