Frequently Asked Questions about Trees
Visitors to the TreeBoss.net website
have emailed various questions over the past years. Some of the
more important tree topics have been the basis for creating new webpages, especially when several photos will help illustrate the
problem. This webpage will be used to answer tree
questions with shorter answers.
Tree F. A. Q.
Index of tree questions
We want to put edgers around a very large, very old tree
What are the brown bumps on my BlackBerry tree branches
I have a 15 year old arborvitae that was pushed over a month ago
by a heavy spring snow
Our neighbour’s mature black walnut hasn't leafed out this
spring on about 33% of the crown
I have an 8 ft sugar maple that grew too close to my garage
Please can you help me with my two washington hawthorn trees?
Can you tell me what kind of tree this is in our front yard in
Should I trim the larger vertical limbs from my weeping cherry?
I have a tree that has been diagnosed with girdle root. It is 50
years old. Can it be saved
The needles on my evergreen tree are still brown and it is
almost May, do you think winter cold killed it?
My maple tree developed red stuff all over the branch tips in
early April, what is that?
Is it safe to plant a tree now, in early April, that is already
March a good time to plant trees in New York
We have a row of eight 6’–7’tall Emerald Green Arborvitae trees
in our front yard
If wet, heavy snow begins to build-up on my Pine tree is it OK
to knock it off
Our live Christmas tree we planted 12 yrs ago is 18 ft tall now
and has been damaged by sapsucker woodpeckers
My husband and I are concerned about our Black Locust tree
How can I order one of the metal tree trunk protectors shown
What kind of stand should I get for a really full 9-foot
I just had to remove two large branches and now the trunk of the
tree has what looks like two gaping white wounds where the
I have a blue spruce I planted about
ten years ago, if I top it now will it fill in better or is it
How I can I tell when my black walnuts are dormant
Recently the city thinned out the mature trees
have a tree with two different leaves on it
During the night a large branch fell from a mature beech tree
A square foot section of bark was apparently gnawed from a large
ball gum tree
it common for trees not to grow a top section
A lorry hit a tree I have and tore a large part of the bark, is
there anything I can paint on the wound to help
We just had a BBQ fire in the yard and the side of my trees bark
Wanted to see if you knew what was wrong with my maple tree
We have a home in Ontario Canada and
planted 5 Columnar Hornbeams
We had a tree fall on our Fraser fir
and snapped it off to the ground
I have a beautiful oak tree and we
noticed that it looks like it has been burnt
We now have lots of sap on our cars
Wondering if there is a maximum trunk circumference or other
size to determining if tree can still be transplanted
I have a pine tree in my yard that
has grown bent in the trunk
Was wondering if a 15-20 foot tree
could be moved to my new lot 3 miles away
I received a Norfolk island pine in
a planter, some 15 years ago
I am planting two Baby Colorado Blue
We planted a bur oak in our front
yard about 8 years ago
My neighbor’s tree is buckling my
Can I screw in my flag pole holder without killing my tree
have a question about landscaping around my trees
I have a much loved Locust tree at
my home in Massachusetts
45 days ago, we excavated and
installed a patio next to what I believe is a Silver Maple
We have a clump River Birch, can we
tie the trunks together so the tree grows more upright
My driveway has been damaged by the roots of my oak tree
We have a Granny Smith which is in its fourth year of production
I planted a pear tree 2 years ago, it is just growing taller and
I have a white pine that’s about 20 years old that is leaning
I cant find
the name of this pine tree
2 years ago my tree had a swarm of
honey bees on it
I have a young pine tree that has a
I was wondering the distance between
each tree I need to leave
I transplanted a dwarf blood orange
from a pot to the ground and now it is wilting
The mulch that the previous owner
had around the trees is quite high
My Black Walnut caught fire last
week when my neighbor’s garage burned
How often do you recommend having
the following trees professionally sprayed?
My neighbor has a
magnolia branch with black heartwood
I have about 30 oaks and I'd like to
Could you tell me the value of a
40-year-old evergreen tree?
I have a cherry tree that took a
very hard hit in the recent snow
We have an Oak tree that has broken
off a huge branch
possible to transplant a 30-40 foot tree?
What kind of tree is this?
I have 4 large pin oak trees in my
front yard and have a difficult time keeping grass in this area
In the snowstorm to the northeast my
dogwood took a major hit
The tree in our deck has grown 'too
big for its britches' so what can we do?
Our Modesto ash tree was planted
about 5 feet from our foundation
Today we had a rather large storm
hit our area
I just noticed this dark brown
blackish growth on some of the limbs of my tree
What do I need to keep in mind or
add to soil when planting an evergreen in October in Middle
I noticed that something is chewing
the ends of the branches of my very old Oak tree
Will damage of these old trees/roots
kill the trees and have potential to die and fall on my house
We just purchased a oak tree which
is about 15 feet tall
Our trees are dropping black things on our driveway and leaving
was going to JUST trim our tree
We have a very large Sycamore tree that looks good but is
dropping green limbs
Last year deer rubbed on my 3-year-old weeping willow tree
We bought 20 aspen trees in February
We got a maple tree out of the woods behind our yard
We bought a large burgundy maple tree last week and dug the hole
Dug up an orange tree and replanted it at my house 3 weeks ago.
It looks dead
I have two very large silver maple trees, now all the bark is
falling off and down to bare wood
I live in Laredo, Texas. I have a two-year-old Texas Ash that
had started to bud in late January
I have a Honey Locust tree that I planted last year and was
wondering if I could dig this tree up
We have a tree thats growing crooked in our frontyard, what can
I do to fix it
My neighbor has a very large spruce tree and the roots have come
onto my property
We are interested in purchasing a large shade tree for parents
in Chewelah, WA
My mountain ash tree is about three years old and will not grow
We are trying to find the value of a 300 year old 60-inch
caliper Valley oak
The electric company contracted with a company to trim trees
I'm trying to plan an outdoor spring party after the 15-year-old
Bradford Pear in my yard blooms are gone
I have an apple tree and two cherry trees that are dying
An apple and a pear recently had extensive bark removed by
We have two older cherry trees which have some large knuckles
We want to level off the ground around our pine tree
maple has broken off a huge branch
A tree in front of my house is dropping berries that stain the
finish on my car
I had a teenager mow and trim my yard while I was away and he
whipped the bark on a couple of my young aspen trees
have a beautiful maple tree in front of my yard
planted 3 Pyramidal European Hornbeams
I live in
Ohio and my oak isn’t doing well
I started a
Northern Red Oak from seed
About one year
ago we planted shrubs
I have a what I believe a Mondale pine tree that is three years
parents have a walnut tree in their front yard
Our dwarf fruit trees were doing well until this year, now they
are dead or dying
I developed a severe case of contact dermatitis after purchasing
and spreading dyed red mulch
I just had
two Silver Maple trees removed
I normally buy my mulch in bags from
our local Scout Troop or High School
I was wondering if you could help
with my tree problem
black appeared on my pear tree
We had a Maple tree that died about 5 years ago and had the
stump ground down
I have a cherry tree that has yellow and red cherries
We have a 4 year old Maple Crimson Royal Red and many of the top
branches did not leaf out this year
I have a 2 year old Modesto Ash that seems to be growing on top
faster than its trunk can support it
I have a yellow locust tree and it looked great a few days ago
but now it has turned brown and droopy
I have a Blue Spruce that continues to grow outward and not up
A light sticky substance is coating everything on the ground
from our two ash trees
I have been having water seepage into my basement/foundation
have two large walnut trees in our backyard
I have a
maple that was damaged recently
We purchased our home 17 years ago and a beautiful 30 ft Maple
We have some sort of Maple tree that
we want to trim
What is the proper way and time of year for trimming my newly
I am having my house
Recent snow and ice storms have severely damaged our Flowering
Pine tree that was coming out the top of an Alberta Spruce
A very old oak tree in our back yard
is missing a large hunk of bark
I went to a local nursery to buy a pineapple guava fruit tree
and they told me I need 2 trees in order to get fruit
I have a very large pine tree that has dripped sap all over my
I had a sweet
gum tree cropped way back
About 2 years ago we purchased a tri-color beech
I have a southern magnolia that was planted in Zone 5 about 10
I have several Rose Of Sharons, when should I trim them
We have several apple trees and a couple of cherry trees damaged
I have three very large trees that have sawdust at the base
Silver maple that appears to be bleeding sap and it is
attracting bees and flies
When is the best time to trim the lower branches of an apple
I have a beautiful Tri-color Beech planted 5½ feet off the front
of my home
I have two Bradford pear trees that had blight last year
One of my trees has a branch of leaves that is turning yellow
We have two 10-year-old weeping cherry trees that do not weep
We have a 15 year
old Bradford Pear
have a dogwood planted in front of our house
My husband and I planted two pin oaks in our backyard
Had 2 estimates from reputable tree services. One recommends
The neighbors have a hard white mold growing on a maple stump
I have an aspen tree with a rope cutting into the bark
After a freeze last winter it is not growing or showing any
leaves above the 3-foot mark
20 year old sugar maple that has split-off a quarter of the tree
having a BIG problem with Trees of Heaven
I have a large tree in my backyard that has a split in the
What time of the year is best - for trimming a very old honey
think is an ash tree was mostly dead
I have six 14 ft tall white pines
and use a 10 foot ladder to stand on to trim the tops
The bark at the base of the trunk on our 10-year old Red Oak is
splitting and falling off
lots of inner Pine needles have just recently turned yellow and
I just planted an Austrian pine 10 feet from a buried gas line
I am replacing a Bradford Pear with another tree in front of my
very small townhome
fruit on a weeping cherry tree edible?
are replacing trees in our condominium complex
oak tree is growing right next to my foundation
What zone is okay for planting a Norfolk Pine outside?
I had two very small White oak saplings growing in pots on my
Are the needles on a Washington Hawthorn tree poisonous?
3 of my Japanese Maples had the bark chewed away around the
entire circumference of the tree
We have a large Austrian Pine infected with Diplodia tip blight
I have a mature red oak with three trunks that create a
reservoir in the middle that holds water
Can I top
a Norfolk Pine without killing it?
When a Fraser fir tree is a cut Christmas tree does it have a
chance to be planted back and grow again?
a HUGE black walnut tree in my backyard
My family came across a tree covered
in brilliant red berries
Recent winter storm in Kentucky damaged our river birch
I have to replace a very old Post Oak tree which has died
Should I cut off the water sprouts on my fruitless plum trees?
Would like to know how and when to trim a ChinaBerry tree
in the process of purchasing a small older suburban house on a
I had a question
about cloning trees
Honey locust trees along our driveway are beginning to heave the
I need a tree that will keep a small
mature walnut tree in the garden with bark damage
your website and have a few questions
I have a tree that
I can't identify
How far up should I trim the branches off my two Washington
What is the tree in my back yard that drops large, long, flat,
dark brown pods?
How long does fresh mulch from
ground stumps have to age?
What are these seeds exploding from trees?
What is the proper way to trim my white dogwood tree?
My Bradford Pear trees look like they need to be shaped
have a honey locust tree with problems
how can I
winterize my evergreen trees?
from a sycamore tree
tree damage from
rows of small holes
in the bark
- burning tree roots
bottom branches cut off
bee hive inside a branch
- stubs for climbing
keep a mimosa alive in zone 5
two types of maple trees
We want to put edgers around a very large, very old tree in our
yard but in a couple of places the tree roots are above ground
making it impossible to lay the edgers flat. How can we level off
the roots? Not remove them, just make them ground level in two
places. They are about 2 -3 inches above the grown and we just want
to remove the small section that keeps the edgers from lying flat so
we can have a level circle around the tree.
One of the first things to know about surface-rooted trees is, that
is their nature, and no matter what you do now, the elevated surface
roots grow larger and the problem returns. This tendency would knock
your edgers crooked, even if they were level at first. Also, messing
around with tree roots can be a risky proposition since so many
destructive fungi are naturally occurring in the soil, and just like
having an open wound on your arm, that root opening creates
opportunity for pathogens to enter. Roots also provide support to a
tree in strong windstorms, and as we see in the photo on the right,
trees are not always rooted that deep, with most of their roots
occupying the top 18-inches of the soil profile. In summary, the
best overall bet around a Maple (or other surface rooted tree) is a
layer of mulch. Always hold mulch back an inch or two from direct
contact with the tree trunk.
are the brown bumps on BlackBerry tree branches?
Sure looks like a heavy infestation of scale insects from your
photo! The Mommas are like little turtle shells with eggs that hatch
into ‘crawlers’ underneath them. Control of scale insects, like most
other plant pests, is most effective when the proper timing is used
for spray applications. The least toxic sort of spray
environmentally has always been considered to be a high grade
‘dormant oil’ like Volck Oil Spray (discontinued), but there are
other oil sprays on the market now. You must be SURE to follow all
label instructions and time your application for the dormant season
when leaves have fallen from the tree and weather conditions are
right, or else severe damage and possible tree death can occur,
especially on thin-barked trees like Beech.
(more toxic) pesticide applications are generally timed for the
vulnerable ‘crawler stage’ when the little babies are out crawling
around the branches, generally around mid-summer in the northeastern
US. If you look closely, or use a magnifying glass, you should be
able to see them at the right time of year. Read and follow all
label instructions prior to use, especially around edibles.
Most people discover a scale problem when a tree’s branches turn
black and look burned, plus they may see a lot of bee activity. Bees
like the sweet stuff, and sprays also need to be timed for their
survival, generally early or late in the day. The black stuff is
'sooty mold' which grows on the sweet secretions (called 'honeydew')
from the scale insects feeding on the tree. Plants with scale
infestations are quarantined at commercial nurseries and not
available for sale.
of the most common trees to have serious problems with scale
infestations is one of my favorites: Magnolia. The best defense is
close-up visual inspection of your trees several times a year. For
insect scouting, I generally check younger branches, branch tips and
the undersides of leaves. A 10x hand lens aids in scouting for
smaller insect pests. Most pest problems are easiest to control if
caught early and treated at the proper time of year. It is also
important to identify the type of plant and exact insect when using
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. In some cases, repeat
applications may be necessary to control severe infestations of
scale, since I've seen it kill Magnolias that weren't properly
I have a 15 year old arborvitae that was pushed over a month ago by
a heavy spring snow. (I live in Colorado at 5,000 ft. on the
front range.) The roots are not exposed and the tree shows new
growth. I have had three arborists with different opinions
regarding saving or removing the tree.
1. Cable to the house (not acceptable to the husband).
2. Stake to 3 metal stakes near the house (about 12 ft from the
3. Cable to adjacent aspen tree 6 inches in diameter and russian
olive with similar size trunk.
4. Remove and plant something else.
This is one of 4 along the property line and I'd like to try to save
the tree if there is any hope. What is your opinion?
Upright arborvitaes often become easy victims to heavy snow and ice
storms, partly because they are evergreen and often have multiple
stems that aren’t always that rigid. It is difficult to offer an
opinion on repairs without photos or actually seeing your tree, but
I can offer advice on what we have done in years past to help
prevent this sort of damage:
Shear the tree once a year to help thicken branches, control height,
and remove spindly growth.
> Wrap the tree every fall, in a spiral pattern from bottom to top,
with twine or light rope to help hold the branches together over
winter, reducing the chances of it getting ‘splayed open’ like the
ones in my photo on the right.
> Keep a watchful eye out for destructive pests like bagworms, and
protect the tree from deer browsing (if that is an issue) by
wrapping it with lightweight deer netting every fall.
> In extreme situations we have ‘topped’ arborvitaes to reduce their
height, making a slanted-cut on the main stems to encourage water
P.S. It would be a good idea to ‘right’ the tree soon, before it
roots in a crooked position.
Here are two videos of repairs to arborvitaes from snow damage in
Our neighbour’s mature black walnut hasn't leafed out this spring on
about 33% of the crown (it is probably 100 plus years old, 80
plus ft. tall). A few of the bare branches have a smattering of
leaves starting to push out now (mid-June) while the branches that
have leafed are generally fully leafed out though later than usual
like everything else with late, cool spring. Apart from the usual
twig drop and occasional limb lost, it’s never shown any distress or
dieback before. A very healthy looking specimen. All other walnuts
(this grandmother's offspring, no doubt) in neighbourhood are just
fine. We had an especially long and severe winter in these parts
(Ontario, Canada) with a bad icestorm in early winter though would
think if that was factor we'd see effects on other trees around. I
know and expect this old beauty will eventually go into decline but
this is so dramatic and severe. And that likely not much we can do
other than prune as needed. Any thoughts?
Here in the States, the brutally cold 2013-14 winter weather has
been referred to as the ‘Polar Vortex.’ Seems there was more
than one! The bitter cold severely damaged the marginally hardy
trees homeowners began planting after so many mild winters. Chances
are the extreme cold and ice severely damaged the Black Walnut’s
branches, which may later allow the tree to be infected by fusarium
canker. Beyond that, trees can also be weakened by dry summer and
fall weather leading up to winter, and suffer other fates such as
lightning strikes. You almost have to keep a weather Journal for
complete diagnosis. Our tree pathology professor at Penn State (Les Nichols)
spent as much time showing our class tree problems from natural
causes as he did focusing on insects and disease. Whatever the case
with your neighbor’s tree may be, dieback in the crown of a tree is
always a serious sign, as in Ash trees affected by the widespread
and devastating emerald ash borer. Dr. Nichols old rule of thumb was
that if there is a problem in the crown of a tree, look at the root
system first. But in your case, severe winter cold and ice is
probably the culprit. Late spring frosts don’t help any either!
Q: Saw your
site and just had to ask...I
have an 8 ft sugar maple that grew too close to my garage. I
have cut the trunk diagonally and placed the tree in water while I
ask you this: Is it possible for the tree to redevelop a root
system? I would like to put this tree in my front yard (it was on
the back of the garage facing away from the property) or would you
suggest going with an entirely new tree? Thanks.
A: I'm very
doubtful that this size tree, at this time of year, will ever
develop new roots. Perhaps you can find a small seedling from this
tree or a similar one that would be easier to transplant by moving a
large portion of its root system along with it. The best time to
transplant trees is when they are dormant in the fall or spring.
That being said, seedlings growing in the wild do not receive the
root-pruning they get in nurseries, and often have more far reaching
roots that are hard to get enough of when transplanting.
Please can you help me with my two washington hawthorn trees, I
grew them from twigs and trimmed them to single trunks till they
grew to about 5 ft then long straight branches shot out about 15 ft
and are so thin and spindly they are bending over and nearly
touching the ground. I believe they could be water spouts but if I
cut them off the tree would be back to 5 ft and bald. I would really
appreciate your help please.
like you pruned the trees properly, training them to a single
leader. If the side branches you mention are indeed 'water sprouts'
they would probably tend to grow vertically, straight up, and should
be removed. If they are normal side branches, perhaps
over-fertilization has caused them to put on excessive growth, in
which case you should shorten them by one-third to one-half,
trimming them back to a side branch growing in an outward direction
from the trunk.
Can you tell me what kind of tree this is in our front yard in
have no clue what it is, but thousands of small white
A: In a second close-up
photo of the tree's branches that was sent after this first one, it
was easy to see the "tobies" hanging down like large dried string
beans, hence my answer: It's a "toby tree" or Catalpa.
Should I trim the larger vertical limbs from my weeping cherry
or will they eventually weep again? The verticals flowers are never
the same color as the weeping branches. The mass on the verticals
have always been thick even when the tree was planted. Should I wait
until after the blooms have dropped this spring to prune the vert?
How far down (close to the graft) should I trim if they’ll never
weep? I’m in northern Indiana. Thanks for any help. Sorry for all
the questions but this tree has gotten out of control.
