Tree girdlers may be cutting off twigs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Homeowners have a natural tendency to migrate outside and contemplate maintenance chores, even with the erratic weather experienced this fall. Pruning is always an issue with changes in the weather, whether it’s fall or spring. Many have called about pruning, pests and other plant identification. Below are a few of their questions.
Q: My husband is outside now pruning our grape vines. The vines grew to the ground and he wanted to go ahead and get them pruned. Is it too early to prune grape vines?
A: Grapes, both muscadine and bunch varieties, are normally pruned in February. Any pruning practice stimulates plant growth. Winter damage is possible if there is unusually warm weather in the winter.
Q: There is something cutting off limbs on my oak tree. There are limbs all over the place. What is causing this and is there any control?
A: Squirrels will often cut off limbs; however, twig girdlers will also damage tree limbs. The girdler is a beetle that lays eggs in late summer. Then they fall on the tips of tree branches and cut the ends, allowing them to fall to the ground. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the girdler is the cut is almost perfect, neatly completed around the circumference of the limb. More complete information can be found at
Q: There are a number of large cedar-like trees along South Arlington Street in Salisbury that are green all summer long and now the needles have a golden tan color. I think these are really pretty trees; what are they?
A: These are bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) which are indigenous to swamps and wet areas of eastern North Carolina. Horticulturalists have discovered that these trees will adapt to dry upland conditions, even as street trees. However, these trees will have exposed roots as the tree matures.
Q: My maple tree has big roots coming out of the ground. The exposed roots are ugly and it is difficult to mow under them. Can I cut them off level to the ground?
A: I wouldn’t recommend damaging the root system on these trees. Open wounds, especially on the ground, are easy access to fungi and bacterial diseases which will eventually kill the tree. Mulch the area heavily to avoid mowing.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at