Evergreens that grow best in Michigan

Asked May 16, 2020, 9:16 AM EDT

Hello, First of all thank you for having this forum! I have a couple of questions: The first is that we have a number of very large beech trees on our land. I’ve heard that they are in danger of a disease that is coming down from northern Michigan. Very concerned because they are huge and beautiful, and I don’t want to lose them. Second question is that we are looking to purchase some evergreen trees for our property. The soil is well drained and white pine do well in it. But if we wanted to add additional species, would it be best to add concolor fir, Norway spruce, or a different species of fir or spruce? We have some scotch and Australian pine that are being destroyed by Beatles, and I don’t want to plant some thing that will be susceptible. We also like Fraser fir trees. Would those survive long term? Third question is that we are losing all of our cherry trees to black ants. The large carpenter type. Is there anything we can do about that or anything we can do to protect the other trees from them? I’ve even seen them taking a maple down, and I’m worried because we have hundreds of sugar maples. Is there a treatment you recommend to kill the ants over a large area? Say 10 acres? Thanks so much for your help! Don Z

Kalamazoo County Michigan

1 Response

Please read these paragraphs about choosing the right tree for the chosen space:

"How do I choose trees and shrubs that have the best chance of survival?

Before purchasing a tree or shrub, assess the location where it will be planted. Factors to investigate include the amount of full, uninterrupted sun the area receives; whether the soil is sand, loam or clay; and how well the soil drains. Having standing water or saturated soil even for short periods of time may change plant selections. Do some research to find out if what you want to plant will grow in this location. Look at native trees that are growing successfully near where you will be planting. If you have questions about your soil, you can buy a Michigan State University Extension Soil Test Self-Mailer at www.msusoiltest.com and find out about soil type, pH, organic matter percentage and fertilizer recommendations.

Consider the “10 percent rule” when selecting trees and shrubs. Put in no more than 10 percent of any one kind of tree or shrub into your landscape. This is like insurance against insect pests, diseases or other problems that could come along. Only a small part of your landscape would be damaged when an unforeseen problem arises, and diversity makes for a more interesting landscape. Using native trees and shrubs can help establish a sense of place and can be low maintenance.

Native trees and shrubs have an advantage when it comes to climate and growing conditions. They have been growing in this location for thousands of years and in most cases can survive problems with native insects and diseases. Not all native plants are resistant to disease or pest problems, especially if they are grown in the wrong location or do not receive adequate moisture. Also, not all pests or diseases are native. This can be seen with Dutch elm disease, oak wilt and emerald ash borer in recent history."

The last sentence is daunting. We may do all we can to plant the right trees and then along comes an exotic pest/disease. However, we do the best we can. I am referring you to an MSU article about what to plant in place of diseased blue spruce. The majority are not native but are adapted to our climate. Are they meant to be seen from the house? You might like those to be "specimen" trees which especially nice shape and intersest. A tree I have had luck with is a Canadian(Eastern) hemlock. There is a disease out there but nurseries have been careful to sell healthy stock. It is a native. It will grow in partial shade but much fuller in more sun. As the article emphasizes, do not plant all the same tree (monoculture). You do not want one disease or pest to wide everything out.

Check out: "Alternative conifers for Michigan landscapes msu.edu"

Use a nursery that stands behind it's stock and gives good advice.

On to your second question: Please read this MSU article:
"Is it beech bark disease?" To see the distribution in Michigango to:

"Alien Forest Pest Explorer - Northern Research Station"

Click on Maps and Links in the box on the right.

Michigan is grey as the disease is in the state. The red counties are from reports of sightings. The good news is that some trees are resistant.

Now for your third question. The large black ants you see are carpenter ants. They tunnel in dead, moist, rotted wood. They do not eat wood or kill trees. Where you see them, the tree in question is rotted in places, sometimes deep in the trunk. You do not want to eliminate the ants from the forest. (It's impossible anyway. )

They sometimes migrate into houses looking for crumbs!. This is only a big problem if you have rotten wood somewhere and they decide to move in. It happend to us.!