There are several types of weeping cherries but the most common ones
have an ‘umbrella shape’ and are grafted at the top of the trunk,
just below where the desirable branches begin to weep. Any branches
that grow from below the graft will look different, grow straight up
and should be removed. Prune these vertical branches off at whatever
time of year you can (spring is the best), cutting them close to where they originate
from the trunk, trying not to leave a stub. If they have gotten
larger than ordinary pruning loppers can handle, you will probably
have to use a small folding handsaw to remove them. Monitor tree
growth in future years for the formation of more vertical sprouts
needing removed, and try to remove when they are small and easier to
I have a tree that has been diagnosed with girdle root. It is 50
years old. Can it be saved?
If I were to guess I would say it is a Maple tree, since they tend
to form girdling roots. You can think of a girdling root as similar
to a tourniquet on part of your leg or arm, since it constricts the
flow of nutrients, usually along one side of the trunk. This
condition is usually revealed by smaller leaves on that side of the
tree, along with a trunk that goes straight into the ground instead
of having a normal buttress flare around the base of the tree. I
would suggest you hire a certified arborist to consult on the
situation and then follow those firsthand recommendations.
The needles on my evergreen tree are still brown and it is almost
May, do you think winter cold killed it?
A: The length
and depth of cold during winter of 2013-14 whacked some otherwise
healthy plants, but you may want to wait another month to see if any
new growth has begun to sprout along the branches, just to be sure.
The mild winters we had in many places over past decade encouraged
some people to plant trees and shrubs that were only marginally
hardy in their temperate zone. It is always wise to plant according
to your area's hardiness zone.
My maple tree developed red stuff all over the branch tips in early
April, what is that?
it not, your Maple is actually blooming! Sure enough, maples of the
'Red Maple Family Tree' bloom in early spring with what would
be considered by most arborists and horticulturalists as
"insignificant" blossoms since they aren't that noticeable. Later in
the season the samaras (winged helicopter seeds) will wrap up the
maple's reproductive cycle.
Maple Seed Helicopter (Samara)
Is it safe to plant a tree now, in early April, that is already
Unfortunately, some mail order trees arrive on your doorstep with
young, tender foliage, earlier than is advisable for planting them.
They may have shipped from warmer regions or leafed-out during
shipment. Whether it is safe to plant them in early April depends on
your particular climate zone. If you live in the northeastern United
States, where the last annual frost is usually late-May, you should
keep the tree in a protected area until warmer weather arrives.
Placing it under a high deck or even under a limbed-up evergreen
tree can provide protection from frost. However, freezing
temperatures are a different issue, where protecting a plant during
a particularly cold night may require temporarily moving the tree
into your garage, then back outside once temperatures have
Is March a
good time to plant trees in New York? I would like to plant some
shade trees in front of my house but winter weather is persisting.
Nurserymen in the northeastern United States are busy this time of
year digging deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves in fall)
as well as evergreen trees. The period while trees are still dormant
(between the winter melt and trees leafing out) is excellent for
digging field-grown shade trees, so your selection at nurseries in
March and April for B&B (balled and burlapped) trees should be
excellent! Some nurseries will also allow you to 'tag' a tree in the
field for digging in the near future. (Photo: B&B trees at a
also carry a full line of potted trees which are easier to plant all
season long. Be sure to slice the roots on potted trees down one or
two sides of the root ball to break the circling pattern of
pot-restricted root growth which can eventually 'girdle' (choke) a
tree as it matures.
We have a row of eight 6’–7’ tall Emerald Green Arborvitae trees in
our front yard. The trees currently receive full sun, mostly
from an eastern exposure. My husband wants to install a 6’ tall
privacy lattice (lattice with a ¾” opening) directly in front of the
trees (on the east side of the trees). Would the privacy lattice
cause the back of the trees to turn brown, like a solid fence would?
Alternatively, would “regular” wide-spaced lattice (lattice with a
2” opening) cause the back of the trees to turn brown? Also, if the
back of the trees turn brown, would this affect the overall health
of the trees and/or shorten their life?
If they are receiving most of their sun from the eastern side and
you add a fence that blocks any amount of that sunlight from that
direction, chances are there will be some thinning of the foliage,
if not some eventual browning of foliage. Actual results would have
to do with how close the fence is to the trees (the trees will
probably widen and eventually grow into the fence) and how widely
spaced the lattice openings are situated. As far as one side being
brown affecting their health or shortening their lives, I don’t see
that as being much of a factor.
If wet, heavy snow begins to build-up on my Pine tree is it OK to
knock it off?
A: Careful removal of heavy
snow from tree branches can help prevent tree breakage, but it needs
to be done in a gentle fashion since branches are more rigid and
brittle due to cold temperatures. You can use a broom on smaller
trees, and a long pole on taller ones. It helps to begin early
instead of waiting until a heavy snowfall is over.
Our live Christmas tree we planted 12 yrs ago is 18 ft tall now and
has been damaged by sapsucker woodpeckers. There is 2 feet of
vertical damage in the middle of the trunk and needles are beginning
to drop in that area. I now have green at the top and at the bottom
of the tree. Is there any hope for saving this tree? It is a
Frasier fir and is healthy and beautiful. Thanks for your help in
saving a beautiful tree.
create easily distinguishable rows of holes in a tree trunk as
opposed to more randomly spaced holes created by borers. If bark
damage from these woodpeckers is extensive enough it will kill a
tree, so quick action on your valued tree is warranted. Sapsuckers
prefer sap but will also return to the previously made holes to eat
insects. While they feed on over 200 species of plants, their
favorites are Birch, Hemlock, Maple and Scotch Pine in the northern
US. To discourage these woodpeckers, you can wrap something around
the tree trunk to create a physical barrier. A heavy cloth like
burlap, or even heavier-duty (wire) hardware cloth, will work but be
sure to check anything wrapped around a tree trunk periodically to
ensure that it is not girdling (choking) the tree as the trunk
expands. Other control methods include applying sticky bird
tanglefoot to the bark, various noisemakers or visual deterrents
like aluminum pie pans or reflective strips, and fake owls if you
move them often enough. Fake rubber snakes are effective at
repelling other bird activity, not so sure about sapsuckers though.
My husband and I are concerned about our Black Locust tree. It`s
only 4 yrs old, very healthy, pretty in April, but this year we had
plenty of rain in the spring, but no rain in August in Illinois. We
had 1 root last year but this year 3 more large roots are on top
pushed its way thru our black plastic & mulch. I wanted to just cut
some of the roots, but my husband said the tree will fall. So after
reading Sandy`s tips it says not to. It`s so beautiful even now with
its tiny leaves & lots of shade, but will we get more roots crossing
over our whole backyard? If so, then should we cut it down? Thank
you for your time - Barb
If your tree is the common Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
instead of something like a Honey Locust, it is not considered a
great species of tree like an Oak or ornamental tree would be. The
ordinary Black Locust often appears when farm fields are idled,
getting the name ‘pioneer trees’ since they pop up first and can
even become invasive. Interestingly, they are in the legume family
and can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. They often get a
leafminer in late summer that will make the leaves look brown. This
common species only has a 40% species value where something like an
Oak would have a 80% to 100% species value. Long story short, you
may be ahead to remove the tree and plant a more desirable
ornamental tree. Certain species of trees, even more valuable
species, are just naturally prone to surface rooting. Maples are
known for this. In the long run, you usually have to live with the
surface roots to some extent. Also, I do not recommend using plastic
under mulch around a tree, so if you must use something, landscape
fabric would be better.
How can I order one of the metal tree trunk protectors shown here?
A: If you Google the phrase “wrought iron tree
protector” you will locate several websites offering various types
and styles of tree trunk protectors. You might also check with some
local businesses in you area who construct wrought iron railings to
see if they can custom fabricate something to fit your needs.
What kind of stand should I get for a really full 9-foot Christmas
tree? The one I have keeps coming off the ground.
If you Google “Commercial Grade Christmas Tree Stand” you will find
some mail order suppliers who offer heavier duty tree stands that
will easily accommodate your full 9-footer somewhere in the $100
price range. If you buy a new tree stand, it would be a good idea to
cut a fresh sliver off the bottom of the trunk for improved water
uptake and longer freshness, and turn off any heat vents close to
the tree if possible. Photo: A fresh sliver cut off the trunk.
I just had to remove two large branches and now the trunk of the
tree has what looks like two gaping white wounds where the branches
were. I know these areas will darken over time, but that will
probably take a year or two, and in the meantime it’s a real eyesore
and looks very unnatural. I was wondering if you are aware of any
tips, tricks or products that are capable of darkening the wood
naturally, which would allow these areas to blend in with the trunk
of the tree, without hurting the tree, because it is very much alive
and I would like to keep it that way.
A: While it is
not necessary to use tree wound paint on properly trimmed trees, it
is alright to use one of these specially designed tree dressings
(usually black in color) on these types of areas to help
cosmetically. Check your local garden supply dealers or search the
internet with the phrase “tree wound dressing” for mail order
I have a blue spruce I planted about ten years ago, if I top it now
will it fill in better or is it too late?
A: ‘Topping’ any
tree's top 'leader' over 4-inches in diameter carries risks, mostly
by creating a large open wound on the tree which is subject to plant
pathogens and possible decay, since it will take several years for
the tree to compartmentalize that wound. You also run the risk of
causing your Spruce to lose its best, strongest structure with a
single central leader. The Spruce in the photo lost its top at some
point in time and then developed two leaders which is undesirable
since a ‘V-crotch’ is a structural weakness in trees. Therefore, it
is best to 'tip back' growing tips early on, and if you must 'top' a
Spruce at some point, make a slanted cut right above a side branch
(for water runoff) and try not to create a large wound. Also
encourage the regrowth of a single leader by using a dowel rod and
soft ties to point the best side branch skyward, while lightly
trimming back any others that try to be a second or third 'leader.'
Q: I trim my black
walnuts when they are dormant. But
can I tell when my black walnuts are dormant? Does dormancy
happen when the leaves fall off or is there some other
Trees like Black Walnuts go into dormancy in the winter months
following fall leaf drop. Some refer to this as when the ‘sap is
down.’ That dormancy is most pronounced during the coldest winter
months (January-February in the NE United States). Some trees are
called ‘bleeders’ since they drip sap when pruned at certain times
of the year. Maple trees are the most common example of a ‘bleeder’
tree. Even though university research has not shown bleeding (sap
dripping from pruning wounds) to damage a tree (think of the ones
that are tapped for Maple syrup) it is usually desirable to prune
them when they are least likely to bleed. Pruning during deep
dormancy is one of those times, or while they are in full leaf
(during late spring or early summer) is the other time to prune a
Maple without the ‘bleeding’ and dripping sap. Photo: Black walnuts
the city thinned out the mature trees between the sidewalk and
the street in front of our house. They removed quite a few healthy
branches that resulted in a very thinned out
look to the trees. Will the trees produce new growths of branches
and eventually fill in again? From, Where did my beautiful shade go?
A: Trees are often
thinned for several reasons, 1) to direct growth outward in the
proper direction, 2) to reduce the likelihood of wind damage by
letting wind pass through more easily, and 3) to accommodate utility
lines, and 4) to remove deadwood. If they were pruned properly they
should fill back in some within the next several years.
We have a
tree with two different leaves on it and no-one knows what it
is. One heart shaped and the other long and much thinner. The thin
one gets small white flowers in the spring coming from the center of
the vein, then when flowers die about four small hard brownish nuts
appear on separate shorter stems and the leaves and nuts fall
everywhere. The nut is very small and inside a seed about the size
of a BB. Any info will be appreciated.
A: Your photo
answered the question right away! Looks like a tree in the TILIA
genus, with common names like Linden, Lime or Basswood. Over
the years we have planted the Greenspire Linden (Tilia cordata) in
various landscape settings. The small nuts you mentioned are
actually attached to a ribbon-like bract that could easily be
confused with a second type of leaf.
Q: In the UK we are
enjoying a heatwave. Last Monday,
during the night a large branch fell from a mature (probably 150
years old) beech tree. It fell from a height of about 17 ft,
leaving a jagged stump with diameter approx. 18 inches. The stump
attached to the trunk has a dark centre with bright outer
wood. Fortunately no cars or people were affected. The following
week the same thing happened in another area of the garden when a
much larger branch suddenly fell from an old and apparently healthy
copper beech tree. This branch has broken away from the trunk at a
height of 25 feet and covers a far greater area of ground as its
debris awaits clearance. We are saddened and mystified by these
occurrences. Can you suggest why the branches fell on completely
still days? Both trees are in full and vibrant leaf.
Indeed, it is highly unusual for branches to suddenly drop out of
trees without heavy winds, ice or snow. Your one sentence alludes to
what may be the main cause: "The stump attached to the trunk has a
dark centre with bright outer wood." I am guessing that dark
centre is rotten and the outer wood was breached or missing in
some areas, creating weakness in the overall structure? Very
difficult to guess, especially without some photos. Was anyone (or
climbing in the trees? The trees sound like some magnificent
specimens (Beech is probably my favorite) quite worthy of closer
inspection and repair by a local arborist. At a minimum, those
jagged branch stubs should be cut-off to just beyond the branch
collar (swollen area at the base of a branch) so the tree can begin
to close over and compartmentalize the wound with new bark growth.
The trees should also be inspected for safety reasons so a similar
incident does not repeat itself.
Q: During the night,
a square foot section of bark was apparently gnawed from a large
ball gum tree in my yard next to the pond behind my house. My
wife and I suspect a beaver, however only the bark was removed and
we see a good many bark chips all around the base. The bare area
extends about half way around the tree. What steps should I take to
protect the tree from further damage and to prevent losing the
A: Have you ruled out vandalism?
For protection options, visit a local hardware store to see what
kind of chicken wire, hardware cloth or other sorts of fencing they
may have for you to place around the trunk. Periodically check
anything that is wrapped directly around the trunk to ensure that it
is not restricting the trunk's growth. The edge of the damaged bark
should be trimmed around the wound to a smooth edge to promote
regrowth and eventual compartmentalization of the wound.
common for trees not to grow a top section? I have what I
believe is a white spruce. It is about 7 years old. I was curious of
why it not grow a top. I planted another and of course it did.
A: If evergreen
trees like your White Spruce lack a leader, they usually try to grow
a new one, but this often results in multiple leaders instead of a
more desirable single leader, which is a stronger tree structure
over coming years. Since your spruce is slow to do it on its own,
use an old broom stick or dowel rod and some cloth strips cut from
an old bedsheet or dish towel to begin correcting this situation.
Using the soft cloth strips, tie half of the broom stick onto the
top of the main trunk, leaving the other half extending above the
tree. Then gently bend one of the top side branches upward, using a
couple longer cloth strips to tie that side branch to the upper part
of the broom stick. You probably won't be able to bend it all the
way up close to the broom stick without breaking it, so your main
goal is to get it pointing upward. After a couple years in this
position, the side branch should takeover as the new leader and grow
vertically. Check your cloth strips periodically to ensure they are
not too tight around the trunk, loosening those ties as needed.
Shorten any other side branches that start to grow upward to compete
with your new single leader.
A lorry hit a tree I have and tore a large part of the bark, is
there anything I can paint on the wound to help. Kind regards.
Extensive 'chainsaw research' conducted by tree scientist (Dr. Alex
Shigo) a few decades ago revealed that it is best not to paint tree
trunk wounds. Instead, you should trim the bark back to sound,
smooth edges where it is still firmly attached to the tree. Original
recommendations were to shape the freshly trimmed bark to a 'canoe
shape' (with points facing up and down the tree trunk) but later
research has indicated that a rounded shape will work just as well.
Freshly trimmed bark edges can be painted with orange shellac, but
do not paint the entire wound area. Trees 'compartmentalize' their
wounds (wall them off), so your hope is for new bark to grow
inward from all edges and eventually compartmentalize the wound.
Photo: Notice how this oak tree has nearly compartmentalized the
location where a branch was removed a few years ago.
We just had a BBQ fire in the yard and the side of my trees bark
caught fire, any idea what I should do, thank you hope you can
A: First, put out the fire. Then, move your BBQ
pit to an area away from the tree. Finally, if the tree branch dies,
cut it up for cordwood and use it for a future BBQ.
I saw your website and
wanted to see if you knew what was wrong with my maple tree.
It's affected nearly all of the leaves... Is there a treatment
(fungicide) I should be spraying?
A: Could it
possibly be freeze damage? We had a couple recent nights around
Pittsburgh Pa that knocked a lot of trees for a loop, and some of
your leaf symptoms resemble cold damage. Where are you located?
Late spring freezes are harder on some trees than others and most
trees will succeed in pushing out a second set of new leaves. Flower
blossoms are lost of course, with Magnolias typically getting hit
hard. Japanese Maples are very vulnerable to cold damage.
Thanks for getting back with me. I live just north of Dallas, TX.
Unfortunately, I think I figured out the problem that I created. I
didn't know that the October Glory Maple was extremely sensitive to
weed killer. I spread weed and feed about a month ago. It really
hit the tree hard this past week. I've had the tree in the ground
for six years. I have always used weed & feed but I did apply more
this year than previous years. I hope with all of our rain this
past week it'll flush out some of the weed killer.
TREEBOSS: The leaves in your photo looked droopy instead of
twisty, otherwise I would have suspected lawn weed killer, since
some weed killers (like those for dandelions) actually cause weeds
to grow themselves to death, creating weird looking 'twists and
turns' in new growth that would ordinarily be straight. Guess you
could call it the 'twist and out' even though a mild herbicide
exposure does not always kill a hardy landscape plant. In the case
of Maple trees, their roots tend to be very close to the surface of
the ground making them very vulnerable to anything affecting that
surface (like soil overburden, weed killers, rototilling, etc).
Also, some types of weed killers readily leach down through the soil
and are picked up by tree roots (usually in the top 18-inches of the
soil profile), while other herbicides get tied-up by soil and are
less likely to cause damage to plants. An example of one less likely
to leach and be picked up by roots is glyphosate, but of course, it
is a non-selective herbicide and one you would not typically use on
a lawn area unless you were doing a total renovation where you were
killing all the grass. You still have to be very cautious with any
herbicide so that it does not contact exposed roots or bark, even
more so on thin-barked trees. Always completely read and
follow herbicide label instructions. If it isn't already too late,
some intermittent heavy watering of your tree's root zone (from the
trunk to a few feet outside the branch tips) may be your only hope
of flushing the chemical deeper into the soil profile and out of the
tree's root zone. Prior to that, you might try using a leaf blower
to blow any remaining herbicide granules away from the tree if they
have not yet totally dissolved.
LEARNED: The root zones (and trunks) of trees are often best
protected with a layer of mulch extending to the branch tips or
We have a home in Ontario Canada and planted 5 Columnar Hornbeams
along side of our driveway 5 years ago. The following year they
only leafed on the bottom of the plant and then subsequently died.
We replaced them with 3 large mature trees, with the same results.
Frustrated, and unable to get an answer as to why this keeps
happening, we were advised to replace with Columnar Oaks. We
planted 3 mature oaks last year, and now the same thing is happening
with them. I am not sure what to do at this point, but would
appreciate any advice or observation if you have any. Your
assistance would be very much appreciated.
I can only imagine your frustration and heartbreak, working so hard
to get some nice trees growing in that space! Things that pop into
my mind... Is the soil bad, perhaps toxic in some fashion, or
perhaps very heavy clay that does not drain well? Might hold water
like a bath tub?? Roots need to 'breathe' as much as they need
water, so thorough weekly waterings are probably plenty. So the most
likely #1 on my list: Was the subsequent watering of the trees too
much or too little? And did heavy clay soil play a part in killing
the trees, especially if too much water was applied, perhaps growing
worse in an attempt to 'save' the trees? Next, were the trees
transplanted at the proper time of year and handled well? Oaks are
usually considered a tree to be transplanted only in the spring
(..not fall). Finally, I've seen columnar Hornbeams have
difficulties in hot, dry narrow spaces next to sidewalks and
streets, but that would be more of an issue with established trees
during hot, dry summers, when they can get a leaf scorch along the
edges of the leaves.
