Arboretum staff have been preparing for the arrival of several emerging plant pest and disease problems, including (from top to bottom) spottedlanternfly, thousand cankers disease, and southern pine beetle.
Arboretum staff have been preparing for the arrival of several emerging plant pest and disease problems, including (from top to bottom) spotted lantern fly, thousand cankers disease, and southern pine beetle. Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service; Elizabeth Bush, Virginia Polytechnic Institute; Lawrence Barringer, PA Department of Agriculture.

According to a 2016 study, nearly sixty non-native forest pests are imported into the Commonwealth each year. While most of these pests won’t necessarily become a major problem for forests and woody plants here, we never know what might become the next emerald ash borer or chestnut blight—or worse.

Fortunately, the Arnold Arboretum has a long history of finding innovative ways of dealing with a wide range of exotic and local pests and diseases. Rather than wait for a new pest to show up and scramble to find a solution, the staff at the Arboretum devote significant time and effort investigating which emerging pests and diseases may beheaded for the Arboretum in the future.

As part of my work as the Living Collection Fellow, I am tasked with getting the Arboretum ready for these threats before they are able to cause considerable harm to landscapes like ours. This past year, I’ve kept an eye on a few potential pests. The first of these is the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), a Chinese leaf hopper first observed in Pennsylvania in 2014, which appears to be spreading east. We’re also watching for thousand cankers disease, which results from the combined activity of the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) and a canker producing fungus, Geosmithia morbida, and jumped from the Southwest to the East Coast in 2010. Finally, southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), found in Cape Cod in 2015, is a beetle from the Southeast that attacks almost every species of pine (Pinus).

To prepare for the worst, we have been developing partnerships with other public gardens and organizations like the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the American Public Garden Association’s Plant Sentinel Network, and the US Forest Service’s Cryptic Borer Program, as well as researchers and universities around the country. A great example is a collaboration with our colleagues at DCR to deploy specialized traps that will show us exactly when southern pine beetle arrives in our landscape. We’ve also worked with entomologists at Colorado State University to see which species of walnut (Juglans) are most susceptible to thousand cankers disease, and our colleagues at Longwood Gardens and the Morris Arboretum have helped us prepare the most efficient integrated pest management strategies for confronting spotted lanternfly.

From “free” to “friend”…

Established in 1911 as the Bulletin of Popular Information, Arnoldia has long been a definitive forum for conversations about temperate woody plants and their landscapes. In 2022, we rolled out a new vision for the magazine as a vigorous forum for tales of plant exploration, behind-the-scenes glimpses of botanical research, and deep dives into the history of gardens, landscapes, and science. The new Arnoldia includes poetry, visual art, and literary essays, following the human imagination wherever it entangles with trees.

It takes resources to gather and nurture these new voices, and we depend on the support of our member-subscribers to make it possible. But membership means more: by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum, you help to keep our collection vibrant and our research and educational mission active. Through the pages of Arnoldia, you can take part in the life of this free-to-all landscape whether you live next door or an ocean away.

For more tree-entangled art, science, and writing, subscribe to Arnoldia by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum.