Plum tree died suddenly


New York City is best known for its bright lights, tall buildings and concrete masses interconnecting this bustling place. “Cementland,” as some call the Big Apple, isn’t well associated with green spaces, especially the wide variety of trees found in the urban forest. Many of New York’s trees, however, are native species that were thoughtfully preserved by previous generations as the city expanded. But today, many local homeowners and property managers need help to save their dying trees.

Trees are living creatures. They require water, food, light and other life necessities just like humans. As with people, trees get old, diseased and injured. Eventually, trees die, which is part of nature’s lifecycle. But trees don’t have to perish prematurely as long as you know how to save them.

According to an in-depth study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, there are nearly seven million mature evergreen and deciduous trees and 138 different species within New York City Limits. That’s nearly a tree per person.

Tree canopies cover 21 percent of the city and have an estimated compensatory value of $5.7 billion. New York trees also store 1.2 million tons of carbon, remove 1,100 tons of air pollutants and reduce residential energy costs by $17.1 million each year.

Importance of Trees

New York’s trees are highly important to locals’ health, comfort and enjoyment of life. Trees provide significant benefits socially, communally, environmentally and economically. Few may consider it, but New Yorkers would be devastated if their trees died off.

Saving trees is an important investment. It takes time and effort to know how to do it, but this information is valuable. Here are some of the critical reasons why we should save trees:

  • Reduce Air Pollution: Trees scrub pollutants from the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
  • Provide Groundwater Control: Tree root systems help retain groundwater and preserve aquifers.
  • Slow Surface Water Runoff: Trees help retain storm water and slow surface runoff into sewer systems, streams and rivers.
  • Provide Ultraviolet Light Protection: Leaf and needle canopies filter UV rays that can harm human health.
  • Help Control Temperatures: Trees provide shade to cool buildings in the summer and protect heat loss in winter:
  • Protect From the Wind: Healthy evergreens and deciduous trees provide effective windbreaks to protect people and structures.
  • Create Wildlife Habitat: Urban trees are critical to support mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
  • Generate Employment: Many people such as arborists, pruners and tree removal experts depend on trees for their livelihood.
  • Provide Enjoyment: Healthy and abundant trees are essential for human enjoyment, recreation and relaxation.
  • Have an Economic Benefit: The tree industry generates money for the economy while saving money through energy conservation.

Signs That Your Tree Is Dying

A first step in saving a dying tree is to recognize the symptoms it’s presenting. For instance, when you see a pine tree turning brown and losing needles, you’ll immediately suspect something wrong. As its name suggests, it’s not normal for an evergreen to turn brown.

Knowing how to save a dying pine tree is not much different than knowing how to revive other species, including evergreen and deciduous varieties. All trees have similar life support systems, and all will show certain signs if they’re dying. The trick is being able to spot those signs.

It’s important to know that a tree that appears dead may actually still be very much alive. Sick trees often go into dormancy and appear to play dead. Fortunately, most trees give you plenty of warning and cry out for help by showing symptoms. Here are the most common signs that your tree is dying:

  • Shedding Leaves or Needles: This is the most common symptom that your tree is in distress, so be sure to watch for it. Evergreens, by nature, don’t shed needles unless they have a problem. By recognizing the issue and diagnosing it, you can then take appropriate action or intervention with evergreen softwood trees. Deciduous trees are seasonal. Nature designed these hardwood trees to cycle throughout the year. While it’s natural for leafy trees to shed in the fall, it’s not natural for them to prematurely drop leaves in the spring or mid-summer.
  • Dried Wood: Healthy trees retain water in their bark and pulp. If you note extreme dryness appearing on your tree’s trunk or branches, this should be a red flag. Healthy trees will have elasticity in their limbs. If you notice cracked bark or limbs that won’t flex, this is a symptom of sickness. Dried trunks and branches won’t bend as they normally should. If you put pressure on an ill tree’s branch with dried wood, it’ll probably crack and break away.
  • Decay: Seeing rot or decay on any part of your tree is a serious trouble sign. Although decay is part of nature’s after-death recycling process, it certainly isn’t healthy on a living tree. Decay happens when the cellulose fiber in a tree breaks down. An obvious decay symptom is seeing an external mushroom or fungi growth on any part of your tree. Tree decay can be hard to spot until it’s well advanced. Trees normally rot from the inside out, and by the time you’re seeing decay evidence, there’s significant damage.
  • Weak Unions of Joints: Trees often show signs of illness at the unions where limbs and trunks join. If you see any sign of cracking or abnormal sagging at the union points, this is another clear signal that your tree may be dying. Unions are critical junctions for a tree’s health and survival. Weak trees can fail at their unions and cause branches to droop or snap off. Healthy unions are sturdy and resilient, whereas weak trees will fail at their union points.
  • Trunk and Branch Cracking: Cracks in your tree’s trunk or branches can be tough to diagnose as illness evidence. You can expect a certain amount of cracks to appear in any tree structure, especially as they age. The ones to watch for are vertical cracks that have continuous runs between limb joints as well as cracks that connect around the limb or trunk circumference. Cracks appearing in only your tree’s bark might not be worrisome. However, if you can see raw wood through the cracks, there is likely an issue with your tree’s health.
  • Cancers: These are disease spots that you might see on your tree bark. They’re similar to tumors people get, and they can result from stress. Your tree might experience stress from drought, overwatering, excessive heat, harsh cold or even high wind. Stresses cause your tree to break out in cancers. This might be an early warning sign that your tree needs attention before the stress becomes severe enough to kill it.
  • Leaning Structure: If your tree develops an unnatural lean to one side, this is a sign of root failure. Unstable or unhealthy root systems can’t support your tree’s weight, so gravity forces exceed the root strength. Leaning trees are a serious sign of problems hidden below ground. Weak or dying roots quickly affect the remainder of your tree. By the time you notice an abnormal posture, it might be too late to save your tree. To prevent damage to adjacent property, it’s wise to have a dying tree professionally removed and disposed of.
  • Deadwood: This is a sure sign of a dying tree. Trees normally decline and pass away gradually rather than suddenly. It’s common for parts of a tree to die and remain on the branches or attached to the trunk while the remainder of the tree appears perfectly healthy. Expired parts of a tree are called deadwood. They should be removed before the problem harming the isolated location spreads to the rest of the tree. Deadwood normally snaps off from minimal pressure, but it may require a professional tree service to intervene.
  • Insects and Predators: While your trees may be necessary hosts to wildlife like insects, birds and rodents, that hospitality can go too far. Insect infestations are a leading cause of premature tree death. If you see insect colonies and your tree seems stressed, you need to control this problem as soon as possible. Watch for signs of destructive bird evidence around your trees, too. Woodpeckers and sapsuckers know when your tree is vulnerable. Freshly poked holes and woodchips on the ground are positive signs that your tree has problems and may well be about to die.

If you have evergreen trees, pay particular attention to needlecast or dropping needles, browning or discoloration, and rust spots, which are orange-colored bark blisters. These are the three leading symptoms of an evergreen tree ready to check out. Pine trees are particularly popular in New York. So are northern white cedar trees. Both species are susceptible to drought conditions. Drought commonly causes needlecast and browning, while fungal infections show dangerous rust spots that indicate tree death is on its way.

Ways to Save Your Dying Tree

The best defense in saving your dying tree is developing a good offense. That means being on guard for your trees and keeping a vigilant watch for any evident signs that your tree is sick. Proactive intervention is critical to saving a once healthy tree before it crosses a point of no return.

When it comes to saving your trees, prevention is the best intervention. Here are the top ways you can save your tree from dying:

  • Watering Properly: Drought conditions, or lack of proper watering, are the leading cause of tree stress and early death. As soon as you see a troubling sign in your tree’s appearance, check the soil conditions for moisture. Make sure water is getting to your tree roots, and you might have to do some deep root watering. Conversely, overwatering can also stress your tree with root flooding, which makes them unable to absorb oxygen.
  • Fertilizing Properly: Lack of food can also threaten your tree’s life. Trees function by taking water and nutrients from the soil and converting light to energy through photosynthesis. If your tree doesn’t absorb the right nutrients, it won’t survive, regardless if it gets the right amount of water and sunlight. Over-fertilizing can also harm your tree. It’s wise to have the soil around your tree tested before attempting any fertilizer adjustment. This is inexpensive insurance to protect an expensive tree.
  • Preventing Disease and Insect Invasion: Disease is a common reason why seemingly healthy trees suddenly become sick and die. Disease types vary between species and are easily spread by way of airborne spores or transfer through insect travel. Common tree diseases and invasive insects in New York include American chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, Armillaria root rot, Southern pine beetles, Asian longhorned beetles and emerald ash borers. Oak wilt is another common and deadly tree disease found in the area. These diseases and insects are serious tree threats that are best dealt with by certified arborists employed by a professional tree service.
  • Maintaining Your Trees: Maintaining your trees throughout the year is paramount if you truly want to save them from dying. Well-maintained trees are less likely to suffer disease and insect invasion. Properly watered and fertilized trees also stand a better chance of trouble-free lives compared to neglected specimens. Pruning and mulching your trees are also mandatory tasks for preserving them. However, there are tricks to tree maintenance. Some things are best left to the experts, particularly if you have to remove a tree when it dies.

What to Do If Your Tree Dies

Sadly, there are times when all the care in the world isn’t enough to save a dying tree. You might have to make the difficult choice to end its suffering and have your tree removed. After all, its quality of life is gone, and the best thing you can do is return your tree to nature.

If your tree is dying or already gone, you might not have the skill or equipment to remove it by yourself. If you’re in the Greater New York City area of Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan, then a call to Dragonetti Tree Removal Service is in order.

We have the professional ability to safely remove and dispose of large trees for homeowners, property managers, landlords and building contractors in the NYC area. We are highly experienced with both evergreen and deciduous trees that have reached their end or pose a threat to others. In addition, we have tree trimming, pruning and stump grinding capability as well as ISA Certified Arborists and TCIA Certified Tree Care professionals on staff.

For the best tree removal and maintenance service available in New York City, contact Dragonetti Tree Removal Service today. We’ll develop a free quote and safely look after your needs. Call us at 718-288-8733 or get in touch with us through our online contact form.

Tree suddenly dies

Home > Health and maintenance > Solve problems > Tree suddenly dies

Mature and established trees die for a variety of reasons but sudden browning of foliage is commonly associated with lack of water supply to the canopy. Water supply can be cut off to the canopy due to obvious problems including drought or root damage.

Sometimes trees receiving root damage can appear healthy with green foliage for many years. A drought 1 or 10 years following root injury can kill the tree suddenly. Trees can decline from construction impacts even 20 years after the construction is completed! This is common around new homes and near buildings constructed several years ago. Pines and other trees can suddenly die in the year or two following a hurricane.

Less recognizable causes of water shortage in the canopy can include flooding (which kills roots), lightning, vascular stem diseases (which block water-conducting vascular passages), root diseases, changing grade nearby, adding soil over roots, and soil compaction (See: more on compaction). In exceptional cases, over-fertilization and topping can kill trees suddenly.

Return of normal rainy weather in summer following an extended drought period of a year or more is often associated with tree death. This apparent parody can be explained in the following manner. Roots die back and reserves (stored energy in the form of starch and fatty acids) are used up during the drought. As a result, some foliage may drop during this period of drought but the tree remains alive. Return of normal soil moisture as rains return stimulates soil pathogenic fungi. The fungi are able to gain a foothold and overpower the tree because it is in a weakened state.

Young establishing trees can die from planting too deep and from piling mulch against the trunk. Click planting in the title box above for more on planting trees appropriately.

See: more information on tree decline.

This summer the Extension Master Gardener hot line has received several calls from homeowners and landscapers asking why their tree suddenly died. The typical scenario sounds something like this, “I went on vacation for a week and when I came home my tree was dead. It was perfectly healthy before I left.” The phone calls have been pretty much the same, with the only difference being the type of tree that died. Once a tree has died we can only speculate the reasons for its death. The way a tree dies, gradually versus all of a sudden, can help narrow down the possibilities.