We had a tree fall on our Fraser fir and snapped it off to the
ground. Will it grow back?
A: Depending on if
there are any side branches left it still could still grow back, but
if you only have a broken trunk left it is very unlikely. In the
event some branches begin to regrow, be sure to train the best one
vertically (with a stake) to take over as the new central 'leader.'
Often times trees broken like this will send up several leaders
which can make a tree more of a bush than a tree, lacking proper
I have a beautiful oak tree and we noticed that it looks like it has
been burnt or caught fire but it has not. I also planted a
cherry tree 2 years ago & have seen a few branches also with this
black stuff. Please help us save our beautiful trees.
A: Chances are you
have an insect infestation in the trees and the sticky honeydew the
insects secrete has dripped onto the tree and has then developed
black sooty mold. Aphids are most commonly the culprits, and in
association with them you will see lots of ants running up and down
the tree trunk, since they 'farm' the aphids to share in the sweet
honeydew the aphids produce. The aphids tend to cluster at the
tender growing tips of branches, so look there first. There are
insecticides available that can be applied to the soil around the
base of the tree that is taken up to the branches systemically
through the roots. Always read and follow label directions on
Q: I have 2 sycamore
trees in my front yard that are at least 40 years old.
We now have lots of
sap on our cars that as soon as you wash it off the next day it
is covered again. It is also dropping branches and finding bark in
the yard. We were told that it could be bugs but we do not see that
many bugs on the leaves to create that much sap. We were also told
that they are pollinating, but I have lived here for almost 10 years
and they have never done this before. We had a little sap last year,
but this year it terrible. I would like to know what is wrong with
them so I can get rid of the sap problem. I don't want to cut them
down because they are great shade, but the sap has already ruined my
custom paint job on my truck that needs washed every day. Please
Sounds like the symptoms typically associated with aphids, which are
also called 'plant lice.' They exude excess honeydew which drips and
attracts ants, who act as farmers and move the aphids around to the
best feeding spots, usually the branch tips. Aphids can be different
colors, but we usually see green ones clustered around the tender
branch tips of plants. After a number of years, an ongoing aphid
infestation will cause the branches of a tree to look black, since
sooty mold grows on the dripped honeydew. Fortunately, aphids are
one of the easier insects to eliminate, so check with your local
garden center to see what products they recommend. Sycamore trees
are known for dropping stuff, so chances are the peeling bark and
broken branches are probably just normal.
I’m wondering if there is a maximum trunk circumference or other
size to determining if tree can still be transplanted here in
Michigan. I have a blue spruce too close to house but beautiful. It
was there before I moved in 10 yrs ago. Hate to cut it down
altogether but it can’t stay where it is. Your thoughts?
A: During my tree
studies I've come across photos of some very large trees that have
been successfully moved. The keys are moving them in the right
season, digging the proper sized rootball and handling their move,
replanting, and subsequent care correctly. In the case of the really
big trees, most moves involve the use of a crane and a large flatbed
truck. Other tree moving systems involve a large set of tree spades
on the back of a large truck. So to answer your question, your tree
can probably be transplanted if you have the right equipment,
technique and timing. I might also add that large trees are much
easier to move if they aren't constricted on any sides, like being
too close to a building or paved area, since you basically need to
dig a wide trench beyond the outside diameter of the rootball, all
the way around the tree.
I have a pine
tree in my yard that has grown bent in the trunk area and appears to
be leaning into the sun. I don't know if the leaning trunk makes it
a risk of falling or breaking off, or what variety of pine it is.
A: Your pine tree
probably is growing in that fashion since it is reaching for the
sunlight, and yes, a tree growing at an angle like that is
definitely more likely to be windthrown, or break-off under the
weight of ice and snow.
Q: I will be moving
my house to another lot this fall or winter and
was wondering if a 15-20-foot maple tree could be moved to my new
lot about 3 miles away...this tree was in a pot on the porch
when I bought the house 5 years ago.
It would take considerable effort, as well as the right equipment
and manpower (or womanpower) to move a tree that large. Generally
speaking, for every inch of tree trunk diameter (measured 6-inches
above the ground) an earthen root ball should be 10 to 12 inches in
diameter. Since average soil weighs about 100 lbs. per cubic foot,
the required soil root ball for your tree would be very heavy,
making it a tough challenge to move successfully.
I received a Norfolk island pine in a planter, some 15 years ago.
It has done wonderfully. So wonderfully that I now need HELP!!!
Other than out growing the pots that I have transferred it to in the
past it is out growing my room that I have it in!!!! I guess some
people wish they could only be this lucky but I feel that I need to
get a hand on it, it’s already over 5 feet tall and it’s at least
that around, if I wanted to move this out of the room it’s in I
would probably damage the limbs unless I bubble wrapped them, lol, I
laugh but it’s the truth, I have a friend that says to get help
about seeing if I can trim the branches or asking what should I do
to control it?
A: If you remove the tree from the
room while it is laying over sideways 'bottom end first' the
branches should be able to bend upwards without breaking. Otherwise,
if you decide to trim the branches back, try to cut just beyond a
side branch without leaving a stub. New growth will be directed to
the side branches below your pruning cut.
I am planting
two Baby Colorado Blue Spruce (very full from top to bottom) in
August in Michigan. I am concerned (due to the lower branches being
so full that they lay on the ground around the spruce) will not get
enough air and may get disease - mold could form, etc...?? I
planted the 2 spruces correctly with 1/4 ball above ground level --
made sure good soil was used and covered all the root systems. As a
result, the bottom full branches lay on the ground -- should I be
concerned? I do not want to lose these trees. Thank you for your
advice in advance! Hannah
The only concern I would have for low-lying branches would be the
potential for damage from a lawnmower, stringline trimmer or
off-target weedkiller application (from spray drift or an errant
application of a granular herbicide with a cyclone spreader).
Ideally you should maintain a mulched area beneath your new trees,
one that extends at least 6-inches beyond the branch tips. The
mulched area will aid water penetration into the soil when you water
and help hold moisture between waterings. Mulch is also preferred
over lawn grass since turfgrass competes with trees, believe it or
not. Don't overdo the watering frequency since most needled
evergreens abhor 'wet feet' and soggy soil.
Photo: Mulch circle around a newly planted evergreen tree.
We planted a bur oak in our front yard about 8 years ago. It has
grown consistently taller over the years but remained tall and
slender and did not branch out much. This year the bottom half of
the tree branched out with many ? suckers, but the top half is not
blooming at all. Do I top the tree?, cut off the suckers? When
should I do this? Thanks, Karen
Usually some light tipping-back (pruning) of the branch tips on a
tree will encourage it to fill-out more and that sort of pruning
should usually be done in spring of the year. Always trim just above
a bud that is facing outward from the center of the tree. When you
say the 'top half is not blooming at all' it sounds like that part
did not develop leaves, and is probably dead. The tree may be
putting out those fast-growing water-sprouts ('suckers' come up from
the roots) in response to the top of the tree being dead. I would
suggest picking the best looking vertical sprout and leaving it,
while removing the rest of the sprouts. It is best to develop one
central-leader on your tree. Fertilize the tree once in the spring
and water it thoroughly and deeply once every week to 10-days during
any droughts, if you have average soil conditions (neither too much
sand or too much clay). Watch for insect pests and eliminate them as
recommended by a local garden center or agricultural extension
through your state's land grant university, since they can weaken
the tree. Develop a mulched area around the base of the tree to
protect it from lawnmowers and stringline trimmer damage.
tree is buckling my driveway REALLY BAD, its getting higher and
higher every year. Luckily, I don’t have to drive over it to park. A
chain-link fence and the buckle (they run parallel to one another)
is the dividing line between the front and rear portions of my
driveway. The fence’s alignment is off too because of the buckle –
one side taller than the other where I lock it in place. Not sure
what kind of tree it is, but its very tall. I’m fed up with this
buckle. I would like to repave my entire driveway in 2013 (can park
at least 3 cars). I would like to know who do I contact first – a
tree removal company or a paving company? In order to get to the
roots, you have to break up the asphalt. I don’t know what to do.
A: This may be as
much a legal question as a paving question, especially since
property line issues can enflame quickly between neighbors. My
standard advice is to talk with your neighbor first in a calm
fashion, explaining what you wish to do and the problems you want to
correct. 20 minutes of pleasant conversation might save a lifetime
of hostile 'border war.' Cutting major roots can destabilize a tree,
some more than others, so it may require a legal opinion to
accurately establish your rights, since I am not a lawyer. It seems
in many instances that branches and roots that crossover a property
line are fair game for removal. Regarding the health and subsequent
vigor of the tree, make 'clean cuts' on the roots and seal them with
tree paint, as these wounds provide entry paths for destructive soil
fungi. Before backfilling where the roots have been removed,
consider installing a root barrier to help prevent a repeat of this
Can I screw in my flag pole holder without killing my tree?
A: Even though any
damage or opening in tree bark can present a risk, it is often
better to put screws into a tree as opposed to wrapping wire or rope
around a tree trunk, since these sorts of bindings are often
neglected and can later girdle (choke) the tree as the trunk
diameter increases. When putting screws into a tree it is best to
drill a pilot hole first (slightly smaller than the screw) to help
prevent splitting. Screws pose a later risk to anyone removing the
tree since metal fasteners can ruin the chain on a chain saw.
a question about landscaping around my trees. The gentleman who
mows my lawn convinced me to let him build a stone wall around my
trees. I asked if the walls would kill the trees and he said no, now
I want to strangle him. The stone walls are 2-3 feet tall and 4 foot
circumference filled with soil and top layer rock. The two trees are
one oak and maple. Did I just throw money away, and how can I
salvage my trees and the work done?
A: I had a
similar question from Colorado but the answers are both the same,
you should attempt to undo as much of the work as possible and hope
for the best with your trees. Soil should never be piled high
against tree trunks, and some trees are even sensitive to a few
inches of soil over their root zones, since finer roots need to
breathe. Installing a wall around an established tree could destroy
valuable roots during the wall installation, since most walls need a
solid base established below grade and that would require cutting
major roots to accomplish. Most tree roots are in the top 18-inches
of the soil. Over the years, walls around trees are often disrupted
by maturing tree roots, especially those set on top of the ground
around 'surface rooted' trees like Maples. A mulch circle around the
base of trees is usually the simplest and best solution, but don't
bury the tree trunks with mulch either, hold it back an inch or two.
I have a much loved Locust tree at my home in Massachusetts.
While doing some pruning work I discovered a fairly deep cavity in a
'V-shaped' crook. I have cleaned and dried out the cavity and
wondered if I should fill the cavity with an appropriate material to
keep moisture out of the cavity? I am surprised that there does not
seem to be much rot nor any sign of splitting or other structural
failure. The cavity does hold water after every rain.
A: A friend in the
tree business swears by that aerosol spray-in foam you use to
insulate gaps in your home, but I have never tried that method and
cannot attest to its desirability or long term value. The more important thing
to remember about 'V-shaped' crotches in trees is they are
structural weak points where splitting often occurs during periods
of high wind, ice storms or heavy snows. Therefore, when trees are
young, prune a tree to prevent double-leaders and these shorts of
'V-shapes' in the major branching structure if possible. Small cuts
in young trees are much easier than big cuts in older trees. In
existing larger trees where these crotches have already formed,
thin-out side branches so it easier for wind to pass through the
tree, and consider adding a cable two-thirds of the way up from the
beginning of the V-crotch to provide support. Cabling work should be
done by a professional arborist.
45 days ago, we excavated and installed a patio next to what I
believe is a Silver Maple. Looking at the tree from above, it
appears we removed a 25% pie shape of the root structure to a depth
of 12 inches. I vividly remember the tractor snapping a couple of
good size roots. As of this message, 30% of the leaves on the tree
are browning and falling. Is this tree doomed or is there anything I
can do to help it? I have not fertilized at all since the
construction. I have only watered it deeply over night with the
garden hose. Richard
It does look like a Silver Maple and being that kind of tree, they
are very tenacious trees that are difficult to kill, so chances are
it will survive your patio project. But you may want to trench along
your patio, about 24-inches deep, and install an impervious root
barrier that won't decay, plastic barriers work the best. That will
help keep those surface roots from getting under your patio in a few
years and cracking it. In the meantime, be sure to water the tree
thoroughly and deeply, but space those waterings out so you don't
drown the tree, even though it would probably tolerate it. Don’t
fertilize it. I would also begin doing some trimming of the height
every few years so that you don't get into a drastic "topping"
situation 10 or 20 years down the road.
We have a clump River Birch, can we tie the trunks together so the
tree grows more upright?
A: You may be able
to do that if it is done properly with lag bolts and cabling, but
keep in mind those trees want to become very large and spreading, so
if that birch is currently too close to your house, it is probably
planted in the wrong place. They should be planted in the same sort
of lawn spot where you would plant a large shade tree, so they have
room to grow.
My driveway has been damaged by the roots of my oak tree. Some
of the roots will have to be removed for the new driveway (it is
beyond repair). Judging from the buckle in the driveway I’d say the
roots can be over 5 inches wide. The tree is about 24 inches wide
and 40 feet + high. The driveway is about 3 feet from the tree.
They’ll need to put a new bed of gravel then black top. The tree is
in good health. We are in northern New Jersey. Any advice? The
contractor says not to worry about the tree. Is he correct?
(Photo: Tree roots heaving a concrete sidewalk)
A: While excavating
for the new driveway installation, try to make clean cuts (not ragged) on all the severed
roots and paint the cut ends with a good quality tree paint to help
protect these open wounds from disease pathogens in the soil. I
would also suggest paying the contractor extra to install a rigid plastic root
barrier next to the new driveway (extending down about 18 to 24
inches) to help prevent a repeat of your problem,
by preventing root growth under the new driveway. You should know
within 5 years if this construction work damaged your tree, often
revealing itself in the crown of the tree with branch dieback and
We have a Granny Smith which is in its fourth year of production.
The tree is starting to bud out but the bark is pink. The trunk of
the tree is pretty much black. The tree looks like it is in some
sort of stress condition. Limbs, branches look good but the tree has
a distinctive pink look. I’m afraid there must be something
critically wrong with it. Would appreciate any help with what we are
seeing and what to do. Thanks
Any sort of uncommon "black coloration" on a tree trunk and branches
usually indicates an insect problem that goes like this:
1) Insect sucks honeydew out of the tree
2) Excess honeydew drips onto tree branches and trunk
3) Honeydew grow black sooty mold
Note: Ants are often seen running up and down the tree trunk in this
sort of 'partnership' scenario.
I would suggest closely examining your tree leaves (mainly the
undersides of leaves for most insects) as well as the growing tips and newer branches for any
sort of insect activity, and then pursue the proper remedy. Aphids
love to congregate around tender juicy growing tips!
(Photo: Green aphids clustered around the growing tips of Spirea
I planted a pear tree 2 years ago, it is just growing taller and
taller, but the diameter of trunk is almost the same as the time
I planted it, what could I do to make it thicker but taller.
A: The old advice
for tree growers goes like this:
1) To make a tree grow taller at the expense of larger tree girth
(caliper or trunk diameter) trim-off the lower branches.
2) To increase the girth (trunk diameter) of a tree's trunk, leave
the lower branches in place, if at all practical.
Adding further to #2: It will also help thicken the trunk if you
trim back (or "tip") the growing tips at the top of the tree,
shortening them to side branches that are growing in an outward
direction from the center of the tree. Also shortening the side
branches, while shaping the tree, will also help thicken the trunk.
tree once this spring with some fertilizer spikes or a similar
technique. Use a balanced fertilizer if possible, with a ratio of
2-1-1. Water the tree thoroughly once a week during dry weather in
the active growing season (more often if you have fast draining
soil). Remove grass sod from around the base of the tree, creating a
2 to 3 foot diameter circle without any turf. Turfgrass competes
with young trees more than you probably think (allelopathy).
I have a white pine that’s about 20 years old that is leaning quite
severely to one side. A few years ago it was topped off during a
storm and the predominant branch that took over grew to the one side
where the tree is leaning making it heavy on that side. I’d like to
top off that branch which will make the weight distribution more
equitable. The branches are growing in two directions about halfway
up the tree, so the cut would be halfway up the tree. The remaining
branches would be straighter. Will this kill the tree?
(Photo: Leaning trees can be interesting, but also very dangerous
A: If the
cuts are made properly and you don't remove too large a percentage
of foliage the tree should survive, however, all major cuts (over
4-inch diameter) "open a tree up" to potential problems, kind of
like a person having a large open flesh wound. Also, the slanted
position may indicate instability in the root system. Consult (and
contract) a professional, especially if the tree is near a house.
I can't find the
name of this pine tree and its bothering me. It's red on one
side and looks burnt on the other...please help! Thank you.
A: That black
coloration on the branches may be due to black sooty mold, which
grows on honeydew excreted by insect pests. Study the tree's needles
and branches for the presence of insects, pines often get a 'needle
scale' insect that looks like snowflakes lined-up along the needles.
years ago my tree had a swarm of honey bees on it and before I
could find out what to do, my husband doused the tree with bee
killer. Now my tree seems to be slowly dying. It has grey spots over
most of the trunk and top, some on the branches and today I noticed
some yellow/orange and green spots. Is there anything I can do to
help it get healthy again? I pruned the top because the branches
A: Other than pruning out the dead branches
like you already have, efforts should be directed at improving the
tree's vigor without 'killing it with kindness.' That would include
one fertilization this spring and watering the tree thoroughly once
a week during any dry spells. Ornamental cherry trees seem to be
super-thirsty when they are first planted. Continue to prune-out
dead branches. If the tree hasn't started to come back around by
early summer, you may want to replace it with a new one. Most bee
and wasp sprays on the market warn about probable damage to plant
foliage, so always read the label of any product you use.
a young pine tree that has a V-shaped trunk about 3 feet off the
ground, creating a double leader. I am concerned about one side or
the other becoming too heavy and eventually breaking. At this point
in time, is there anything I can do to prevent a break from
happening in the future? I live in Mississippi not far from Memphis
and we often have high winds and tornadoes. I'm attaching a
photo. Thank you.
A: That trunk structure on your pine tree is
what is commonly known as a "V-crotch." Ideally the smaller side of the "V" would have been removed
years ago, but at this point removing that part of your tree would
be much more drastic and leave a much larger, slower healing wound
for the tree to compartmentalize along the main trunk. When
V-crotches are left in place, the traditional method of
strengthening them, at least in larger hardwood trees, is installing
a guy wire approximately two-thirds of the way up from the crotch to
the top of the tree, a job best left for a professional tree
surgeon. These guy wires are adjusted so that they are loose enough
to allow some branch movement, but will tighten if the crotch
becomes stretched enough to threaten splitting. Finally, one of the
best defenses a tree has against wind storms is pruning that "thins
out" the tree, effectively allowing wind to pass through the tree
more easily instead of the tree acting like a sail in the wind. To
thin a tree begin by removing branches growing inward toward the
trunk, then removing any "crossing" branches that are rubbing
against one another. At that point, stand back and take a look at
the tree to see if you can thin-out any other branches that are
crowding other branches (duplications) leaving the best ones.
I was wondering the distance between each tree I need to leave.
I am wanting to plant red oaks, black walnuts, and shellbark hickory
trees in my field this spring. I am planning on buying them from the
Arbor Day Society which I believe the trees will be 1-2 feet when
planted. Thank you for all your advice!!! I live in Ohio.
