What’s Going on in Our Forests?

If you’ve walked through the forests in Pocahontas County much this summer, maybe you have noticed an unusually large number of standing dead trees, or recently fallen trees. Perhaps you have even heard a loud cracking sound followed by the sound of a toppling tree smashing to the ground. At the beginning of this month we met with Greg Hamons, the WVU Extension Agent for the county, and asked him about this.

Greg, I have noticed an unusually large number of dead and falling trees in our forests here, is there something unusual going on this year?

“We have several invasive species that have caused a lot of those lately,” said Hamons, “primarily, probably the key one that a lot of folks see are the dead White Ashe trees. It’s caused by the Emerald Ashe Borer. A lot of those trees are currently dead and can cause some dangerous situations in the forest, either felling those trees to get rid of them, or just being out there with them with wind and storms and that kind of thing just blowing the tops out and that kind of stuff. That’s probably one of the most common ones.”

“Beech Bark Disease is another one. The American Beech tree, which was common here -still is somewhat common, but Beech Bark Disease is kinda widespread now and can cause death of some of those trees as well and kind of causes the same situation. So you see trees that are dead and dying, dead tops -just dangerous situations.”

“Those are two that are really common that we see a lot of dead trees right now. Dutch Elm Disease is another one that we see quite common. Elm trees will typically eventually get that, and that’s which end up eventually causing those to die, and again you end up with the same situations, dead tops, trees falling down and creating dangerous situations in the woods.”

I notice a lot of Birch trees seem to be dying where I’m at.

“I get reports of different trees dying in different areas of the county all the time, but the Birch tree is not something that I’ve seen a lot of dead. Sometimes some cultivated trees, and Birch Trees are sometimes popular for that -folks using birch trees for landscaping around their house- will see some root rot and some types of those conditions where they get too wet and cause some damping off the roots and some of those trees will die, But typically, like I said, those are landscape situations where I usually see those in.  I haven’t noticed that widespread in the forest.”

Greg, suppose some of our listeners happen to have some of hose cultivated Birch trees in their landscape, and they see it starting to deteriorate, is there anything that can be done about that?

“I always encourage folks for both plants and tree, landscape plants, crops, everything in general, one of the first things everybody hears me say here is soil tests, so WVU provide soil tests as a free service, so you can just Google search WVU Soil Test Lab, or come into our office and we will give you a sample form. It doesn’t cost you anything but just the postage to mail the sample in. So that will give you an idea where your PH stands – that’s measuring the acidity of your soil and then your nutrient levels as well. Generally, plant diseases generate from poor soil conditions, which can include being too wet. But a lot of times those it’s nutrient deficiency of PH not being where it needs to be. So ‘soil test…soil test…soil test,’ is what I always say for crops, plants, trees. We will start there and see what we can figure out.”

While I am here, do you have any idea what the fall colors will be like this year, and how soon they will come out and peak?

“I wish I knew, as much moisture as we’ve had It seems like in these moisture years it hangs on a little bit longer before we start to see that peak color. A lot of times when we are in a dryer year, it seems to happen earlier because the trees are just stressed, just a defense mechanism they go into dormancy earlier it seems like. So, I would say it will be later than usual just because of all the moisture we’ve had recently.”

Is there any other information you’d like to share with our listeners?

“We’ve had a lot of questions this year. If you look on my desk here, we’ve got apples, insects, all kinds of stuff, so if folks have got stuff that they’ve got agriculture or horticulture questions about -whether that be garden plants or trees or landscape plants, feel free to stop by and see us, or give us a call and see if we can help figure out your issues and see if we can help you. The best way to get ahold of us is call in here at the office, that’s 799-4852, or stop by and see us in the basement of the courthouse.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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