Tree life span varies greatly by species. Typically slow growing trees live longer than fast growing ones. It is good to have an idea of a tree’s life span when choosing a tree. But don’t let a short life span stop you from selecting a tree that may bring you 20-25 years of pleasure. When a tree dies always find out what species it was so that natural causes can be ruled out. A few questions to ask, include:

Have you sprayed a pesticide (herbicide) recently? Herbicides used to target broadleaf weeds sometimes come into contact with non-targeted plants. When the wind is blowing, pesticides can travel great distances and harm other plants. Plants typically exhibit symptoms like curled up leaves and / or bleached out color. Large trees normally will recover.

What kind of environment was the tree planted in? Trees can’t tell us with words when they are not happy where they have been planted. That’s why it’s a good idea to do an analysis of the existing environmental conditions before selecting a tree. Are the soils typically wet or dry? Is it sunny or shady? Is there good air movement? A tree planted in the wrong place will suffer quietly for a long time. Symptoms often include: wilting of leaves if the soil is too wet, leaf desiccation if the soils are too dry, powdery mildew on the leaves if the tree prefers sun and is planted in the shade, and a greater susceptibility to insect and disease due to stress.

Have you looked at the roots? Root rot (Phytophthora cinnamomi) is common in heavy clay soils that tend to hold moisture. Most trees prefer moist well drained soils. Trees sitting in water can also die from lack of oxygen. Symptoms of root rot include slow dieback of limbs, chlorosis of the leaves and defoliation. The leaves initially wilt and then turn brown.

Have you done a soil test recently? Soil testing is free, and boxes are available at county extension offices across the state. Testing is done by the NC Department of Agriculture Agronomic Division. Soil tests will indicate whether or not there are nutrient deficiencies in the soil, the soil pH is high, low, or just right, or whether there are high salts in the soil. Excessive fertilizer in the soil causes reverse osmosis in the roots of a plant. This means instead of the roots absorbing water, the soil is pulling the water out of the tree causing fertilizer burn. Symptoms include wilting, leaf desiccation and death. Nutrient deficiencies can be seen in the leaves in some form of chlorosis. This can easily be corrected once the nutrient deficiency is identified.

Are there symptoms on the bark? Voles, deer, beaver, borer insects and weed wackers are all major pests to trees. Voles feed on the roots of plants and are known to eat the lower bark of trees. Deer when desperate will eat anything, even bark, and also tear off tree bark when rutting. Borer insects are typically attracted to very specific tree species. They will enter a tree near the base at the soil line. Symptoms of a borer insect include oozing gummy sap at the entrance hole. Weed wacker damage wounds the tree making it more susceptible to insects and disease. In some cases, a weed wacker has girdled the tree preventing nutrients from moving up and down the trunk and killing the tree.

How much mulch? Keep mulch 4-6 inches away from the trunk of the tree to prevent rotting. Over mulching is a case when “too much of a good thing can kill you.” The recommended amount of mulch for reducing weeds and retaining moisture is 2-4 inches. Too much mulch can affect the amount of oxygen available to the tree. The roots in an effort to find oxygen will begin to grow into the mulch instead of the soil. This stresses a tree and can eventually lead to its demise.

How do the leaves look? Many trees exhibit symptoms of stress on their leaves. When it’s hot they may wilt, in a drought they may defoliate and induce early hibernation, if the species is susceptible to various diseases many of the symptoms appear on the leaves. Some diseases primarily impact the trees aesthetic appearance while others cause serious damage leading to death. Insect pests can also impact the aesthetic appearance but don’t always merit control since the damage they cause doesn’t always impact the tree long term.

Most tree symptons appear gradually, so when a caller says their healthy tree “just died over night or within a week”, that symptom of speedy demise suggests a few possible causes: Armillaria Root Rot (a fungal disease that infects and kills woody plants that are weak) or drought. While we have had a fairly rainy season this year, it surprises people when I tell them their healthy tree probably died from the drought. Trees will struggle for years without showing symptoms of stress. A drought can inhibit a tree’s ability to expand its root system and develop. When rain finally comes a young tree may not have developed an adequate root system to handle large quantities of water and essentially drowns.