If you are planning to plant these large-growing trees for a
lifetime, they should probably be planted at least 30 to 50 feet
apart. Small trees need extra protection from rodents and deer, so
be sure to install whatever is needed to prevent gnawing, deer
rutting (fall) and browsing. Smaller trees can also be "lost" in
tall vegetation around them, so a 4-foot bright-colored stake helps
keep them located when mowing. It also helps young trees to have an
area beneath them free of grass and weeds, since grass and weeds do
compete for moisture and nutrients, and also increase the likelihood
of bark damage from weedwhackers. It's often best to wait until year
2 to begin fertilizing young trees, since most fertilizers placed in
the hole at planting time will burn young roots, and some organic
fertilizers can bring disruptive digging by animals. Begin
corrective pruning when trees are young, encouraging a strong
central leader system and an evenly spaced, strong branching
structure, eliminating inward growing and crossing branches, and
"V-crotches" if possible. Photo: 35 to 40 year old Red Oak in
front of a house.
I transplanted a dwarf blood orange from a pot to the ground 5 days
ago and now it is wilting, why? This is the second year it has
produced fruit and was doing well.
A: Is it in a
sunnier, more exposed spot than it grew before, and getting
"sunburned" or "windburned?" Did you happen to disrupt the root
system while you were transplanting it, or allow the root system to
dry out in the sun? Did the tree have tender new growth when
transplanted? The main thing now is not "killing it with kindness"
by overwatering it and suffocating the roots. Roots need to exchange
gases, and a constant water-saturated soil will kill most trees
unless they are known to like "wet feet." Willow trees would be an
example of trees that will grow in soggy soil.
You might also try removing one-third of the least important
branches to reduce the "load" on the roots, and erect some screening
to keep the tree out of direct sunlight (and wind) for a week or two
until it stabilizes. Even a lightweight fabric that allows some
light to pass through will reduce the transpiration rate and help
the tree stabilize itself. If it was at a “tender point” with
fragile new growth, this may have also contributed to the wilting,
which is why nurserymen do most major transplanting when trees are
not actively growing.
The mulch that the previous owner had around the trees is quite high.
I was looking for a more flat look. I'm sure some root growth has
started under these mounds. Is it possible to remove these mounds to
grade level, prune back any above ground growth, and mulch to a
layer more even with grade without harming the trees? The trees are
probably 8-10 years old, some evergreens, some broadleaf.
You will have to play this one by ear, but it sounds like you may be
stuck with the mounds you currently have around the trees. There is
the possibility that someone planted your trees halfway out of the
ground, and the mounds you are seeing are actually the top parts of
the root ball. In any case, it is best to keep bark mulch back from
a tree trunk an inch or two in any situation.
Photo: Mulch "volcanoes" around two Oak trees from repeated heavy
My Black Walnut caught fire last week when my neighbor’s garage
burned. It was a very hot intense fire and it damaged my large
black walnut tree that was located just feet from the building. The
tree is old, very tall and sturdy. The trunk of the tree next to
the garage did catch on fire and some smaller branches high burned.
The fire department was able to put out the fire on the
tree..... that night it rained and over the next two days, we
received 4-inches of rain. I am hoping that I will not loose this
tree. Can you advise me about saving this tree. This tree is
located in north central Arkansas.
A: At this
point, I don't have any great suggestions for you other than 'wait
and see' and maintain the tree's health and vigor. Try to prevent
any further abuse to the tree (such as digging in the root zone
area, or compacting the root zone with heavy equipment). Consider
using some tree spikes or other method to
the tree one time this spring (March - May).
dead branches. Thoroughly soak the root zone with water once
every two weeks during any prolonged droughts.
How often do you recommend having the following trees professionally
sprayed? Maple, birch, plum, and locust. Thank you, R.
That's kind of like asking how often someone's family should see a
medical doctor, but I will try to answer anyway. Tree spraying is
best kept to a minimum; done only when needed using the least toxic
product available, and using the most opportune timing to exploit an
insect's greatest vulnerability. In general, I am going to say the
Birch would be most likely to need the most spraying... of course
that is assuming it is a European White Birch and not a River Birch.
I’m also assuming you meant Honey Locust and not Black Locust... so
here you see the 'twist' in using common names for trees, as opposed
to a precise genus and species. It usually leads to confusion and
makes it impossible to clearly identify a specific tree's
Here's a good article on:
integrated pest management
(I.P.M.) For any further information on actual spray
schedules, I would suggest fully identifying your trees (Genus &
species) and checking with the land grant university in your state.
Many have agricultural extensions in counties across the state, if
the budget cuts haven't gotten to them yet.
My neighbor has a magnolia
tree and when we trimmed a few of the branches, the middle is
black. Does this mean it is deceased? Thank you for any info you can
A: While black heartwood in a branch may or may not
indicate decay or some other problem, we generally judge "living or
dead" branches by using a fingernail to scrape off a small area of
the bark. If the tissue directly below the bark is green, the branch
is still alive, if it is brown or dried-out, that part of the branch
is usually dead. You will know for sure after the tree has fully
leafed out in the spring, and at that point, trim off any branch
tips that haven't sprouted leaves, pruning right above a leaf that
is growing toward the outside of the tree.
I have about 30 oaks, they are very close together and I'd like to
transplant them. I live in Western New York, we are having a
very mild winter, right now we don't even have snow on the
ground. Should I wait for spring or is now OK because we don't have
snow? I didn't do anything to the roots, I'm afraid they won't make
it any time of year because they are getting large, some are 4-5
inches in diameter and the trees are only a foot and a half apart.
Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, Bill
like an extremely difficult undertaking, but early spring would be
the preferred time for you to attempt to move your oak trees. Since
they are so close together, and have significant caliper (trunk
diameter) it would be best to go for roots instead of root ball.
That means try to get as many roots as possible without worrying
about the accompanying soil. That being said, digging trees "bare
root" has certain rules, the most important one being keep the roots
moist after they are exposed and keep them out of sunlight to
prevent drying. After they are popped-out of the ground, prune away
any damaged roots. After replanting, you will need to stake the
trees (ideally in 3 directions) to prevent them from getting blown
Water them in
right after planting to remove air pockets and settle the soil
around the roots. Repeat the watering about once a week depending on
how well your soil retains moisture. Hold off fertilizing them until
next year. Older nurserymen, and some younger ones too, still
recommend balancing the "root to shoot" ratio, by thinning-out about
one-third of the tree's branches to make up for the root loss. Use
clean pruning tools when trimming trees, tools can be easily
"disinfested" by using ordinary rubbing alcohol to wipe them off.
This is especially important for tools that have had recent contact
with the soil, or other trees that may be diseased.
Note: Since this
may be a nearly impossible undertaking (due to the size and
closeness of the trees) you may want to consider an alternative,
like removing all but the two or three best ones (that will then
have some room to grow) and just leave them in place. You could
always leave the two end ones and try to dig some of the middle
Could you tell me the value of a 40-year-old evergreen tree?
That is sort of like asking the value of a 40-year-old house, since
everything depends on location, condition and type of construction.
With trees, those 3 values become location, condition and species
value. We hear in real estate that the 3 main things for a house's
value are location, location, and location. That is partly true with
trees too, since a tree nicely positioned on a front lawn has higher
location value than one growing in the woods off to the side of a
house. Condition relates to the health, vigor and physical
condition; things like soundness of the trunk, good branching
structure, absence of diseases, etc. Finally, species value relates
to the type of tree, in other words, an oak has higher species value
than a poplar. Summary: Tree value is determined by multiplying
these three values (as percentages) times the cross-sectional square
inches in a tree trunk at a set height, times the set value of one
square inch. Professional arborists can provide this appraisal
service for you.
I have a cherry tree that took a very hard hit in the recent snow,
here in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. Two of the main,
center branches have broken/split and will have to be cut. This will
essentially 'top" the tree at about 8 feet. Before the breaks, the
tree was about 18 feet tall, so the topping is pretty extreme. The
side branches are all still good and there is still a branch or two
that mostly go up and might be trainable. Should I just remove the
tree or top and heavily prune it then wait to see how it responds?
If pictures will help, I can send some.
cherry trees seem to be pretty resilient, at least in their younger
years. Therefore, I would try to affect a remedy, as opposed to
removing the tree, since you can always take it out at a later date.
(Pictures always help me with these sorts of questions).
The process of pruning should be done in the following stages:
1) Remove any dead, crossing (rubbing) or splintered branches,
always cutting back to right above a side branch or bud (that is
pointed outward from the center of the tree). Slightly slant any
larger horizontal cuts to discourage water from sitting on them.
2) Even up the remaining branches to shape the tree the best you
can, again removing crossing branches and inward-growing branches
first. (In extreme cases, you might try to 'lollipop' the tree into
a drastically new and reduced size, resembling a ball on a stick, or
3) Try to find an old broom stick that you can use as a makeshift
"splint" in order to direct one of the more pliable side branches in
a vertical direction. Younger branches are more flexible than older,
woodier branches. Don't expect to get a branch completely vertical
this first year, just get one headed in the right direction so it
can eventually takeover as the new "leader."
4) Apply tree fertilizer in the spring just as new growth is about
to pop. Be sure to water the tree periodically through any drought
periods to encourage its vigor. Younger cherry trees in particular
can be very thirsty, especially the first year they are planted.
We have an Oak tree, probably at least 100 years old, that has
broken off a huge branch. Our concern is that bugs or rain will
enter the area where it broke and kill or rot the tree. Is that
possible? Should we be sealing it with something? Treating it with
pesticide? We don’t know how long it has been like this because it
was there when we moved into the house two years ago. We would be
heartbroken to lose this tree. Thanks in advance for your advice!
It appears by the callusing activity around that wound that the
branch came off at least 5 or 10 years ago. That new growth around
the wound is the tree's effort to close-over, or in tree lingo,
'compartmentalize' the wound. To help that effort along it would be
a good idea to remove the taller splintered portions that stick-up
beyond the callusing on all sides, be very careful not to wound that
new growth with errant cuts. This will allow the new bark to grow
over the wound instead of obstructing its progress. Painting large
wounds like that is not recommended. Back in the old days cement was
used to fill cavities in trees, and there again, it was kept just
inside the level where that (bark) callus tissue wants to grow. A
local tree surgeon uses spray foam insulation in a can to fill deep
cavities, and I see no reason why that would cause any harm if you
have cavities that remain after removing the splintered areas. It is
dangerous working from ladders without safety lines, so consider
hiring a professional arborist for the job.
possible to transplant a 30-40 foot tree and how big might the
roots be? My husband and I are purchasing a house in IL and there
are three mature trees on the property that were planted very close
to the house. We would love to move them to the backyard, but they
are quite large. Thanks!
A: Even very
large trees can be moved successfully by companies with the right
equipment and experience. The two major issues are #1 cost, and #2
access. Even assuming you have the budget and find the right
company, by your description, item #2 access, is going to be the
problem. Ideally, a root ball is dug in a circular fashion around a
tree, requiring some space beyond that earth ball, on all sides, to
excavate the ball. Trees that are close to buildings create real
problems in that regard.
From my written description that follows,
what kind of tree is this?
The tree get very little brown jagged balls on it and they fall off
in the fall. They get stuck in the grass and are very hard to clean
A: If I were to make a wild guess, it would be a Sweet Gum
(LIQUIDAMBER styraciflua) and those are 'gumballs.' The spiney balls
are about two-inches in diameter and have spikes emanating from all
sides. If my guess is correct, the tree also has protruding surface
roots and star-shaped leaves that turn multi-colored (red, purple,
and yellow) in the fall, as you see in the photo.
I have 4 large pin oak trees in my front yard and have a difficult
time keeping grass in this area. I want to rip the whole area
and put new top soil in. I did put lye down two years ago to try
and get rid of some of the acid I believe to be in the ground due to
the leaves. I bag my yard every time I mow to keep them, the leaves,
picked up. What should I do?
Having that many large Pin Oaks in your front yard has created a
hostile environment for a lawn, due to root competition and heavy
shade. Oaks aren't as "surface rooted" as Maples, but they still
compete for moisture. Leaving leaves on the lawn for any period of
time will also limit success in growing a lawn since grass can be
suffocated, so it is good you are keeping them picked-up.
(Photo: Young pin oak tree)
If you are set on having a lawn, there are several things you can
1) Trimming: Raising-up and thinning-out the branches on your trees.
Raising-up because a Pin Oak's lower branches tend to droop over
time. Thinning-out will help let sunlight down through the trees.
2) Removal: Eliminating some of the trees to allow more sunlight to
reach the lawn. If you do remove trees, be sure to grind the stumps
out and remove all major roots as well.
3) Watering: Be sure to water your front lawn thoroughly at least
once a week during dry weather in the growing season.
4) Grass: Only plant shade tolerant varieties. Mow the grass at the
highest lawnmower setting possible without allowing the grass to
flop over, since longer grass blades intercept more sunlight. Longer
grass also has deeper roots.
5) Soil Test: You mentioned you used "lye" but did you mean lime? It
is best to take soil samples from various spots in the front yard,
mix them together, and send them to a soil lab for a report on what
your soil may need.
In the snowstorm to the northeast US last week (right
before Halloween) my big leaf-filled dogwood took a
major hit. The snow is all melted now, but is there
any saving this tree (planted 20 years ago by me) or do
I just give up? (photo attached) I'm heartsick over it.
OUCH... some Trick or Treat! Heavy, wet snow,
especially when trees still have leaves on them, can
cause this sort of devastating destruction. The best you
can do now is to begin by removing the branches that are
severely splintered, cutting back to sound wood, and
trying not to leave branch stubs (by cutting to side
branches or close to the trunk). Once you have done
that, you may have a 'Charlie Brown' tree, but it's hard
to know until you try. You might also check your
homeowners insurance for any possible coverage.
might add that I have been encouraged by some Dogwoods
that we have cutback severely over the years. There have
been a few cases where Dogwoods were severely damaged by
borers. We cut them all the way back (in some cases
leaving only a 12-inch tall stump) and they re-grew into
trees more lovely than the originals. It will help to
provide this tree with some encouragement next year,
with early fertilization followed by weekly waterings
through any dry spells during the growing season. Trees
and woody ornamentals should not be fertilized in the
northeast US after July 4th.
The tree in our deck has grown 'too big for its britches' so what
can we do?
It appears the tree has already lifted the floor boards surrounding
the trunk, damaging the deck's floor and making it somewhat
dangerous to traverse. The
tree is a Silver Maple that really has grown 'too big for its britches' so
there is also an extensive surface root system radiating out from
the trunk, in the areas you cannot see just beneath the floor boards.
Therefore, the only solution (besides removing the tree or the deck) would be a
total rebuild of the deck, with a larger tree hole and a higher
floor elevation, to allow for future root and trunk growth.
Our Modesto ash tree was planted about five feet from our concrete
perimeter foundation. I estimate it to be about 45 feet in
height. We see the roots growing on the surface and even coming up
from under the foundation. It is in our small back yard. We have
owned this home for about seven years and it had grown tremendously
in these years. I think the root system is causing our house to
shift and crack, not by cracking the foundation but from roots
growing around and under the house and sucking up all the water. It
seems to to have been a poor choice for our property and I am
thinking about removing it (but will need to get a permit from the
city). I am afraid it will cause more damage to our home. What is
your thought? Meg
If it was my tree it would already be gone! Plantings close to a
house can have limited lifespans, especially the larger growing
varieties. Foundation plantings often need renovated every 15 to 20
years. And yes, changes in moisture levels from tree roots close to
a foundation can cause wet-dry (swell-shrink) hydraulics to occur in
soils. Large shade trees should be planted a minimum of 15 feet from
a house, and on small properties it is best to plant only compact
trees and dwarf varieties. People often plant the wrong tree since
they desire rapid growth and quick shade. This results in the sort
of problem you are now experiencing with your Modesto Ash. In the
northeastern US, the Silver Maple has commonly been "that tree" --
very fast growth -- quickly resulting in huge problems. Often times
these Maples are "topped" (like the one in the photo was several
years prior to the photo being taken) instead of the better choice
-- removal. Then these monsters can be replaced with the right tree
for the location.
had a rather large storm hit our area. My neighbor's tree was
hit by a bolt of lightning. Afterward, there was a foamy looking
substance accumulating at the bottom of the tree. What is this? It
was a 4-story tree and the lightning damage was only visible the top
5-6 branches. Not sure if this is relevant, but it was still raining
at the time. Thanks - Elizabeth
A: When trees are struck by
lightning, the powerful electric charge causes a super-heating of
the tree's sap, often causing the tree to split and/or have some
bark 'blown off.' Plants and lawn around the base of the
tree are sometimes killed. The tree may now be a hazard. Foam at the base does
not sound good! I would recommend having a reputable local arborist
provide you with a firsthand assessment. Photo: This Norway
Spruce was struck by lightning, causing bark to be blown off the
trunk while creating a major split down the middle of the trunk. The
tree was removed as soon as possible. Trees in this condition are
called 'widow makers.'
Footnote: While homeowner's insurance paid several hundred
dollars toward the removal of this lightning-struck Spruce, the same
company denied insurance coverage for a similar Spruce blown over by
high winds. Check your homeowner's insurance for specific coverages.
I just noticed this dark brown blackish growth on some of the limbs
of my tree here in Michigan. There are probably about 6 of these
growths on various limbs. Could you please help me figure out what
this is and how to get rid of it. I have attached some pictures for
you to view. Thank you for any help you may have.
The photos really helped! Your tree is infested with Black Knot, a
destructive (..and weird looking) fungal disease that most commonly
affects cherry, plum, peach and apricot trees. Judging by the tree
bark and twigs in your photos, your tree is a Cherry. In order to
best answer your question, I am going to provide links to two fact
sheets with complete details on dealing with this disease:
WVU fact sheet
Cornell fact sheet
What do I need to keep in mind or add to soil when planting an
evergreen in October in Middle Tennessee? Betsy
First and foremost is not planting your evergreen too deep, since
most evergreens are very sensitive to being planted too deeply. Most
of them also hate having 'wet feet' so if the planting hole tends to
hold water (heavy clay) see if there is a way to trench out of the
lower side of the hole to drain excess standing water. You can
backfill the trench with some stone to allow for easy drainage.
Evergreens need to go into winter with adequate moisture at their
roots, since they continue to transpire moisture throughout the
winter months. So if you have a dry fall, give evergreens a thorough
watering before the ground freezes.
The rule of thumb used to be to amend soil backfill around a new
evergreen with something like peat moss, but university research has
indicated it is best to backfill with the native soil, unless it is
really nasty clay or rock. It is usually best not to add fertilizer
when planting, unless the fertilizer is nonburning, like an organic
fertilizer. Spring would be a better time to fertilize your new
If you want to go the extra mile, newly planted evergreen foliage
can be sprayed with an "anti-dessicant" to help prevent winter
dessication and windburn. The old standby has always been Wilt-Pruf.
I noticed that something is chewing the ends of the branches of my
very old Oak tree. They are coming down in small bunches. It is
a clear cut, meaning that it is not jagged and they inside of the
branch is healthy. Could it be the squirrels or some type of bug or
insect? Thanks, Caryn
A: I think you nailed it,
Will damage of these old trees/roots kill the trees and have
potential to die and fall on my house? (photo attached)
You sure packed a bunch of questions into one sentence! Thanks for
the photo, it really does help. Looks like one of your pine trees is
already leaning, but it appears to be the pipeline work beyond the
trees that concerns you. Any trenching done next to a tree will
remove lateral roots. You should be able to take a look at the open
trench and determine the size and quantity of tree roots that have
been cut. The closer trenching is done to a tree, the more
destruction of important roots this causes. As a general rule, most
tree roots are inside the branch tips, with some extending slightly
beyond the branch tips. Also, most tree roots are in the top 12 to
18 inches of the soil. The area directly below the branch tips is
called the "drip zone" and is where most smaller "feeder roots" are
located. Trenching inside the drip zone is especially destructive
since it damages the larger, major roots and will reduce a tree's
stability. Heavy equipment should also be kept out of a tree's root
zone, since this sort of traffic can be very detrimental to trees.
