It's not just the passage of time and seasonal changes that result in falling leaves and changing colors.
Gary Greiner, Valparaiso University's director of facilities management, had the unpleasant task of sending out what he describes as "an unfortunate email" missive to the campus in June during the summer break.
"Facilities Management has scheduled a contractor to be on campus in July to remove ash trees affected by Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)," Greiner wrote in his email blast.
"The ash trees will be removed by our contractor, and the stump will be ground. The site will either be considered for replanting, using responsible planting practices, or filled with topsoil and seeded. With the loss of so many mature ash trees, we are losing a significant amount of beneficial tree canopy. This canopy provides shade, reduces erosion, cleans the air and prevents pollutants from entering the stormwater system and our natural waterways."
"It wasn't something easy, but it was something that had to be done," Greiner said this week, reflecting on the changing landscape of the VU campus.
"I've been on campus for seven years, and these sick trees have been something that's been carefully watched for the past five or six years. Some of the trees were more than 20 years old, so we wanted to do everything possible. We are fortunate that we have not only our tree service consultants, but also several faculty members in horticulture to provide support."
Greiner said Valparaiso University is dedicated to replacing the canopy lost due to the tree removal and is planning to replace every ash tree with a new native tree that will mature to provide benefits.
"While this unwanted pest is causing considerable damage, it is also raising a new awareness about the importance of trees," Greiner said.
"We also work very closely with Taltree Arboretum for planning and selecting trees that are a fit for what become campus focal points. While all trees can be susceptible to fungus and problems, trees like oaks are not as prone. However, oaks take such a long time to grow."
Purdue University has been just as invested in spreading awareness and education for tree care.
Even though Purdue's staff of agriculture and horticulture experts can leave the classroom to assist with "making house calls," Brian Wallheimer, of Purdue Agriculture Communications, says a new iPhone app can put their knowledge about tree disorders in the palm of anyone's hand.
He said the Purdue Tree Doctor app helps homeowners, landscapers, master gardeners, nurseries, arborists and others quickly diagnose problems with their trees. The app is the first for sale through The Education Store, Purdue Extension's resource for educational materials.
"We're Extension specialists, and our job is to give good information to people who need it," said Cliff Sadof, a professor of Entomology and one of the specialists who developed the app.
"If we want people to use our information, we need to give it to them in media they use. Having an app that we can update regularly means people have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips."
The removal of a sick tree that has to be "taken down" can cost as much as $5,000 depending on the size and other obstacles.
The app allows users to search by type of tree, insect or disease depending on what they're seeing. It covers more than 175 plant disorders found on most flowering, shade and conifer trees planted in the Midwest and North Atlantic regions of the United States.
"It's a very thorough, robust resource," said Janna Beckerman, an associate professor of botany and plant pathology, and another specialist who developed the app.
"Even if you go online, you won't likely find all this information in one place."
The app uses Beckerman and Sadof's library of 1,100 high-resolution photos to direct users to a correct diagnosis in just a few short steps.
Once an issue is diagnosed, the app provides possible management options, beginning with cultural practices that prevent or at least minimize the problem, and effective biological controls, followed by a list of pesticides that can be useful when needed. The app also will provide updates on invasive pests as they become known to Purdue Extension specialists.
Sadof and Beckerman said that the information they provided was reviewed by peers to ensure it is accurate, and does not recommend name-brand chemicals or products to treat tree problems.
The app costs $1.99 and is available at The Education Store at the-education-store.com.