For more information on trees, planting and maintenance guidelines contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension office.

Michelle Wallace is the Consumer Horticulture Agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Durham County. You may contact her at 919-560-0525.

My Tree is Dying from the Top Down

72 Tree Removal ServicesFollow Feb 13, 2018 · 4 min read

What causes a tree to die from the top down? A common reason for a tree to die from the top down or from its outer limbs is drought. Even with reasonable rainfall, your tree may not be getting the water it needs to thrive and survive.

When a tree begins to deteriorate from the top down, this condition is also known as dieback. Dieback is the gradual death of tree branches, foliage, and/or limbs starting at the tips (extremities) and moving inward toward the trunk. Dieback, as mentioned above may result from drought. However, there may be a variety a variety of causes contributing to the gradual death of your tree.

The following will help you to identify what is causing dieback, the options available to save the tree, and the actions you can take to prevent the tree’s death.

What Can Cause Dieback from the Top Down?

In order to identify the cause of dieback, you need to know what you are looking for. The following are common reasons and symptoms when tree health declines.

Drought — Symptoms include the wilting or discoloration of leaves, limb, twig, and branch dieback, as well as the death of roots. Trees suffering from drought are very likely to be affected by insects, disease, or both.

Soil Imbalance — Soil is composed of minerals, organic and inorganic matter, water, air, and has an acidic or alkaline pH level. When an imbalance of these levels occurs, nutrients needed for the tree’s survival may not be absorbed. This can certainly lead to dieback and death of the tree if not addressed.

A sure sign of soil trouble is the absence of worms, plant growth, and small insects. “Life” should be detected in your soil, if not your soil’s health needs attention.

Insect Infestation — Invasive insect species also cause or accelerate dieback. When trees are stressed, they produce more amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. This in turn makes them more attractive to invasive insects that feed off them.

As an infestation grows, the tree becomes more stressed and in turn, produces more of the chemicals — attracting more insects. This process can become a self-reinforced loop, and the initial stressors now combined with the infestation will eventually lead to the death of the tree if not treated promptly.

NOTE: While trees have adapted their defenses and healing processes over the millennia, it is these same adaptations that may feed an insect infestation.

What Options Do I Have to Save My Tree?

For each of the causes listed above, there is a specific course of action to halt or even reverse it. Once the cause is identified, the following simple treatments may help to save your tree.

Drought Treatment — During dry seasons or when rainfall is scarce, give your trees a thorough watering once a week. Make sure that the soil is soaked to a depth of at least twelve inches. Mulching around your trees base will slow the evaporation process and help the soil and tree retain moisture.

Soil Imbalance Treatment — While calling in a Certified Arborist may be the best option here, you are perfectly capable of getting a soil test kit from your local nursery or home improvement store (gardening department). Use the kit to determine if there is an imbalance for the species of affected tree(s), then seek appropriate soil treatments to return the soil to a healthy composition.

Insect Infestation Treatment — Once an infestation is confirmed, insecticides, traps, and oil can be used to kill the existing insects and prevent further infestation. Read this for more on using and applying oils to treat insect infestations.

It is important to note that insect infestations are typically the result of a tree already stressed or in bad health. Once the infestation has been dealt with, begin looking for other stressors that may have lead to the weakening of the tree’s health.

How Do You Save a Dying Tree?

When dieback occurs, saving your tree will involve pruning or trimming off the dead parts of the tree, and identifying the reason that the dieback occurred. Once identified, treat it. If it is an infestation that is threatening other trees and plants, you may have to make the decision to completely remove the tree to prevent further contamination and damage.

Proper Treatment and Prevention — Once you have treated the cause of your tree’s dieback, understand that you can save a dying tree by simply paying attention to it through the seasons. Your tree will show signs of stress, and once you detect it, consider it a call to action.

It is equally important to establish and follow seasonal maintenance and care. Bringing in a Certified Arborist or reputable tree service to inspect your trees and landscape will help give you the upper hand in keeping your trees healthy!