We just purchased a oak tree which is about 15 feet tall.
The nursery people planted this tree. About one week after it
was planted we noticed a baler twine type of rope encircles the
tree and has grown into the trunk and we cannot remove this
rope. Will this kill the tree? Thank you - Connie
These types of "girdling" ropes can be very troubling, and
present tough choices after things have reached this point. Plastic or synthetic rope is much worse
than regular brown farm bailing twine (the 'dyed green'
bailing twine has been treated to slow its decay). If the tree
bark has partially enclosed this rope, and removal would
cause excessive damage, I would suggest trying to cut the
binding rope in just one spot, to help relieve any ongoing
constriction. Prior to doing anything, I would contact to the
nursery to make them aware of this situation. Equally
troublesome can be synthetic burlap that is used around
root balls (..and wrapped tightly around tree trunks) since it
can last many years while constricting root and/or trunk growth.
Follow-up: After voicing her concerns, the nursery
planted a new replacement tree for Connie. Photo: Rope
bindings around a tree trunk at a nursery.
our trees are dropping black things on our driveway and leaving
black specks on our vinyl railings around our porch. We live
in Durham, NC and have many trees in the front yard. We have
pressure washed and it doesn't take them all off. I can take my
fingernail and pop off the top layer but sometimes it leaves a
sticky layer on the railing. Do you have any idea what I can get
to take these spots off? Also, my concrete driveway stays black
from these trees. Many thanks for your assistance and help.
sounds as though you may have a couple things going on there, which
may be unrelated.
most dripping from trees is caused by insect activity, usually
aphids which are also called "plant lice." They work in conjunction
with ants (symbiotic relationship) to feed mostly near branch tips,
and they drip excess tree sap called "honeydew" (..not to be
confused with a husband's "honey do" list ;-). This is what people
usually notice on their vehicle's paint when parked beneath an
infested tree for several hours. Over time, this honeydew will grow
"black sooty mold" which often helps my quick diagnosis on insect-infested
trees (It is common on Magnolias with scale
infestations - See photo). Other than that being your possible
situation, black algae can form in less sunny
areas, lately becoming a scourge on asphalt shingles, especially on the
north side of rooftops.
Your second scenario with "black specks on our vinyl railings"
sounds like "artillery fungus." Chances are the wood mulch you
applied around your house (..am I correct?) has developed a
natural-occurring fungus that actually shoots these black spores
onto your railings. Incoming!!!
spores have great range, often landing over 10-feet away. We
typically see them on light colored
vinyl siding, reaching several
feet above the ground, but its "fire" is drawn by any light colored
surface, including vehicles. Scraping away one of the black spores
usually does leave a mark. What to do?
First is to live with them. Beyond that, research has
determined that some mulches are less likely to contain or promote
the fungus, like cypress. (My cypress preservationists won't like that remark) Also, that annual mulching is more likely to
discourage artillery fungus than mulches left 2 years or more to
further decay between mulch applications. You could also switch to a
My husband was
going to just TRIM our tree….groom the bad parts….but instead he
HACKED it…..It was a very old HUGE Beautiful tree….. do I have hope
that any of the tree will grow back. One of the limbs was not even
a bad limb ……. I am just crushed…. He has no idea what he is
doing….PLEASE HELP!!!!! Carla
I've been told that some wives don't trust their husbands with
chainsaws and loppers, so you may not be alone out there! Don't be
too hard on him though, the price was probably right. We try to do
severe pruning like that in the spring of the year, since new growth
begins shortly afterwards. You probably won't know what sort of new
growth your tree will have until next spring.
Photo: "Hat Rack" style pruning ruins tree structure and results in
scores of weak sprouts.
We have a very large Sycamore tree that looks good but is dropping
green limbs averaging about 4-5 ft long without the help of
strong winds. As we sit on the patio, down one will come. And the
branches are dropping at a rate of 1-3 per week. Examining the
fallen branch the break seems dry and brittle but nothing else seems
wrong. Is our tree dying? Should we have in removed pronto? Cathi
situation does sound rather odd, especially since it is occurring on
green branches when it isn't windy. Question for you: Do you have
squirrels in the yard? Sometimes those rascals will bite off
branches, usually making an angled "cut" with their teeth. I've seen
this occur on spruce trees, and yesterday one client had the same
thing happening on her white oak. The nipped branches are usually
shorter than yours, but they can still be over a foot long.
have lots of squirrels! However, these limbs don't look eaten.
TreeBoss: Twigs won’t look gnawed, it is usually a fairly
clean-cut like pruners.
Last year deer rubbed on my 3-year-old weeping willow tree so
hard that the tree was broken off to about 2 to 3 feet above ground.
The trunk no longer grows any taller; it just has a lot of leaved
shoots coming out of the sides. How can I get it to grow like a tree
again? Thank you, Wanda
A: Try taking an old
broomstick or dowel rod and loosely attaching it to the main trunk,
then loosely tie the most dominate side branch to the top of the
broomstick in order to train it to grown upwards. Hopefully the side
branch will take over as the tree's new leader after a year. Check
your ties occasionally to ensure they are not girdling (choking) the
tree trunk and branch, and loosen them if necessary.
In areas populated by deer, it is important to protect tree trunks
from antler injury during the fall and early winter period, when
bucks are rubbing the velvet off their antlers. This sort of damage
can easily prove fatal to a tree, if not providing it with a major
of the simplest forms of tree trunk protection uses 4-inch diameter
corrugated plastic drain pipe. This flexible pipe is cut to length,
so it reaches from the ground to just below the first branch. Then
the pipe is slit vertically, creating an opening for the pipe to be
slid over the tree trunk. Caution should be exercised cutting and
installing the pipe, so that tender bark isn't damaged when the pipe
is opened up and slid over the tree trunk, since the pipe can be
difficult to force open and the plastic edges are sharp. It helps if
two people do the work together. This corrugated 4-inch pipe can be
purchased at most lumber yards and home centers, costing less than
$5 for a 10-foot section, which is enough to protect a couple trees.
The perforated type of drain pipe is best since the holes aid air
movement around the tree trunk.
20 aspen trees in February. My husband became sick and did not
get them in ground for about 2 months. I think I kept the balls wet enough.
They were bound in burlap and kept outside where they got sunlight. We live in Colorado. They trees had buds, but have not gotten
leaves. The buds appear dried out. The bark on the trees varies
from greenish to greyish, brownish. Bark is a bit mottled looking
on some of them (parts green and parts grey or brown). They seem to
be pliable. Do you think they are dead? Thanks for your help.
A: It sure
sounds like you may have lost them. It is very difficult to keep B&B
trees sitting on top of the ground moist, especially without heeling
them part way into the ground or putting some mulch around the
it sounds like these trees dried-out and died. If they don't have
any leaves by the end of June it is time to give up on them for
sure. Photo: Balled & Burlapped trees on top of the ground.
got a maple tree out of the woods behind our yard and the main
root broke a short ways from the trunk of the tree... Will it
survive the transplant to my front yard?
bigger issue than the root loss may be the time of year you have
chosen for transplanting. It is always best to transplant trees
during their dormant stage, when they don't have any leaves on them:
Fall - right after they drop their leaves, Spring - before they put
on any leaves or new growth.
We bought a large burgundy maple tree last week and dug the hole
4ft wide by 2 ft deep. We were unable to get the tree to the
backyard immediately to get it in the hole so it sat outside for
about 24 hours. It looked beautiful when we got it, but the leaves
started to look wilted before we planted it, but we knew we needed
to get it in the ground immediately. The nursery told us to water it
3 days in a row so each day the water went further and further to
the roots. So we did. The leaves continue to look wilted and dry and
many of them are falling off. What can we do to help our tree or do
we just need to give it time to recover? Is it dying? I contacted
the nursery and they were not very nice about it asking if we
watered it, saying it should not be wilted if it was watered! Thanks
for your help.
A: It sounds as though your tree was in shock
from being moved. You didn't mention if it was in a plastic pot or
B&B (balled and burlapped). In either case, it is easy for the roots
of trees to dry out quickly when they are above ground, especially
in the sun. Transporting a tree without proper protection (in order
to keep the wind from buffeting the foliage) can also have a drying
watering a potted tree is fairly simple (water the tree slowly until
water is coming out of all the holes in the bottom of the plastic
pot) it can be much more difficult to thoroughly wet the root ball
on a B&B tree (see photo on right). Once your tree was planted in
the hole you dug, one thorough watering should have been adequate
for the first week in most locations, unless you have fast draining
soil. Overwatering a tree can suffocate the roots, since roots also
need to exchange gases, and saturated soil prevents that from
happening. (It is also important to move a B&B tree by lifting the
root ball instead of by the trunk, since this lifting can damage
Old-timers in the nursery business used to always prune away (or
thin) some of the branches from a transplanted tree to help balance
the "root to shoot ratio," since trees lose a portion of their roots
when dug-up using the B&B method. Potted trees tend to grow circling
roots, in which case you should cut the roots down one side and
across the bottom of the root ball to help break the circling root
growth pattern that can lead to the tree being "girdled" (choked) by
its own roots as it gets older. This type of root cutting can also
put a newly planted tree under stress.
Dug up an orange tree and replanted it at my house three weeks ago.
It looks dead. How long before it comes back to the way it was.
We water it every day we live in
Sarasota Fl, is there hope for this tree? We hope so,
it had real little oranges on it.
like the tree was dug-up at the wrong time of year and it may be
dead. Trees have the best chance of surviving transplant if they are
dug when dormant, as opposed to when they are actively growing (and
producing oranges). You may want to speak with the owner of an
orange grove or a local nurseryman to get further detailed advice on
transplanting orange trees. You could also seek free advice from the
agricultural extension of University of Florida.
I have two very large silver maple trees, now all the bark is
falling off and down to bare wood. There is sawdust on the bark
of the trees. I am afraid the trees will die and fall on my home,
what can I do? They are 20 years old and very, very large. Thank you
for your help - Violet
A: If they are
shedding their bark and in bad shape you should contact a
professional arborist to have them removed as soon as possible!
Silver maples are not a desirable species of Maple to begin with,
but many people plant them since they grow so fast. There is a good
reason why dangerous trees like these are often called "widow
makers." Photo: These two silver maples were topped
several years ago in an effort to reduce their size, but all that
did was create fast growing, weak, vertical sprouts. Money would
have been better spent removing these trees and planting desirable
I live in
I have a two-year-old Texas Ash that had started to bud in late
January. In the first week of February we had a hard freeze. All
the buds on the tree turned crispy brown. Later that month the tree
produced leaves and new branches but only on the lower middle
section of the tree. All of the top branches are bare with only the
crispy brown buds on them. Does that mean those branches are dead?
The tree also has several new branches sprouting from the lower
trunk one and two feet from the ground. Should I remove them? How
has I get the part of the tree to produce branches/leaves again?
like the top of your ash tree got frozen back and won't recover. You
will know for sure as the living buds finish opening-up and leafing
out. Once the good buds have all opened, prune off any dead wood
above and beyond the new growth, removing all the dead branches.
Sprouts growing from the trunk are not desirable for the long run,
but they may temporarily give the tree some added strength, so you
need to decide whether to prune them off now or leave them for a few
months while the tree recovers. New growth from the top of your
cutback tree will have to be trained to form a new central "leader"
if you lost the old leader on the tree. A single leader is desirable
on most trees, since multiple leaders can lead to branching that is
more prone to splitting in storms. An application of fertilizer this
spring, following label instructions related to its size, would also
help the tree, as well as thorough weekly watering during this
year's growing season.
Note: If you lived in the midwestern US and reported the same
symptoms on an Ash tree, it would be necessary to determine if
Emerald Ash Borer had damaged your tree, since the symptoms you
listed are very similar. To my knowledge the EAB has not yet invaded
but it has definitely continued its deadly march across northern
I have a Honey Locust tree that I planted last year and was
wondering if I could dig this tree up and move it elsewhere
without killing the roots?
Move the young tree soon, before the leaves come out, while it is
still dormant. Attempt to get most of the roots while digging it up,
replant it at the same depth it was growing, and thoroughly water it
in. Depending on soil and weather conditions, water it about once a
week during the growing season to help ensure its survival.
Photo: New leaves emerging on a Sunburst Honeylocust
We have a tree that's growing crooked in our frontyard, what can I
do to fix it? The tree is around 4-5 years old, but it looks
like crap. Should I remove it and plant a new tree? Is there
anything that can be done to correct it? Hope you can give me some
A: If the tree is still small enough, and it
hasn't produced any new growth yet this spring, you could attempt to
dig it up and reposition it in an upright position. (Digging trees
while they are dormant is the safest time, spring or fall)
This would be worth the effort and risk if you are considering
removing the tree anyway. Once it is replanted be sure to "stake"
the tree to help stabilize its corrected position for the first
year. Water it weekly (depends on your weather and soil conditions)
to help ensure its survival through its critical first year of
Some of the
old-time nurserymen believed in removing some branches after digging
a tree to help balance the "root to shoot ratio" since many roots
are lost during transplanting. They felt removing some branches
helped recreate a balance. University research over the past couple
decades has disputed the value of that sort of effort, but in any
case, it is always good to remove branches that are crossing or
growing inwards. Doing this sort of corrective pruning, while a tree
is still young, is always the most economical and best practice.
My neighbor has a very large spruce tree and the roots have come
onto my property above the ground. My mower is nicking the root,
it is also close to electric underground lines. What can I do? Thank
you very much in advance, Laural
doing anything you should discuss this situation with your neighbor.
You should also check your legal rights in your particular state
regarding this sort of situation. The last thing you want to do is
start a property line feud over these roots, and those types of
feuds are easily ignited when it comes to property line issues.
Removing a root
presents its own set of risks, such as subjecting a tree to
windthrow or opening the root tissue to soil borne pathogens. It is
usually better to mulch over these sorts of roots than have them
cohabitate with grass that needs mowed regularly. Surface rooted
trees produce multiple surface roots over time, so these probably
won't be the last roots that "invade" your lawn.
If you still
decide on root removal... Before you attempt any sort of digging you
should always phone ONE CALL (811) so you know exactly where utility
lines are located and how close you can safely dig to them. Ideally,
you would remove the offending root without digging, since it sounds
risky in that area with buried utility lines. A stump grinding
service may be able to help if digging is not an option.
We are interested in purchasing a large shade tree for parents in
Chewelah, WA. Since they are in their late 70’s and early 80’s,
the tree needs to be more than a few years old. They have very
sandy soil. The yard has a sprinkler system, so watering is not a
problem. It will be in full sun, as there are no trees near the
house. The current tree line is about 150 yards away and are
trees. The $175 Maple tree purchased, did not
A: I would suggest accessing another free
resource for some professional help on this tree topic, since a
variety of tree known to be reliable (Maple) has already failed. In
the case of
Washington state this would be the
University Extension at
Unless deep budget cuts derail the agriculture extensions in each
state, they will continue to provide an excellent and valuable
resource for everyone with horticultural (and other) questions.
My mountain ash tree is about three years old and will not grow.
What can I do?
A: As with any tree, one always has to go back
to basics and ask the following questions:
Is the tree receiving enough water, but not too much?
Are there any insect pests or diseases present?
Does the soil present any special problems, like with poor drainage?
Is too much shade, or root competition from other trees a factor?
Are any applications on or around the tree adversely affecting it?
Have unusual weather conditions affected the tree?
Are any guy wires or synthetic wraps restricting the roots or trunk?
Is the tree planted in the right
The Mountain Ash isn't really an ash tree, which is fortunate due to
the rapid spread of the deadly
Emerald Ash Borer.
That being said, the
is susceptible to a disease called
Without going into detail, I can tell you that it is best not to
overfertilize Mountain Ash, especially with nitrogen fertilizer,
since this can increase the tree's susceptibility to Fire Blight.
Damaged trees look as though as they have burned by fire, and often
have the telltale "shepherd's crook" at their bentover growing tips.
We are trying to find the value of a 300 year old 60 inch caliper
Valley oak and a 30-inch 200-250 year old Valley oak in an oak
woodland park surrounded by a town. The trees were killed in a
construction accident, and we are trying to find a way to place an
International Society of Arborists value on them. Can you help?
A: Trees are
valued using a formula that takes into account a tree's species,
size, location and condition. Caliper is a nursery industry term
used for the trunk diameter of smaller trees, while D.B.H. (diameter
breast height, which is four and one-half feet above the ground) is
used for large trees like your oak. To find a certified arborist
near you, go to the International Society of Arboriculture website
Photo: Few trees are as impressive as a mighty Oak with a
massive trunk and branches, in this case, a White Oak (Quercus
The electric company contracted with a company to trim trees
that were endangering the high power lines. My oak trees were sided
(all limbs were cut off the side near the electric lines). I was
not at the house when the cutting was done. When I came home I was
disgusted. The last time the trees were trimmed they were not sided
only trimmed. I have seven old trees that are in question. These
trees are OLD GROWTH, at least 100 years by the measure the trunk
and divide method. Am I now in danger of losing these trees?
A: Your story
is indeed very tragic, especially considering the ripe old age of
your 7 oak trees. Whether trees are "drop crotched" with a large "U"
cut out of their middles, "topped" completely beneath wires, or
"flat-sided" like yours, the result often resembles a headless
Just this week I attended a seminar for landscape professionals and
one of the plant
pathology professors from Penn State, Gary Moorman,
spoke about the worst time to trim oak trees, in regard to creating
additional risks from
Oak Wilt disease.
Since this disease is spread by insects (or root grafts) it is best
not to trim oaks from April through October, since open wounds can
promote spread of the disease pathogens by insects that are active
during that time frame. That being said, White Oaks are less
susceptible to Oak Wilt than oaks in the Red Oak group. To learn
more, here is an
article on Oak Wilt.
a purely mechanical point of view, even if these trees lost 1/3 of
their canopies, they stand a good chance of survival. Hopefully the
company used "target pruning" and made professional cuts that won't
result in an excessive number of dead stubs or lingering open
wounds. Unfortunately, this type of trimming, as is also seen with
topping and drop crotching, results in permanent structural damage
to the tree, where a desirable, strong branching structure is
replaced by multiple weak sprouts which actually create a higher
risk to utility lines over time. (Photo: Severely pruned Maple tree
beneath utility lines)
I'm trying to plan an outdoor spring party after the 15-year-old
Bradford Pear in my yard blooms are gone. We moved here to
Charlotte, NC and I remember how terrible the tree
smelled last spring. I didn't note the dates. Do you have any local
history on when these would be finished blooming? Thank you for any
help you can give. Rosanne
I agree with you on that 'funky' odor from flowering Bradford pears!
Some varieties and particular trees seem to be worse than others.
Before I answer your question from here in Pennsylvania, where I
would guess mid-April, let me suggest you contact the NC State
Cooperative Extension people in your home state for their answer.
Here is their link:
Tree bloom times
can move a little forward or back by
early spring weather
conditions. It's not uncommon these days for us to see trees begin
to open blossoms and unfurl leaves way too early, then get 'nipped'
in short order by subsequent, more seasonal cold snaps. Hope you
have great weather (..and no pear blossoms) for your spring party!
have an apple tree and two cherry trees that are dying. The
bark is falling off and the trunk is split. All this is happening
on the southwest side of the trees. The sun does hit one for a long
period of time each day, but there is one that gets minimum sun
afternoon. One limb is dying at a time and there are not that many
limbs left. Help! If they are destined to die, please recommend a
viable variety of cherry and apple tree for my area.
Albuquerque NM Thank you - Chris
A: And thank
you for including your location, it makes answering these questions
much easier! When trunk damage specifically occurs on the southwest
side of a tree we usually suspect "Southwest Sunscald." Think about
how cold a tree trunk can get during the nighttime hours, only to be
quickly heated by the sun the next day. The resulting temperature
extreme -- from cold to hot -- can cause a vertical split in the
bark on the southwest side of the trunk. On larger trees this
splitting action has been reported to be as loud as a gunshot.
