Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why is the tree dying? What's wrong with my plant?

Now that spring is well underway in the Northern hemisphere, a ray of false hope in the fading beauty of the glorious globe we inhabit, I notice there has been a torrent of searches slightly more than the usual trickle of searches that guide googlers to Wit's End, from using queries such as "why are the ash/oak/magnolia/maple/beech/apple trees dying?" or "why are my pepper leaves speckled?".

Rather than explain from scratch, I would refer new readers with such questions to the Basic Premise link at the top of the blog - or for a more recent iteration illustrated with pictures, this post, titled "Rude Awakening" and another with particularly good introductory links, here.

Regular readers are already familiar with the notion that the ability of foliage and needles to photosynthesize becomes impaired following exposure to background tropospheric ozone.  Air pollution is thus the underlying, often hidden cause for a universal and widespread rapid decline of vegetation, whether trees, shrubs or annual agricultural crops.  Damage generally mistaken as due to weather, drought, climate change - or diseases, fungal infection and insects - is thus frequently opportunistic, the so-called "sharks that smell blood in the water" as seen in the video at the end of this post.  But first, below is a hauntingly evocative photograph from the UK Guardian, of caterpillars in the Netherlands...a species historically in harmony with its host, the oak, but which has suddenly run rampant across Northern Europe.  This explosion of population is, like that of the bark beetle in the American and Canadian west, usually myopically attributed solely to rising temperatures from climate change rather than compromised immune functions due to volatile organic compounds traveling across the world, released from ever-increasing fossil and biofuel emissions:
"Oak processionary caterpillars nest on an oak tree in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands. The insects, which eventually transform into moths, produce bristles that break off and become airborne. The bristles can provoke severe irritations such as itchy rashes or conjunctivitis and even respiratory problems. The nests, which can contain many thousands of individual caterpillars, are being increasingly found in northern Europe as temperatures rise due to climate change."


  1. Excellent, Gail, excellent. All those High Priests of Climate Science don't have time to concentrate on the Ozone nonsense, though, do they? Yet, here you are, planning your daughter's wedding and you seem to be able to find the time to research your field observations and develop a cogent, rational hypothesis that has now moved to theory, IMO.

    You Doomer, you. Why are you striking fear into the hearts of Humanity?

  2. Er...pot calling kettle black?

    Here in a message from RPauli, some levity...hey it's Sunday - so why not!

  3. Gail, that was a joke. I agree with your comments at DOTE, and I am flummoxed by Dave's provocations. Did you not get that from the links I posted back at him?

  4. I know you were making a joke referring to DOTE!! I think Dave was mostly referring to the for-profit doomster pornatricians, who shall remain nameless, that he has disparaged before, but I couldn't help taking him at his word. I HOPE he doesn't mean to allude to you or me...but he is inscrutable, if nothing else!

  5. Gail, very well written. A lesson learned by this old man.

  6. Thank you, Dewey D. You are under the peach trees, eh?? I live in a little village in New Jersey where we are surrounded by orchards with the most luscious peaches. Apples too, with excellent cider - but the peaches are the most fragrant and scrumptious fruit!

  7. Bird feeder update:
    As soon as the inch worms and other tree caterpillars had done their thing (three weeks ago) and were no longer in the trees, the birds came back and are eating sunflower seeds again as they were in early March. It seems that they preferred insects (now gone) to the commercial bird seed. Woodpeckers are finishing up the insects as I type.

    Got insect pests? Get some bird feeders, a bird bath, and keep them full and fresh.


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