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Can I ask if there is any sign of the branches still being alive? It’s worrying that they have not produced leaves for the past two years (correct?). If you scrape away a small bit of bark is there any healthy green wood underneath? You may have to try several branches to make sure you don’t miss any living ones. Let’s try to ascertain if the tree is still living as a first step.
I currently suspect that the tree is infected with the silver leaf pathogen, Chondrostereum purpureum, which is a wood rotting fungus that attacks many fruit trees – including plum. The pathogen enters the tree through wounds, including pruning wounds and grows down into the wood, producing a dark stain. In addition to the staining of the wood, the fungus produces a toxin which results in a distinctive silvering of the leaves. This may occur on one branch to begin with and then spread to other branches. The silver sheen is usually particularly apparent on plum. Would you happen to remember anything unusual about the leaves when they were last produced?
A further diagnostic symptom would be the presence of fungal fruiting bodies (mushrooms) on dead wood. They occur in clusters (see pic) and release spores in the fall and winter when conditions are moist. Susceptible trees should be pruned in summer to reduce the risk of silver leaf and pruning wounds can be painted with fungicide if the tree is a susceptible variety.

Can my sick live oak be saved?

Dear David,
Stressed trees lose their leaves, but they are not necessarily dead. On the other hand, root damage is very difficult to correct.
I suspect the water is ponding over the same area that was compressed by the vehicular traffic. Without air space in the soil, water cannot penetrate and the tree cannot take up moisture or nutrients.
You should consult with a certified arborist. From a mere gardener’s point of view, trees do not like to compete with lawn turf. You may try repairing the soil by covering it with several sheets of overlapping newspaper over the root zone. Cover the paper with about 1/2 to 1-inch of finished compost. This may be well-rotted plant or animal manures (purchased or homemade.) Lay a drip-hose on top of the area, then cover the compost and the hose with a couple of inches of shredded bark mulch. Be careful to water the tree properly which means slowly and deeply. Try not walk on the soil…ever.
Do not fertilize the tree (except with compost) while it is under stress. In the future, an arborist may suggest deep-root feeding.
Unfortunately, trees sometimes die several years after root damage. I hope yours is able to recover.

How to Help Your Trees Recover from Drought

Dry soil conditions can significantly reduce the life span of your valuable landscape trees. Because they are difficult and expensive to replace, your trees need attention during and after periods of drought.

Below are symptoms and things you can do to help relieve drought stress.


  • wilted foliage
  • a sparse canopy of off-color and undersized leaves
  • leaf scorch
  • yellowing
  • leaf drop
  • premature fall coloration

Closer inspection will reveal limited twig growth and small, poorly formed buds. Growth for several seasons may be stunted even if there is sufficient rainfall.

Perhaps more life-threatening than anything to a tree suffering drought is invasion by borers and disease-causing organisms that can happen as the tree is recuperating and still in a weakened state. For instance, elms succumb more quickly to Dutch elm disease and white-barked birches are more susceptible to bronze birch borer during drought. In the South, water oaks, red oaks and willow oaks are more susceptible to hypoxylon canker and hardwood borers, while pines are more likely to become infested by pine bark beetles during drought.


Water Appropriately!*
Since most of a tree’s active roots are within the top 12 inches of soil, a good way to water is to put a sprinkler beneath the tree. Place a coffee or soup can close by and run the sprinkler slowly until 2 inches of water has collected in the can. Be sure to water the entire root zone beneath the tree canopy. The best time to water is typically in the morning.

Slow, deep watering every five to seven days during drought is ideal for mature trees in the Midwest or Northeast and four to six days during drought for mature trees in areas with 95- to 105-degree temperatures (Fahrenheit). In hotter regions, reduce watering frequency as temperatures cool to 75 to 85 degrees. When watering, remember that a tree’s root zone may extend well beyond the tree canopy if there is ample space available.

For young or newly planted trees, slow, deep watering every two to three days is a good gauge. There are also a number of “soaker products available to keep newly planted trees from drying out.

If turf is underneath the canopy of the tree (whether young or mature), more water will be needed because the turf will absorb much of the water that is applied to the surface. The goal is to get the water through the turf roots and down to the tree roots. Removing the turf around the base of the tree and replacing it with mulch can help eliminate competition for water between the turf and the tree.