While tree wraps are generally not recommended or necessary for
older trees, newly planted trees are often wrapped with a special
tree wrap or crepe-paper (that comes in rolls) during the winter
months. The proper direction to wrap a tree trunk with this
'stretchy' paper is from the bottom up, with a slight overlap, in
order to create a "shingle effect" for water runoff. (If the final
top wrap is tied-off with string or twine, be sure to check it
periodically to see if it needs loosened due to trunk expansion)
A number of horticultural suppliers also sell plastic wrap-arounds
to protect tree trunks from critter damage.... these would also help
protect against southwest sunscald.
Regarding recommendations for specific varieties of fruit trees to
plant in your area, I would suggest checking with your state's
agricultural extension through New Mexico State University at:
Q: We have 2
fruit trees -
an apple and a pear - which recently had extensive bark removed by
rabbits. Is there any cure for these trees when spring comes?
A: It really
depends how deep they chewed and around how much of the
circumference to determine if your trees will survive. Those two
factors will determine what your trees will look like by early
summer. Of course in the meantime it would be worth putting some
hardware cloth (metal mesh) -- or even chicken wire if you are sure
it is rabbits and not mice -- in place to prevent further damage.
People are often thrown off their game when snow accumulates because
it elevates rabbits and other varmits to new heights for their
Photo: Bark damage to a Burning Bush during the winter.
We have two older cherry trees which have some large "knuckles"
where smaller branches have come off. Is it safe to cut these
knuckles off or should we leave them and continue to cut the smaller
branch sprouts that grow from them? Thanks -- Bea
Those "knuckles" you speak of sound like old branch "collar" areas
that have compartmentalized the wounds where branches were removed.
Instead of replacing tissue like we do with our skin, trees grow new
layers of tissue over and around old wounds. This is called
compartmentalization. (Photo: Pin Oak closing over a wound where a
branch was removed several years ago)
'knuckles' would undo your trees' years of work to seal off those
old wounds by growing a protective, yet bulging, layer. Even though
pruning the sprouts may be a pain, due to constant trimming
required, that is much better for the tree than opening old wounds.
want to level off the ground around our pine tree. How much soil
can we remove around the tree? I've heard their roots can't be buried
Any time you change the soil "grade" around a tree you are
taking chances. Adding soil on top of a tree's root zone can act to
suffocate roots. Most people tend to think of soil as a "solid mass"
but the fact of the matter is that soil has pore spaces which allow
for the exchange of gases, and this network of pores allows tree
roots to breathe. By covering a tree's rootzone with more than an
inch of soil you risk suffocating the roots. It is also detrimental
to trees to have extra soil piled up higher against their trunks.
Photo: Double-whammy! Half of this tree's root system has been
buried and soil is piled against the trunk.
In a different
fashion, excavating soil away from a tree's root zone can damage
fine feeder roots and root hairs, the parts of a tree's roots that
do most of the important work. It is usually pretty obvious when you
dig into these roots since they are clearly visible and usually
difficult to dig through. If you ever do have to cut through larger
roots on a tree, it is advisable to make a neat cut and then paint the cut ends with tree
paint. This runs counter to the advice on tree branches where
"painting" wounds is not recommended.
maple has broken off a huge branch. The branch has fallen on my
neighbor’s fence. What type of cut do I use so the tree branch
falls back into my yard with out damaging the fence?
A: This may
be work for tree professionals. Countless individuals suffer severe
injuries when working with trees, since they aren't always
predictable. That being said, the branch would probably have to be
tied-off with a strong rope (or two) to hold the branch in position
while the necessary cuts are made. Once the branch is free, it could
be safely lowered to the ground for final reduction and removal.
One danger with
tree branches is that they can be "spring loaded." In other words, a
branch can get bent against the ground in a fashion where once it is
cut, it can release tension unpredictably, possibly striking you or
an object like this fence. The weight of a huge branch can also be
So again, tree
climbing and the removal of larger branches is best left for
professionals. It's not worth risking personal injury or property
damage to save money. Always ensure that the tree services you contract
have liability and workmen's compensation insurance, and are true
tree professionals instead of just chain saw gurus.
I have a tree in front of my house that was planted by the township
5 years ago that is now starting to mature. It is producing berries
that when landing on my cars finish are very hard to remove. A car
wash will not get them off. I have had to use a power washer to get
them loose. Once off I have notice that they have stained the paint
finish and even etched the finish in some cases. I have tried to
compound these out but with little or no success. I do not own the
tree and complaints to the township resulted in a response of “do
not park under it” I have attached a photo copy of the leaves and I
hope you can tell me what type of tree it is, if the berries are
acidic and any suggestions on how to remove the stains.
I appreciate your help. Thank you – John
A: Looks as
though it may be a Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) tree. The
Serviceberry has a blue-colored fruit when ripe, shaped like a real
small grape. As far as questions on berry stains in your
automobile's finish, I would suggest contacting a collision shop.
must continue parking under the tree, you may want to consider a car
cover that is weather (and berry) resistant.
I had a teenager mow and trim my yard while I was away and he
"whipped" the bark on a couple of my young aspen trees with the
weed whacker. What can I do to help these trees overcome this
damage? Thank you very much - Karen
all you can do now is trim away any loose bark back to a clean cut
edge that is still firmly attached to the tree. You might also
consider putting mulch around the base of your aspen trees so that
using a weed whacker near them is no longer necessary. Next growing
season do all you can to help keep the trees healthy; fertilize them
in spring and water them during any dry spells.
I have a
beautiful maple tree in front of my yard. I live in South
Florida, with the 2005 hurricane season, during Hurricane Wilma; the
top most part of the tree bark became separate, now there is a hole.
The tree is extremely healthy, all leaves are healthy. My question
is there a wood resin I can buy to plug the hole, so it won’t rot
the tree? I’m afraid with time it will do just that, because when it
rains, water accumulates inside the hole. Thanks - Aline
checked with a friend who has successfully filled dozens of tree
cavities with that spray foam insulation that comes in an
aerosol can. You can buy it at home improvement stores. It is a bit
tricky to use since it swells up after you spray it in the hole, so
it is difficult to gauge just how much to spray in.
Allow the hole in
the tree to dry out some. Then spray-in the foam, and give it a day
or two to dry. Once it dries, shave the foam back with a knife to an
inch below the level of the tree's outer bark (so the foam is
recessed below the bark) and then paint the surface of
the dried foam with roofing asphalt. This should do the trick!
cavities he recommends using a piece of sheet insulation foam board
on the surface of the cavity, again keeping it just below the level
of the bark before painting the foam board with roofing asphalt.
Keeping the foam recessed allows the bark to close over top of the
wound without 'pushing out' your repair.
Photo: Branch removal location on a tree trunk showing good
tissue growth where the tree has nearly finished
"compartmentalizing" the wound. The goal on all trunk wounds is
gaining this sort of closure.
THREE Pyramidal European Hornbeams (Carpinus
betulus 'Fastigiata') one year ago, in front of my
house. They do not seem to be growing, but also do not seem under
distress. Is it normal? I fear that I did not break up the root ball
enough when planting, and perhaps they are still 'pot-bound'? Thank
A: Sometimes trees do
appear not to be growing during their first year or so. The key is
providing them with the basics they need.... thorough weekly
waterings during hot, dry weather is one example. An application of
fertilizer in the spring will encourage new growth as well. Plus you
need to monitor for any destructive insects that may be present by
periodically examining foliage (always check underneath leaves too).
All that being said, Hornbeams can be very sensitive to heat and dry
weather. In the case of a columnar
on my own property, which is growing in a narrow planter next to the
driveway and street, I have observed its displeasure with hot summer
conditions, especially when I'm not keeping it throughly watered
once a week during the July-August timeframe.
The leaves tend to brown at the tips, especially on the sunny side
where it gets extra heat radiating off the asphalt pavement. Some
years it will even partially defoliate by September. I've observed
these trees doing the same thing in sidewalk planters in the city.
I live in
and my oak isn’t doing well. It is a regular oak- not a pin
oak. I am told that maybe it needs iron as it color is a little more
yellowish than some of the others around. Thanks for any help or
advice you can give. Barb
Sometimes Oaks suffer if they are growing on calcareous soils, in
other words, soils with a high pH that are too "sweet" for an Oak's
liking. They usually prefer slightly "acidic" soils.
Yes, high pH soil will affect an Oak when it comes to iron, and this
can lead to a condition called "chlorosis" where the veins of the
leaves are often much darker green than the surrounding leaf tissue.
There are water soluble products available to help address chlorotic
conditions in plants ('Miracid' is one often used on Rhododendrons
and Azaleas) but the size of the tree might limit how much you can
reasonably affect overall conditions.
You could do some further internet research using "iron chlorosis"
for your search term.
I recently moved into a home, and unfortunately one of my nice trees
has profanity carved into the side of the tree. Is there a way to
remove or hide the carvings that is safe for the tree? Thanks, Don
A bundle of tied-up dry corn stalks might add decoration and hide
the carvings, at least for the fall season! Or you could drape a
decorative seasonal banner in a key location to hide this part of
Seriously though, you might consider using a "tree wrap" which is
sort of a stretchy
crepe paper that comes in
rolls about 4-inches wide and maybe 25-feet long. This would work
best on small trees, not so much on larger trees.
This sort of tree wrap is best rolled around the tree from the
bottom up, placing enough tension on the wrap to hold it firmly in
place, while overlapping each successive go-round slightly, sort of
shingles. The top can be tied off with some twine as
long as you check it periodically to make sure it isn't "girdling"
(cutting into the bark) the tree.
isn't recommended for most trunk wounds, it would be a viable option
for camouflaging any color differences, even though the standard
color is black.
You can mail order these sorts of supplies from someplace like A.M.
Leonard in Ohio. We have used their catalog for several decades with
good results. (Hey Leonard's, you owe me one!)
I started a
Northern Red Oak from seed and it is 8 inches tall with 2 sets
of leaves. Is it too late to plant this year -- I live in Cadiz,
Oaks are usually considered best transplanted in the Spring of the
year. However, if it can be planted without disturbing any of the
roots, fall would still be OK. Being that small, you may want to put
some metal mesh around it to protect it from rabbits, rodents and
Late October is also a good time for everyone to consider protecting
tree trunks from whitetail deer. Bucks are known to severely damage
trees this time of year. Even a section of corrugated black plastic
drain pipe is usually enough to discourage them.
Photo: Red Oaks should be planted far enough away from your house to
allow for their eventual large size.
About one year ago we
planted shrubs (soft touch hollies) and flowers (Lavender &
Stella De Oro daylilly) on both sides of our driveway. On the West
side all are doing well. But on the East side, within the drip line
of a mature bradford pear tree, these plants are struggling and, in
some cases, dying. Both sides receive the same amount of sunshine.
Is there a toxicity problem with Bradford Pear roots similar to
Black walnut tree roots or is the Bradford simply sucking up all the
water and stressing the shrubs & flowers. We have been watering
frequently to try to overcome the lack of rainfall.
Thanks for the help, Dan
If all things are equal with the amount of sunlight like you say,
then you would probably be looking at a soil or tree root issue. You
didn't mention what size the Pear is, but a larger tree could have
enough roots sharing the same space with your hollies, lavender and
daylilies that it is robbing them of moisture, especially "within
the dripline." As a general rule of thumb, most feeder roots are
concentrated around a tree's dripline.
You also mentioned being next to a driveway... not sure how much ice
or snow you get in
Maryville, TN, but perhaps
that side of the driveway was affected by deicers? An application
that can help minimize plant and lawn damage in those sorts of areas
subjected to de-icing salt is
GYPSUM. It is best applied in
the fall before winter weather arrives, follow label instructions.
Heat issue... Does that side of the driveway get more heat from
prevailing winds, etc?
We aren't aware of any toxicity-type problems with Pears resembling
the juglone exuded by Black Walnut trees. When you do water, always
try to apply water slowly and thoroughly so the water has time to
penetrate the ground. Early morning is the preferred time of day for
I have a what I believe a Mondale pine tree that is three years old
and is starting to turn yellow on the top branch and has brown
needles in the center of the tree. I live in the Mojave desert,
California and it is quite hot. The tree gets water every day. The
large basin is filled everyday at 4:30 a.m.. My other trees look
fine. Can you give me any advice? Thank you, Vicki
I would suggest checking with your state's agricultural extension
branch at UC Riverside.
Brown needles toward the center of a pine (in the northeastern US)
can be a normal occurrence in August. Pines usually shed their older
needles late in the growing season. You might closely inspect the
wood of the top branch to see if there are any signs of insect
damage (bleeding sap) or boring into the wood.
(Photo: Eastern White Pine shedding older needles that are lower on
branches, inside the tree. This is normal.)
parents have a walnut tree in their front yard. It is the only
tree there and it has a nice shape to it. it has reached a point
where it's branches are near the house and close to a power line
coming into the house from the road on one side. I hate to see the
tree removed. We have been told that if we trim it properly, it
could last about five years without trimming again. They live
between Canton and Waynesburg, Ohio. Can you offer any advice? I
am wondering how we can find someone who will know how to properly
trim the tree -- I don't want to see it topped as the power line
people have a tendency to do which ruins the look and shape of the
tree. My parents are elderly and every job is a big job and a
difficult decision to them. Thank you, Judy
A: It sounds
like the solution to your problem is locating a professional
arborist who knows how to properly trim a tree, not just top it. You
might want to check the database of listed professionals at the ISA
(International Society of Arboriculture) web site for a reference.
Our dwarf fruit trees were doing well until this year, now they are
dead or dying. Most have been with us for 3 to 4 years. Cherry,
apple, peach, pear, etc. They've been sprayed, watered and cared
for. Any idea what caused this? Jane
Have you carefully examined the base of each tree to see if some
sort of rodent chewed the bark off just above ground level? You
would probably have to remove what appear to be plastic rings (in
Jane’s emailed photos) that are also holding several inches of mulch
to inspect the tree trunks. It is recommended not to have mulch
piled-up around the base of a tree trunk, partly because it can
provide cover for mice and other rodents to do their bark chewing
over the winter. It also holds moisture against the bark. When did
the leaves die-off / shrivel on these trees?
think we noticed a problem in May.
TreeBoss: More questions then Jane: Did the leaves come on the
tree and then die as if burned by fire? Did you fertilize the trees?
husband says the trees were OK until he sprayed with the fruit spray
preventive. New info to me.
TreeBoss: If sprays are applied at the wrong time or wrong rate,
they can severely damage or kill trees. Examples of wrong times
would include 'muggy' weather -- you
shouldn't apply some insecticides
in hot, humid weather that is typical during July/August afternoons. Another example would include 'dormant
oil' spray being applied either too early in the fall
or too late in the spring, especially on trees with thin bark. I saw
a case where several thousand dollars worth of beech trees were
killed by a
dormant oil spray being applied too late in the
spring. As the old saying goes, always read and follow label
instructions on the product you are using (before you use it).
As a general rule
of thumb with most tree and shrub spraying, it is much better to
make your spray applications in the cool of the early morning
instead of in the heat of the day. When it is still cool there is
much less chance for damage caused by 'phytotoxicity.' Since wind
can cause spray "drift" onto non-target areas, morning is usually a
much better time to spray since air is calmer. And of course,
you don't want it to rain right after you apply a foliar spray, so
check the forecast.
While we are on
this topic: Dress for the job when you are spraying. Change out of
the flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt into something that gives you
better protection from spray drift. Shower when you are
done. Remember that most cases of pesticide poisoning are DERMAL,
meaning the poison enters through skin. Your highest risk of
exposure comes when you are mixing the concentrate. Protect your
eyes from splashing. Some skin areas are much more "absorbent" than
others. One symptom of exposure and pesticide poisoning is pinpoint
pupils, where your eye's pupil is very small or pinpoint. Some
people are susceptible to various pesticide formulations that can
act as cholinesterase inhibitors. Again, read and follow label
instructions, they are there to help YOU as much as the plant! And
always remember to keep pesticides in their original containers
and out of the reach of children.
I developed a severe case of contact dermatitis after purchasing and
spreading dyed red mulch around my landscaping. I purchased it
from a garden shop in bulk (it was not bagged mulch). Is there a
common skin irritant found in commercial mulch? Poison ivy
perhaps? I am very reluctant to use mulch again after this
experience. The rash was horrendously itchy and I had a strong
allergic reaction with swelling and burning pain in addition to
itching. It was a horrible week!!! Beth
This is the first time I ever heard of anything like this, but that
doesn't mean it is uncommon. Did you ask the supplier for a product
information sheet or MSDS that might identify the colorant used on
the mulch? Looking online at a MSDS for red colorant used on mulch,
under Summary of Health Risks and Symptoms of Exposure: "May
cause mechanical skin and eye irritation." IRON
OXIDE is the primary ingredient of this particular red
colorant, along with some lesser ingredients listed as
There is an
outside chance that poison ivy could get into shredded bark mulch
products since debarking machines at sawmills strip off the tree
bark (and probably any attached vines) prior to sawing the logs into
shredded mulch come from?) Other mulch products are made from chipped pallets or wood.
We have used a product called
TECNU when we suspect
any contact with poison ivy. Always read and follow label
instructions. You might want to try using natural shredded bark
mulch (un-dyed) next time around.
I just had two
Silver Maple trees removed
(the roots were crazy and completely destroying my yard and branches
falling like crazy) and they have not ground-out the stumps but are
suppose to soon. My question is a three part one: first is it too
hot to plant another tree (80 degrees today) as soon as they remove
the old stump? And second what is a good fast growing tree that
will not produce surface roots? Or fall apart like the Poplars,
Silver Maples and
Bradford Pear trees?
Third: I am interested in the Red Maple what do you think? I want
to replant as soon as they grind out the roots.
Thank you in advance
A: The words "good" and "fast growing" don't
often accompany each other when it comes to tree selections. Silver
Maples are probably the worst! You might have to scale back to a
tree with a "moderate" rate of growth to be happy. If you can, I
would wait until cooler fall weather arrives to plant a new tree.
That being said, most nursery trees these days are grown in black
plastic pots and don't suffer the same transplanting shock that dug
trees will. That is why nurseries dig larger B&B (balled and
burlapped) trees when the tree is dormant in
or early spring.
The Red Maple is a dependable tree with a moderate rate of growth.
We happen to have one in our front yard on the southwest side of the
house, and it has reached an age (35) where it helps cool the house
on hot sunny summer afternoons. The problem with Maples is
always surface roots, one of the characteristics you said you don't
want in your new tree.
The best way to select a new tree is determining how tall it can
grow without creating problems, so that you don't get into 'the
right tree in the wrong place' situation that often occurs
with trees under utility wires. Once you have determined ultimate
size constraints, you should visit a nursery with your
specifications to see what they have available.
It is always safest to select a tree that is full hardy in your
And in the case of trees like crabapples, be sure to get one of the
varieties that has good ratings for disease resistance. During the
first year or two of growth, be sure to remove any inward growing,
or crossing branches, creating a good basic branch structure for
your tree while it is still young. This can save major pruning later
that creates large gaps.
buy my mulch in bags from our local Scout Troop or High School. I
just had a very large tree removed, however, and had it's stump
removed as well. This produced a small mountain of shredded wood
that looks suspiciously like the shredded hardwood mulch I buy for
my garden, though it's a bit more 'coarse.' Could I use this as
mulch in the less visible parts of my garden where I'd like to mulch
the sail and add-in some organic matter? It's OK with me if it
takes a couple of years to decompose, I'm more worried about
inviting termites and other bugs in.
I don't think this new chipped wood will create any risks that you
haven't already had with other wood-based mulches you used in the
past. However, decaying wood chips will take nitrogen out of the
soil during the decay process, so it would be a good idea to balance
that out with an application of
fertilizer, just don't overdo it.
