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Trees that Don't Work in New England

Posted by edlincoln 6A (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 10:16

The problem with the internet is it is location-agnostic. You get lots of advice from people in very different conditions. Catalogs, of course, are selling to people across the country. I suspect Big Box stores make decisions as to what to carry at a national (or at least regional) level.

I think it would be useful to compile a list of popular or common trees that just don't work in New England. Anyone have any ideas? Trees that collapse under ice storms, trees that are being devastated by a local disease, trees that can't take our humid summers, etc. In theory looking at Zone tolerances should tell you if the tree can survive our winters, but Zones aren't perfect, so if you can think of some cases where the stated zone tolerance is deceptive, that would be helpful. Also, trees that are considered invasive species in some New England State. I'm particularly interested in the local disease aspect...that's harder to find information on then climate.

This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 0:03


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

I'll start with calgary pear. They often have a weak crotch and in ice storms are prone to splintering and breakage. Drastically overplanted street tree in N.E.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

Disease: White ash, American Chestnut, & American elm ball get insect-borne imported diseases, Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky Mountain Juniper) finds it too humid

Callery pear (tends to split under snow load and in warmer areas seeding is a problem), glossy buckthorn (invasive), Norway maple (invasive)

Dwarf Alberta Spruce seems prone to spider mites and often looks half dead.

Then there is the whole issue of deer and arborvitae. In areas with deer, the whole bottom of the tree gets nibbled down to bare branches.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

I'll start with calgary pear. They often have a weak crotch and in ice storms are prone to splintering and breakage. Drastically overplanted street tree in N.E.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

Japanese Black Pine and Austrian Pine in Southeastern Massachusetts. Everyone recommends them because they are very salt tolerant so in theory should be perfect for places that get salt spray from the ocean during hurricanes and from road salt in the winter...but turpentine beetles and a fungus and nematode spread by insects mean they don't survive very well in southeastern Massachusetts unless you douse them in pesticides regularly. An American Elm would be far easier to keep alive near Cape Cod then a Japanese Black Pine.

I've heard some say Blue Spruce don't survive the New England humidity well...not sure if I buy that, I've seen plenty of happy looking ones in southeastern Massachusetts. On the other hand, during a recent trip to central New Hampshire I saw a lot of Blue Spruce that looked kind of sad...especially in contrast to the vigorous White Pines that self-sowed nearby.

Some of the trees others mentioned are trees that sort of suck everywhere.

Never noticed any problems with Dwarf Alberta Spruce or Arborvitae in my area. Do full sized White Spruce suffer from these problems?

This post was edited by edlincoln on Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 22:01


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

Silver maple is a tree that needs care in placement. While I would not say that they "don't work in New England" I would say that they don't work in a typical suburban quarter acre lot. They grow too fast and get too large for small yards, and they are often damaged by ice storms. They are fine if you have acres and they aren't near buildings, but not great otherwise. Other trees that also don't work in smaller settings include large willows (roots will invade any leaking pipes and create problems sooner as well as storm damage) and suckering trees such as aspen or black locust which will invade neighboring properties, gardens, etc.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

IME Blue spruce are fine in central NH as long as they don't get bud damage from some type of borer which causes multiple leaders.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

hemlocks d/t wooly aegelid. Ignorant landscape installers still plant these in new installations. On our street I saw four planted and four decline over a period of three years. that's not a good return on investment. They were pulled, and replaced....with hemlocks. Maybe a spray maintenance plan came with the trees!

New England is a pretty wide swath. Big zonal differences, humidity varies, some of us get hurricanes and others get blizzards and the really unfortunate get both. But what beautiful, varied country!

So we'll be reading lots of "that tree does all right here" in this thread. That's fine; it's all interesting and I like learning about what works where. Thanks for posing the question.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

Sadly the American Elm stand that my neighborhood resides under is succumbing to those damned winter moth caterpillars. It's as if the epicenter is my backyard--I'll find caterpillars around my body, clothing, bags, etc for days after being under the elm trees.

The Dutch elm disease took a few of the elm trees in the past decade or two but I think the winter moth caterpillars will have the entire neighborhood within a few years. :(

Here is a link that might be useful: umass extension on winter moth caterpillars


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

I think "New England" is way too big an area to answer this question. A tree that doesn't do well in southern-most New England might be very happy in Maine. One example would be white birch in far southern-most New England. I have never seen one last more than a few years. Also, black spruce---native to areas in northern New England. Every single one looks like crap here (south coast of Mass)---dead or dying.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

White birch doesn't work in southern New England? See, that's exactly the sort of thing I wanted to know. Does that include Southeastern Mass? What is a good substitute? What about white spruce?

This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 0:08


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

I think I can safely say tropical trees probably don't do well outside in New England....like breadfruit, brazil nuts, etc.

Whatever is the point of this vague (as pointed out earlier by the broadness of it) topic?


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

The point is to find out common trees that I might see for sale at Home Depot don't do well in the area. As I said, it's easy to find information on trees that don't do well because they aren't cold hardy, zone tolerances are easy to find. Finding out if a tree doesn't do well here because of humidity or local pests is much harder. I've already discovered from this thread White Birch doesn't do well here...useful, because I'd been considering them, the neighbors just planted some, and the zone tolerance didn't give me a "heads up" on that one. I also discovered black spruce aren't a good choice here, and got further confirmation that hemlock would be a bad choice.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

White birch is highly susceptible to the bronze birch borer. While this insect can and does attack white birch trees further north, it seems to be more of a problem in far southern New England (including SE MA) where this tree is already at the southern most limit of its natural range. Any stress to the tree (brought on by drought and high soil temps for example) makes the tree more susceptible to attack. So in my experience newly planted trees do OK for a few years and then rapidly decline unless the tree is aggressively treated. Probably not the best choice. You could try planting river birch instead--of all birch species it is the least prone to being attacked by this borer.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England

I'll second Rockman's suggestion of river birch, Betula nigra. My workplace is in zone 6, and there are at least two selections of river birch that do well there. One is Heritage ('Cully') and the other has white bark and looks fairly similar to white birch, Betula papyrifera, though I don't know the selection name.


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RE: Trees that Don't Work in New England


Silver Maples, I can attest to, need to be placed with care and in our neighborhood of 1/4 acre lots there are quite a few and they are a headache. The root system becomes a large issue for growing much of anything in their vicinity. They suck up water and the root system travels too far. They also lose branches in ice storms.

Winter Moths are taking a toll on all the Maple trees in the neighborhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are not going to make it one of these years. I saw a large dead branch in one of our trees this spring.

There is one tree in our neighborhood, that is either a London Plane Tree or a Sycamore. I don’t know if it has a disease or not. Sometimes it takes a really long time to push out new leaves. And the very large leaves do not break down easily and brown dead leaves fall during the spring and summer instead of in the fall. It never looks healthy either. Too large a tree for small lots too.

What about shrubs? One that comes to mind, is Viburnum ‘Red Wings’. I love this shrub. Really fast growth and ability to screen. Pretty foliage and lots of berries. But wow, do the branches break over the winter. I’m still growing it and deciding if it works for me or not. Because despite having to cut it back after two winters and especially by more than half after that freak October Ice Storm, it rebounded to twice the size since then and didn’t lose a lot of branches last winter.


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