* Be aware of and follow water use restrictions that may apply to your community.

Soil Moisture Check.
When watering any tree, remember that the soil type and method of water delivery have a big impact on how successful the general recommendations might be. Trees planted on a slope may need some type of soaker hose or drip emitter, as applied water will run-off. Sandy soils need shorter watering intervals, and clay soils should have longer intervals. Clay soils are hard to wet, and water will not infiltrate but puddle if applied too quickly. The puddling of water may make one think sufficient water has been applied, but often only the top inch may be wet. The depth to which water has infiltrated the soil must be checked by hand. It is always advisable to physically check soil moisture by hand to a 1-foot depth instead of using watering intervals or relying upon automatic timers.

Tree TLC.
Proper tree care during drought includes watering, mulching and pest management. Organic mulch, such as wood chips, to a depth of 2 inches will help the soil retain moisture. If the soil does not have any moisture, the mulch will have little effect; as there is no water to lose. Inorganic mulch, like crushed granite, also helps the soil retain moisture, but it may not be as effective as organic mulch.

Routine pruning is not recommended during severe drought, as this can cause tree stress which can make the trees even more prone to borer attack. Pruning may still need to occur for building clearance, utility lines, tree failure risk reduction, and to maintain defensible space for wildfires. Fertilization with a slow release fertilizer can be done, but will be of little benefit during severe drought, as water is necessary to make nutrients available. Fast release fertilizers like urea should be avoided, as they will utilize water first and make the effects of drought more severe. Planting or transplanting trees are usually not recommended during drought conditions.

Learn how a simple subsurface watering treatment can help revive and protect drought-stricken trees

Drought-stressed trees should be examined by a certified arborist. Contact your local Davey office with any questions on how best to care for your trees or visit our blog for more information:

Additional Resources:

  • Drought Recovery Watering
  • Summer Drought

Is My Tree Dead Or Alive: Learn How To Tell If A Tree Is Dying

One of the joys of spring is watching the bare skeletons of deciduous trees fill out with soft, new leafy foliage. If your tree doesn’t leaf out on schedule, you may start wondering, “is my tree alive or dead?” You can use various tests, including the tree scratch test, to determine whether your tree is still alive. Read on to find out how to tell if a tree is dying or dead.

Is a Tree Dead or Alive?

These days of high temperatures and little rainfall has taken its toll on trees in many parts of the country. Even drought tolerant trees become stressed after several years without sufficient water, especially in soaring summer temperatures.

You need to find out whether trees near your home or other structures are dead as early as possible. Dead or dying trees can topple in winds or with shifting soils and, when they fall, can cause damage. It is important to learn how to tell if a tree is dying or dead.

Obviously, the first “test” for determining the status of a tree is to inspect it. Walk around it and take a close look. If the tree has healthy branches covered with new leaves or leaf buds, it is in all likelihood alive.

If the tree has neither leaves nor buds, you may wonder: “is my tree dead or alive.” There are other tests you can do to tell should this be the case.

Bend some of the smaller branches to see if they snap. If they break quickly without arching, the branch is dead. If many branches are dead, the tree may be dying. To make a determination, you can use the simple tree scratch test.

Scratching Bark to See if Tree is Alive

One of the best ways to determine if a tree or any plant is dead is the tree scratch test. Just beneath the dry, outer layer of bark in a tree’s trunk lies the cambium layer of bark. In a living tree, this is green; in a dead tree, it is brown and dry.

Scratching bark to see if the tree is alive involves removing a little bit of the outside layer of bark to get a look at the cambium layer. Use a fingernail or small pocketknife to remove a small strip of exterior bark. Don’t make a great wound in the tree, just enough to see the layer below.

If you perform the tree scratch test on a tree trunk and see green tissue, the tree is alive. This does not always work so well if you scratch a single branch, since the branch may be dead but the rest of the tree alive.

During times of severe drought and high temperatures, a tree may “sacrifice” branches, allowing them to die in order for the rest of the tree to stay alive. So if choosing to do a scratch test on a branch, choose several in different areas of the tree or simply stick with scraping the tree trunk itself.

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