Just about any mulch holds moisture and provides a good home for
insects. Another concern is artillery fungus, which can form on most
wood mulches and shoot black spores 10 feet. You will often find
small black spores on the sunny side of light colored houses. It
will even fire its sticky spores at cars parked close to mulched beds, and may be
mistaken for road tar spots (see photo). It is most common in beds
that aren't mulched regularly. Fire!
I was wondering if you could help with my tree problem. I love my
14 year old willow oak, but, the roots are getting pretty big. I'm
afraid the lawn mower will cut them. I have seen a metal tree root
fertilizer rod, and, was wondering if this would help with my
problem of exposed roots. I don't know how to use it though. The
instructions are not very clear. Is there a way to encourage the
roots to go down below the surface of the soil. Will they always be
exposed? Thanks for your help! Carole
A: Many trees
just naturally have high
and there isn't much you can do to change that. Other roots have
just grown very large over the years, especially those in close to
the tree. Therefore it is often best to mulch those areas or plant a
vine or ground cover so you don't have to mow over them. This
article provides more detail:
Q: I live in
Sanderson, Texas--semi desert. Two years ago,
appeared on my
pear tree. The next year,
it killed it. In the end, there were only a few leafs and they were
black even as buds. It seems to be IN the leaf, rather than ON it. I
found it on a redbud and two other pear trees--couldn't control it
with sprayed on fungicides or insect repellents, so cut down four
trees to protect the rest. Now it is on my beautiful 15 ft. cotton
wood--- I've been to three nurseries-- am told it is a fungus, a
virus, a chemical burn, over watering, underwatering-- I can't get
help anywhere. Have you any ideas?? PLEASE???
A: If I were
to guess with the odds, I would probably take "fungus" out of your
list of choices. That being said,
Pears also get a
bacterial disease called
where the foliage will look scorched and turn black. For trees that
are susceptible to fire blight, it is best not to over-fertilize
branches and leaves will also appear if a tree is infested with any
type of insect that excretes honeydew, sticky stuff that eventually
and makes branches look black. You will usually see ants in the tree
if this is the case.
In addition to
the local nurseries, you might also try your
extension of Texas A&M. Plant diagnostic labs at
universities usually want to see a sample with a combination of
unaffected tissue leading into affected tissue. They can tell you
how to gather and mail samples to the university. You can find your
county branch listed
We had a Maple tree that died about 5 years ago and had the stump
ground down about 12" below the surface. I can tell that it is
rotting away because the ground is sinking in that area. Can I plant
a new tree in that spot? Thank You
A: It would
be best to remove the rest of the decaying wood beneath the new tree
prior to planting, to help avoid settling. We have also seen
situations where old stumps beneath new trees cause a new tree not
to root properly since it is “perched” on the old stump and the root
ball can easily dry out. Do some digging and remove the stump, if it
is as rotten as you think, the rest of the old wood will come out
very easily anyway.
that has yellow and red cherries. The problem is the tree seems
to have some type of fungus on it. The cherries bloom fast and the
cherries are not that sweet. Also the cherries seem to die fast and
I believe some are not even blooming. Is there someone who could
come and give me a free consultation on what I need to strengthen
the life of my tree. Thank you! Leslie
A: I would
suggest contacting your state's
agricultural extension for some help with these
issues, much cheaper than flying me round trip coast to coast!
Check with the
Washington State University Extension.
We have a 4 year old Maple Crimson Royal Red and many of the top
branches did not leaf out this year and look dead. Is there
anything we can do to save this tree or should we replace it? Jean
A: First you
might try pruning out the dead areas all the way back to branches
that are fully leafed-out. Always prune back to just above a strong
side branch so that new growth can takeover from there, without
leaving any stubs. Water your young tree weekly this summer if
weather is dry. You should also fertilize the tree once this spring,
but discontinue fertilization after July 4th so that new growth on
the tree can harden-off for winter. (Late-summer and early-fall
fertilization can create lush growth that doesn’t properly
harden-off for winter weather, increasing the chance of dieback)
Photo: 'Crimson King' Maples are known for holding their crimson
colored leaves all summer.
I have a 2 year old Modesto Ash that seems to be growing on top
faster than its trunk can support it. The top half is leaning
over (about 90 degrees) and almost
hitting the ground. It is
stable (even in high winds) but I am wondering should I trim it (top
it?) or leave it alone? Thanks! Jon
with your young 2-year old tree it may be possible to stake it, or
use some supports to hold it upright, in order to encourage a strong
central leader. Also, stop fertilizing the tree if you have been
fertilizing it, since some trees tend to outgrow themselves if
"pushed" too hard with fertilizer (Thundercloud Plum, Sweetbay
Magnolia). You might also want to thin the side branches, or
shorten them, to take some of the weight off the top of the tree. It
is usually best not to "top" a tree unless you have no other choice.
I have a yellow locust tree and it looked great a few days ago but
now it has turned brown and droopy. The trunk and limbs seem to
be ok. We had a bad frost and I was wondering if the tree could
have froze? Joanne
Your yellow locust is probably a Sunburst Honeylocust, which is one
that has bright yellow new growth and foliage. With this tender new
growth exposed, a hard frost or freeze could cause the type of
damage you describe. Trees usually recover from one freeze-back, but
more sensitive ones may suffer if they push out a second set of
leaves and get hit again with a hard frost or freeze. Hopefully you
are getting past that weather trend now and summer is on the way!
I have a Blue Spruce that continues to grow outward and not up.
The top of the tree does not have a branch that continues to go up
like all my other trees. My tree looks short and fat. How do I get
it to continue to grow upward and not outward? Thanks – Michael
are this particular Blue Spruce lost its "leader" in some sort of
mishap or storm. Spruce trees do best if they have a single central
leader. What you can do is help your spruce create a new central
leader. Pick a good side branch near the
top of the tree and train
it vertically by gently bending it upward and tying it to a
wooden dowel rod, or some other sort of stake, in a
couple places (even a small tomato stake would probably work). Then
tie the other end of the stake in a couple places to the main trunk.
You should use strips of cloth or something soft (your old dress
ties?) and somewhat flexible so the ties don't cut into the bark.
(Check the ties periodically to ensure they aren't constricting
growth and cutting into the bark). The finished product should look
something like a splint on a person's broken leg. If this is left on
the tree for one year, this side branch will begin to grow
vertically and take over its new role as the central leader.
A light sticky substance is coating everything on the ground from
our two ash trees (Fantax? ..not sure of the spelling) with
branches hanging over the driveway and walk. We have to move our
cars and cannot let the dogs out front. If tracked into the house,
it resembles black tar (probably mixes with dirt), hardens and has
to be scraped with a blade. Also sticks to dog's paws. What a mess.
Do you know the cause and when it will stop? Thanks –
A: While I
am not familiar with the tree species you mentioned, this sounds
like it may be caused by an insect infestation on your trees. We
have a similar situation here in
Pennsylvania with several
species of trees, and the classic symptom is 'sticky stuff' dripping
on cars, often from Maple trees. In our case it is usually aphids,
which excrete a sticky honeydew while feeding on trees, usually near
the tender growing tips of branches. Aphids often have ants as their
allies, in a symbiotic relationship: The ants get the excess sticky
stuff as food, and the aphids get moved around to the best feeding
sites by the ants. Some deal, eh? Branches of infested trees
will also turn black over time since this sticky excretion grows
'sooty mold' which makes the branches appear to be black.
inspect the growing tips of some of the lower branches to see if you
have clusters of aphids near the growing tips. They will be small
insects (often green or black, but can be other colors) clustered in
a group and visible without a
magnifying glass. (The
photo shows green colored aphids on the growing tips of Spirea).
If by chance this insect is not your problem and it is caused by a
different insect, cut 12-inches off the end of a branch and take it
to a local tree nursery or garden center to see if they can help you
identify the problem. Photos of the rest of the tree may also help
them with their analysis. Each US state has an agricultural
extension service that can also help with insect identification and
treatment advice, in your case that would be the University
I have been having water seepage into my basement/foundation.
Instead of French drains around the perimeter of my home, somebody
suggested River Birch tree to plant since they would drink overly
large amounts of water. Please suggest anything-since I’m in need of
landscaping my front yard with more vegetation. Many thanks - Kathi
A: That is
certainly a new approach to a leaky basement! Never heard that
suggestion before, but seriously doubt that it would accomplish what
was intended. That being said, if you decide to do some digging
around, check all your downspouts first to make sure the connections
haven't come loose underground, since we have seen that happen in
the past when settling occurs around backfilled foundations. This is
often the case if water leaks inside the basement correspond to the
location of downspouts on the outside.
Like Sycamore and
Willow, River Birch (Betula
like moist areas. However, keep in mind that River Birch grows large
enough, fast enough that it should be thought of as a shade tree
instead of the smaller clump birch (European White Birch) that were
typically planted closer to house foundation corners. River Birch is
more desirable with its resistance to the deadly bronze birch borer,
but instead of the bright white smooth bark that many desire, it has
an interesting orange-colored exfoliating style of bark (see photo).
Other plants that
like wet soils are: Red 'Swamp' Maple (Acer rubrum), Bugleweed (Ajuga),
Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier), Astilbe, the fragrant Fringetree (Chionanthus),
Cornus stolonifera (Dogwood shrub), Forsythia, Daylily (Hemerocalis),
Hosta (if you don't have deer), Itea, Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia),
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus), and Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).
two large walnut trees in our back yard, they are beautiful but
a lot of work when the nuts fall. Is there a way to keep the tree
from producing walnuts? Nancy
are going to disappoint a bunch of squirrels if you inhibit their
walnut gathering! The squirrels we have around here feel our
entire yard should be a grove of
As an aside, you probably already realize that many plants won't
grow near walnut trees due to juglans, a chemical exuded by
all of a walnut tree's parts - leaves, nuts, etc.
Generally speaking, Florel brand Growth Regulator is a
product used to eliminate nuisance fruit from many species of trees,
but I'm not sure if Walnut trees are on the label. Always read and
follow label instructions before using any garden product. For trees
that are listed on the label, a tree is sprayed once with this
product at the mid- to full- blossom stage to eliminate undesirable
or nuisance fruit. You should phone the manufacturer to check the
label for Walnut trees, while also making sure the product is
registered for use in your state.
Monterey Lawn and Garden Products - Phone:
If you were to find a spray that worked on your Walnut
trees, the next challenge would be applying the spray, especially if
they are tall
trees. Note: Some tree sprays will spot paint,
especially on vehicles!
I have a maple
that was damaged recently. We just trimmed it up and now after
almost 24 hours it is still dripping
large amounts of sap. Is
there anything we should/could do? Or are we better off leaving it
A: When Maples are trimmed or damaged during
their dormant season (no leaves on the tree) they will often 'bleed'
by dripping sap. This is more alarming to watch than it is to the
tree. As leaves come on in spring the 'bleeding' will cease. Even
though this sort of bleeding hasn't been shown to harm Maples, this
annoyance is one reason that Maples are often trimmed while they are
in 'full leaf' so this dripping does not occur.
We purchased our home 17 years ago and a beautiful 30 ft
Maple tree in the
backyard was one influence in our decision to buy. Then the electric
company entered our yard to completely shave one side of the tree 10
feet from the power lines. It's been about 10 years and our tree
still looks awful. It's heavy on one side and has
nothing but water spouts on the other side! Should we
radically thin the heavy side and leave the spouts? HELP!!! Carole
As the saying goes, "Two wrongs don't make a right"… Not that the power company was wrong to prune their
utility right of way. Many folks in our area lost power for several
days to a full week during the heavy February snowstorm, mostly due
to trees being too close to power lines.
It is still unfortunate when utilities have to shave one side or
"drop crotch" beautiful trees by pruning them right through the
middle. What my “two wrongs” comment implies is that I would not
suggest whacking back the good side of the tree just to make it
match the bad side. Instead, I would work with the tree's
lopsidedness and continue to trim both sides as needed, removing or
thinning the vertical sprouts from the chopped side, and
periodically thinning the good side using proper tree pruning
some sort of Maple tree that we want to trim. How do we trim
branches on a walnut tree? Kathy
A: In order to assist our
website visitors with tree trimming "how to" we have just created a
new YouTube channel called GNARLYBARK
(linked from the top of the left navigation bar) that will be a growing library
of tree trimming videos. You may find a couple of videos there
already which will help answer your questions.
What is the proper way and time of year for trimming my newly
planted (August/09) Magnolia tree in Bakersfield, CA?
You didn't mention which variety of Magnolia you have, but the
general rule of thumb when trimming flowering plants is to trim them
within a couple weeks of when they finish blooming. This allows
trees that set flower buds on "old wood" time to set their buds for
next year. The reason for this timing is that if flower buds are
already set, and you trim in the fall or early spring, flower buds
will be removed. (Photo: Star Magnolia)
When trimming trees, try not to leave any stubs, but don't cut so
close to the trunk that you damage the swollen area at the base of
the branch known as the branch collar. To direct growth, trim
branches just beyond side branches that are growing in the direction
you wish to promote growth, which is usually outward.
Remove branches growing inward, crossing branches, and of course,
Always try to make clean cuts and prune with the proper tools: hand
pruners for smaller branches, loppers for medium sized branches, and
a pruning saw for larger branches. Try not to tear the bark when
making saw cuts by removing the bulk of the branch first, then
removing the final section of branch with a short undercut then a
finishing top cut. On smaller branches you can support the weight of
the branch while finishing your saw cut to prevent torn bark. If you
need to sterilize pruning tools after trimming a diseased plant you
can use isopropyl alcohol.
I am having my house leveled.
The company that is doing the work has temporarily put some of the
extra dirt around two of my oak trees (one is a live oak and the
other I am not sure what type of oak it is) the dirt was placed
there on 10 Feb. and should be removed by 25 Feb. In some areas the
dirt is approx. 3 ft. high in other areas it may be 1 ft high
around half of the trees there is no extra dirt. The trees are
approximately 40-50 yrs old. Will this harm my trees?
If it is at all feasible, a tree's root zone should be fenced off
from construction activities. Since we are beyond that point, let's
try to answer your questions. Considering the soil will only be
there for 15 days, and since the trees are probably in a dormant
state this time of year, root "suffocation" shouldn't be a big
factor. However, heavy equipment driving repeatedly over a tree's
root systems can cause damage from the shear weight of the equipment
and resulting soil compaction. Compaction is more of a problem with
wet soils. You will want to ensure that the previous grade is
restored around your trees, making sure there isn't more soil over
the roots than before, and that the machine grading the area doesn't
dig too deep and cause physical damage to the tree's roots near the
soil surface. Some contractors will try to grade out extra dirt
instead of hauling it away. You don't want that to happen. Finally,
care should be taken so careless equipment operators aren't
'skinning' bark off any of your trees.
Construction root damage can take up to 5 years to
reveal itself, usually with a decline and thinning of
leaves near the branch tips at the top of the tree.
Recent snow and ice storms have severely damaged our Flowering Pear
tree, splitting open many of the largest branches. Can the tree be
salvaged or should we have it removed?
Rapid growth and weak branching set the Flowering Pear up for
frequent storm breakage, especially in those trees over 15 years
old. While you can probably "salvage" your tree, you shouldn't
expect it to regain the proper branching structure that you once
enjoyed. That being said, Flowering Pears do take well to very heavy
pruning. They will produce vigorous sprouts from areas that have
been severely cutback, and even regain some of their shapely
appearance during summer. Just remember the new, fast-growing,
vertical sprouts will be much weaker than the branch structure that
originally failed during a storm. Therefore, it is advisable to
perform annual or semi-annual pruning to limit the height of any
refurbished tree that is full of these weak vertical sprouts.
Photo: While I don't advocate "topping" most trees, the
Flowering Pear might be the exception to the rule, especially if it
is a Bradford Pear. "Heading back" a Pear through semi-annual
shaping can help prevent serious storm damage to trees like the one
pictured. Someone began shaping this tree before it got to the
"storm damage age."
Back in September, I cut down a
pine tree that was coming out the top of an Alberta Spruce. The
only way I can think it got there was that birds were making nest
there. But my question is: Since September I put it in a 5 gallon
pale, with water in my basement. Obviously there were no roots, so I
was waiting for them to grow. As you know the ground is frozen. What
can I do to keep the tree living till spring. Thank you.
I am familiar with the condition you mention. Some Alberta Spruces
have a tendency to grow "bud sports." These sports develop on
various plants and grow sprouts that look entirely different than
the parent plant. In the case of Alberta Spruce bud sports, they
look like small Norway spruce trees with more open branching and
needle configurations than an Alberta. While you may be able to keep
your cutting "green" in a bucket of water (just like you do a cut
Christmas tree) there is little chance of it sprouting roots and
supporting itself when it is transplanted outdoors. You might want
to purchase a small potted tree in spring and plant it instead.
A very old oak
tree in our back yard is missing a large hunk of bark
on the front of the tree. Underneath where the bark was, is very
soft wood, rubbery and rotted. There are some holes in
like something is boring in the tree. I am afraid of losing the oak
tree to some insect infestation or some other kind of bugs etc. Do
you have any idea what would be doing this? Thank you, Gary
Sounds as though your Oak may be diseased. As far as holes in the
rotten heartwood, they could be caused by just about anything.
Sapsucker woodpeckers make holes close together in semi-straight
rows, even in healthy tree bark, and come back occasionally to snack
on whatever insects may have taken refuge. Carpenter ants favor wet
wood and can mine-out extensive areas (see photo). Ant activity
should be clearly visible.
mention what state you live in, but every state has a land grant
university that serves as an agricultural extension for homeowners
(example: Penn State for Pennsylvania). Most of them have plant
diagnostic labs where a homeowner can send samples to be analyzed.
These universities are also familiar with local growing conditions
and regional plant problems. I would suggest contacting your state
agricultural university for help in diagnosing your problem.
I went to a local nursery to buy a pineapple guava fruit tree and
they told me I need 2 trees in order to get fruit. Is this
true? Or are they trying to sell an extra one to make money?
A: Some plants like Hollies (Ilex) require separate male and
female plants for pollination, so those plants are known as being dioecious
(two households). Other plants have both male and female
reproductive units and are known
as monoecious (one
household). Even though Pineapple
guava is in the second category (self fertile),
two plants are still needed for cross-pollination to bring about
better fruit quality. Therefore, the nursery is looking after your
best interests by recommending two plants. The California Rare Fruit
Growers (CRFG) has a
to explain much more about specific cultivars of pineapple guava.
I have a very large pine tree that
has dripped sap all over my deck and patio furniture. I am not
sure why this year it has started to do this but I was wondering if
I tapped the tree, would it stop it from dripping? The tree is
approximately 4 - 5 stories high. The needles are 3.5 inches long
and are connected at the tops in groups of about 4 - 5 needles
together and are very flexible. The pine
cones that fall of the tree are long and narrow vs short and
fat and they are covered with the white sap. In fact the pine cones
are the only place I can actually see sap. Cindy
description of your evergreen tree, which sounds like an Eastern
White Pine (Pinus strobus) with bundles of 5 soft needles
that are nearly 4-inches long. Tapping the tree would not be the
solution to your problem with dripping sap. This is more likely to
be an insect problem shared by deciduous trees: Aphids. We
most often hear of sticky sap dripping on parked cars under shade
trees. However, there is also an insect called White Pine Aphid
that behaves in a similar manner, sucking sap out of the tree and
dripping the excess honeydew onto objects below, like your deck.
This dripping often causes black sooty mold to grow on tree
branches, giving them a black velvety appearance (see photo below of
black sooty mold on tree leaves). Another symptom is
ant activity in the tree, since ants form a symbiotic relationship
with aphids, moving them to the best feeding spots (usually branch
tips) while the ants benefit from their honeydew excretions.
While aphids that feed on most shrubs are green, White Pine aphids
So if this hypothesis is correct, your solution would be to
eliminate the aphids. If your tree was smaller and the infestation
was light, you could try removing the rows of shiny black eggs on
the needles and twigs over the winter. With a 40 to 50 foot tall
tree, your options become more limited. For spraying, it would
require the big sprayers of a tree service to reach the top of the
tree with a spray application, the least toxic being an insecticidal
soap or dormant oil. Another option would be applying Bayer
Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control, which gets mixed
with water and applied at the base of the tree. Always read and
follow label directions. If you decide to use the Bayer product, I
would suggest waiting until March (in Massachusetts) to make the
application. If you chose a dormant oil instead, it would have to be
applied by a tree service in late winter. If insecticidal soap was
your choice, that application would work best in Spring while the
insects are active.
Here is a PDF info sheet with photos from the University of
I had a sweet gum
tree cropped way back. There is new growth on the branches that
were cut back at the end of May. But now I’ve got all the roots
coming up from the ground. I cannot mow around them... I want to
stop the roots from coming up above ground. How do I do that?
Trees are known for 2 types of fast-growing, vertical sprouts: water
sprouts and suckers. Water sprouts grow from the branches, while
suckers grow from roots. It sounds like you have suckers growing
from the roots. Sandy has a good
about shoots from tree roots.
Sweet Gum trees are known for two major annoyances; one is the
spikey gumballs they drop and the other is surface roots. Again,
Sandy's Tree Tips has a good
Most trees have attributes people don't like, after all, consider
how many people complain about raking-up fallen leaves once a year,
even after their trees have provided them with cool shade for an
entire summer. It's human nature. Sweet Gums are annoying on many
counts, but I still value them for their unique star-shaped leaves
and that fantastic 3-level fall color shown in the photo.
years ago we purchased a tri-color beech. The problem we are
having is that it is not getting any new branches. When we purchased
it, it was very thin and sparse. I was hoping it would start to fill
in with new branches but it hasn't. It has grown a little taller and
there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the tree. It reminds me
of the Christmas tree Charlie Brown had in the Christmas special. Is
there anything I can do to encourage new branches? I know it is a
slow growing tree and I plan on watching it grow for the next 40 or
50 years God willing, but it would be nice to see it fill in a
little. My husband and I live in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Thanks -
Beech trees are some of my favorites (got 3 different purple leafed
varieties). Tri-color Beech trees, as well as other Beeches, usually
do look sparse and stick-like the first five years they are in. That
fact alone causes many tri-colors to get planted way too close to
houses. After years of waiting for the tree to get bigger, they
finally have to be removed, just as they are getting nice. Like any
tree that will eventually get some size to it, they should be
planted at least 15 feet from a house. The Tri-color Beech in the
photo went from a small whip to a specimen in about 30 years with
spring fertilization, and light trimming in earlier years mostly for
As far as encouraging your Beech to grow, the best you can do for
the tree is to water it weekly during dry spells and fertilize it
every spring to encourage new growth. Also check the underside of
leaves periodically for insects, and control them as needed. Most
young trees also benefit from having an area around the base of the
trunk free of lawn grasses, since turf does compete with trees more
than people realize. An area free of grass also gives some
protection from weedeaters and lawnmowers damaging the thin bark.
I have a southern magnolia that was planted in Zone 5 about 10 years
ago. It has been doing very well but it will soon grow too large
for the area – too close to the house. It does have new stems
growing from the base of the root. I have been considering removing
the tree and allowing the new growth to take over or would I have
success with some major pruning? Mike
Most Magnolias seem to be very resilient when being
pruned or cutback, provided they are in good health, and not
weakened by anything (like scale insects). Either method you
mentioned should work if you do your cutting in spring, right before
new growth starts. This will remove spring flowers of course. Follow
up your pruning by fertilizing the Magnolia, according to the label
instructions on whatever fertilizer product used. While most trees
prefer a 2-1-1 ratio fertilizer (like a 20-10-10) most flowering
plants do well with more phosphorus, as in a 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer.
However, some states now have restrictions on the use of phosphorus
have several Roses Of Sharon's, when should I trim them? Thank
The old rule of thumb for trimming flowering shrubs is to always
prune them within a few weeks after they finish blooming. That way
you never take any flower buds off. This advice applies best to
those plants that set their flower buds over the summer for next
spring's bloom (like Azaleas and Rhododendrons). You have a bit more
wiggle-room with Rose of Sharon (formerly labeled ALTHEA, now
labeled HIBISCUS) since they form their flower buds on new growth
that develops in the spring. Therefore, long story short, don't
prune your Rose of Sharon after it starts putting on new growth in
the spring through the bloom period in the summer. Anytime after
that (fall or early spring before they push out new growth) should
be fine for pruning them. The white blooming 'Diana' (in the photo)
is a very striking one if you like a multitude of large, pure white
blossoms, and have room for another shrub.
We have several apple trees and a couple of cherry trees that
need trimming next spring. The problem is they were victims of
locusts or cicadas last spring there are several branches on each
tree that have damaged limbs due to the bugs. How much of these
damaged limbs should be trimmed? Or will they recover from the
damage? Thank You, Tommy H.
A: Depending on the extent of the cicada damage, some smaller
twigs may die back from the "slitting" damage (from egg
laying) while larger branches
may have enough remaining tissue on their circumference for them to
maintain adequate structural strength and survive until the branches
can put on some new growth. You'll almost have to judge each branch
individually as you are trimming, or wait until next spring and
determine which branches are putting on good new growth, and which
ones are struggling. It may not be necessary to remove entire
branches, instead pruning off only the damaged areas. Always prune a
branch back to a bud pointing in the direction you would like new
growth to go. These are almost always the "outward facing" buds.
I have three very large trees that have sawdust at the base. I
suspect a borer of some nature. What would you recommend to kill
the borer. I live near Charlotte, North Carolina and each of these
trees are about 25" in diameter so I do not want to lose them. The
type of tree is a hardwood, not an oak or maple as it has rough
bark. Also the leaves fell off the tree most of the summer. Please
Upon closer examination you should be able to spot exit holes if
your trees are infested with borers. These would resemble holes you
might make if you drilled into the tree with an electric drill, but
they aren't always round holes. The exit holes of Bronze Birch Borer
and the deadly Emerald Ash Borer (photo on left) that is leaving a
trail of death down through the upper midwest, are both "D"
shaped holes. The bark of ash trees gets kind of roughed-up looking around
these borer holes. Most borers are considered an insect you
prevent instead of "cure." Both ash and birch trees are now
being preventatively treated with Bayer's Tree & Shrub Insect
Control, which advertises 12-month effectiveness against labeled
insects. Always read the label and follow the instructions. It is
important to identify what type of trees you have prior to treatment
with an insecticide.
agricultural cooperative extension professionals at North
Carolina State should be able to assist you with that, and
answer any additional questions. NC State may even have an extension
office in your county. You could have carpenter ants working in the
heartwood of your trees. Ants aren't usually present unless the
outer bark of a tree has been compromised or there are some dead
branch stubs to ease their entry into the heartwood.
(The photo on the right shows extensive damage to heartwood from
April 2010 - Emerald Ash Borer has now been detected in 13 US
states and 2 Canadian provinces, tracked in this order: Michigan
2002, Ontario 2002, Ohio 2003, Indiana 2004, Illinois 2006, Maryland
2006, Pennsylvania 2007, West Virginia 2007, Missouri 2008, Quebec
2008, Virginia 2008 (originally 2003), Wisconsin 2008, Minnesota
2009, Kentucky 2009, New York 2009.
I have a
silver maple that appears to be bleeding sap and it is attracting
bees and flies. I'm not sure if the wound is from
woodpeckers/sapsuckers. The tree is near the path to our front
door. How do we get rid of the bees and flies without further
damage to the tree and what should I do for the tree? Thank you -
A: It sounds like we may be dealing with a
couple different issues here. When I hear “maple” and “dripping sap”
in the same sentence, the first things that come to mind are aphids
and ants. Aphids (“ph” in aphids pronounced like “f”) are small
sucking insects that remove sugary sap (honey dew... the other kind)
and inhabit mostly branch tips. Since they remove an excess amount
of sugary sap, ants co-habitate with them, creating a symbiotic
relationship. Ants get the extra sugar, and in turn, the ants move
the aphids around to the best feeding points on the tree, usually
the succulent new growth. If you have ever parked your car under a
tree like this, you’ll get that sticky drip all over the paint and
windows. If you see ants busy going up and down a maple trunk, this
is usually the problem. The solution is to get rid of the aphids by
having the tree professionally sprayed or by using an insecticide
like Bayer’s Tree and Shrub Care (Read and follow label
instructions). Large trees may be hard to properly treat due to
aspect of this problem with dripping honeydew is that collects on
leaves and stems, becoming very attractive to bees. This sticky
substance will begin to turn black, as it grows black sooty mold. (Photo: Magnolia tree with black
leaves from oyster
shell scale excretions that grew sooty mold). Once you solve
the source of your problem – aphids – the other problems will clear
up by themselves.
Sapsucker damage is easy to identify since there is usually a row of
holes in the tree trunk. These woodpeckers will come back on
occasion for a snack on whatever insects may have moved into those
holes, so they are continually reopening the same holes. While these
openings in a tree trunk are not desirable, they rarely seem to
cause serious damage. I haven't seen many of these holes that bleed,
but it is possible that when "the sap is up" in a maple they could.
I'm still guessing your main problem is aphids.
When is the best time to trim the lower
of an apple
tree? We were told
to trim all lower branches from the trunk because it is hard on the
tree to keep those branches healthy and strong. Is this true?
in Pennsylvania trim their apple trees in late winter. Production
apple trees are usually trimmed to encourage
horizontal branches that are evenly and adequately
spaced apart, sort of like rungs on a ladder (see photo). Low
branches are considered desirable since they are easier to reach
when it is time to pick the apples.
I have a beautiful Tri-color Beech planted 5½ feet off the front of
my home, 3 feet in circumference and between 35 and 40 ft. tall.
I love the tree but there are two issues: It covers a third of my 3
story home and I am especially worried about the roots damaging the
foundation and plumbing. What do you recommend?
For some reason, Tri-Color Beech trees tend to get planted way too
close to house foundations. Maybe it's because they look so spindly
when they are first planted. Keep in mind that most foundation
plantings have a 17-year lifespan, and need to be renovated
periodically. Sounds like you are at the point where this tree needs
to be removed. Most trees should be planted at least 12 to 15 feet
away from the foundation of your house, even if they are
slow-growing varieties like most Beech trees. Otherwise, plant a
tree you can only enjoy for a limited number of years, knowing it
will have to be replaced with a new tree in 10 to 20 years. It's
always hard to cut down anything you planted, especially something
as beautiful as a Beech! Photo: Tri-color Beech planted as a lawn
tree 25 years earlier.
have two Bradford pear trees that had blight last year. I had
them trimmed and they were beautiful this spring. I live in North
Carolina and we had lots of rain early spring. One of the trees is
absolutely beautiful, green beautiful leaves; the other one did not
have green leaves after it bloomed in the spring. It has, for the
last month, had a loss of leaves as if it were late fall. Is there
any hope for this Bradford pear or should I just give up and have it
sounds like your Pear might be on its way out, but you may want to
give it another 9 months to see for sure. You should know which way
things are going after it develops its new growth next spring.
Remember not to over-fertilize Pears (with nitrogen) since they are
susceptible to fire
blight disease, and lush growth is more vulnerable.
Fire blight makes affected leaves look scorched.
I noticed one of my trees has a branch of leaves that is turning
yellow. I went over and the bark is split from the base going up
the tree. I am wondering if it was struck by lightning and if so,
what can I do? Is there something I should be doing, or just leave
A: Thanks for the photos
Nancy, they really helped. I'm going to go out on a limb and say
that your tree is a Silver Maple that suffered from
Sunscald one winter about 4 years ago. What is "SW Sunscald?"
During frigid winter days that are sunny, the bark on the southwest
side of a tree trunk can get heated-up and split, causing this type
of injury. The good news is that your tree appears to be showing
good callus growth in an attempt to compartmentalize the wound, and
there doesn't appear to be any bleeding or wet spot in the trunk
We have two 10-year-old weeping cherry trees, that do not weep,
whatsoever. When we first bought them they had a dozen or so little
twig branches that were weeping. Now there are 15-20 and nothing
weeps. They look gangly and sparse...what can I do to help them get
healthy and can I ever get them to weep again?
A: Weeping cherries are
"grafted" meaning they are two different trees joined together. It
is possible that the top part of your tree (the grafted "weeping
branches" part) died off and the branches you are seeing are growing
from the lower part of the tree. On
weeping cherry trees
that have both types of branches, the branches growing straight up
should be removed (yellow line in photo indicates where to cut off
vertical sprouts) leaving only the weeping branches in place.
We have a 15 year old
Bradford Pear in a neighborhood of 20-year-old Bradford Pears,
they are all so healthy except ours. We lost one 10' tall one to
wind last year and found that the base was rotten. We have the
15-year-old, about 30' tall, and it is dying. I inspected the base
of trunk and found the same rotten bark with insects boring into the
trunk. Can we save it? Why is this happening to our trees and not
the neighbor's? The whole street is lined with them. Thank you.
The fact that your neighborhood developer practiced "monoculture"
reminds one of
midwestern US streets that were full of nothing but
Elms, that were later decimated by Dutch Elm Disease, and the
ongoing decimation of Ash trees by Emerald Ash Borer. It is always
best to mix a few varieties of trees so that one tree ailment can't
annihilate an entire population. In the case of your neighborhood's
Bradford Pears, the time-bomb in this case is their fragile
structure with "V-crotch" branching and fast growing, weak wood. It
seems to be around the 15 to 20 year point that a wind or
breaks them in half, vertically. Without attempting to diagnosis
your remaining tree, I would suggest replacing it with another
variety of tree that does well in your area, and a good local
nursery can provide their recommendations. TreeBoss recommends "mom
and pop" nurseries instead of big box stores when it comes to buying
trees and plant material.
We have a
dogwood planted in front of our house that has been there since
we moved in 7 years ago. Is this a good time to prune this tree
as it needs a haircut and is quite overgrown. What tool(s) should
be use to prune??? Please advise. Thank you - Debbie
Trimming Dogwoods in late summer, fall, winter or early spring will
remove the flower buds that have already "set" for the next spring
(these buds are shaped like Hershey kisses).
That being said, it is often more important to do the trimming than
miss one season's flower show. It is best NOT to trim Dogwoods
during the flight of the Dogwood borer, which occurs in late spring
or early summer.
Prune your tree with three basic tools depending on what size branch
you are cutting. These 3 tools are hand pruners, loppers and a
pruning saw. Hand pruners should be used for the smallest branches,
and a pruning saw on the largest branches. Mid-sized branches can be
trimmed using loppers. Make your cuts close to the remaining branch so
that you don't leave a stub, but don't remove the swollen area at
the base of each branch known as the "collar." On larger branches,
remove most of the weight first, before making your finish cut, by
cutting-off the branch 12-inches or more away from the trunk
(undercut the branch 1/3 of the way through, then finish your cut
from the top -- This helps prevent torn bark). Photo: "Red"
tend to look pink when they bloom.
About 4 months ago,
husband and I planted two pin oaks in our backyard. We live in
NW Georgia about 30 miles from Alabama. Anyway, as you know we’ve
had drought conditions for a few years. One tree is fine, the other
appears to be dead. We’re wondering what we should do with the one
that looks dead, because there are offshoots at the bottom of the
trunk that look healthy. Please advise.
like you "lost" your one Pin Oak, but the root system is still
alive. If you want to nurse along what is left, pick the best
looking sprout and train it into being your new single-leader tree.
Remove the other sprouts. This wouldn't work with a grafted tree,
since the root stock is a different type of tree than the top part
of the tree, but it is doubtful your Pin Oak was grafted. Oaks are
usually best transplanted in the Spring of the year, so if you do
replace it, make plans for doing that next spring. Try to thoroughly
water new trees once a week for their first year during droughts.
Photo: Pin Oaks are one of the fastest growing Oaks, also forming
swooping lower branches, so give them room to grow.
I've had 2 estimates from reputable tree services. One recommends
topping of my 5 maples, the other says they 'don't top trees -
it's bad for them'. How am I to know what is right? Thanks
A: Topping of
trees is an undesirable practice, especially when the trunks and
branches being removed are over 4-inches in diameter. Remaining
branches that large may never properly compartmentalize the wound.
Also, the new growth that results from heavy cuts results in
vertical sprouting ("water sprouts") which ruins the tree's natural
form forever. Anyone with a chainsaw can top a tree, and it takes
less time, but it takes a professional arborist to properly reduce
tree size without topping. Most trees that need topped should be
removed with the stump ground-out, then a new tree planted to replace
them. One topping leads to many more toppings in the years to come,
often every few years. Super-fast growing Silver Maples are the most-topped trees in the Northeastern US. Try to plant trees that
will be the
right size, in the right place. Many homeowners inherit these
problem trees from their predecessors. Photo: Each 'topped' branch now has
multiple vertical sprouts, ruining the tree's natural form forever.
The neighbors cut down a silver maple tree a couple of years ago. They
now have a large patch of what appears to be hard, white mold in
that spot. Does this sound like something you have heard of, and if
so, how should it be gotten rid of? Mark
That hard white mold you describe sounds like a fungus growing on
the decaying stump. Another symptom you will often see from decaying
underground tree parts are "fairy rings" which expand outward and
kill lawn grasses behind the ring. The solution to these problems is
having tree stumps and major roots ground-out with a stump grinder
when a tree is removed. Unfortunately, many Silver Maples grow so
large that it becomes a major job (and expense) to grind all of the
stump, let alone a majority of the roots. All the same, your
neighbor could still rent a stump grinder and attempt the task, or
contract with a stump grinding service.
I have an aspen tree that we needed to attach to another aspen tree
to encourage its straight growth. We used rubber/vinyl perforated
piece of material to cover the bark and then a small gauge rope to
attach them. Well, no doubt you where I’m going….the tree grew
enormously this year and the rope seems to be cutting the bark…how
can I save this tree? I wonder if I remove the rope and material if
I will kill the tree? It does not go around the whole circumference
of the tree? Do I leave it alone? Please and thanks and oops!
A: It's not uncommon for
bindings around tree trunks to become constricting before they are
noticed, so at least you noticed your problem, hopefully in time.
Unfortunately, commercial plantings around businesses and apartment
complexes seem to rarely get checked for this developing problem one
year after new plantings are installed, and we've seen many trees
die from 'girdling' by support wires and synthetic ropes.
a photo (our file photo on right) it is impossible to know how deep
your rope has cut into the bark, but I would suggest using a box
cutter or snips to cut the constricting rope in one place, just to
relieve the tension. If the rope isn't very deep into the bark it
can be removed, but don't cause excessive bark damage just to remove
the rope. Relieving the tautness of the girdling rope may be enough
to save your tree.
Q: I have a
large broad leaf tree.
After a freeze last winter it is not growing or showing any leaves
above the approx. 3 foot mark. This is a 10 foot tree, that I
planted 2 years ago that I bought from a local seller. Only now it
is a 3 foot bush with 7 feet of dead growing out of the top. Can I
cut the top off or is it best to lose the whole tree? Please help or
lead me in the correct direction!...Thanks for your time!!
like a classic case of freeze damage, as you suspected. The lower
portion that survived may have been insulated by snow around the
base of the tree. Your best bet would be to cut-off the dead top
just above a living side branch. Slant your cut to encourage water
If you want to turn your tree back into a single-leader tree instead
of letting it remain a bush, select one of the best side branches
near the top and train it upright to become the new leader. This can
be done using something like an old yard stick or heavy dowel rod
that is several feet long. You'll be using that stick or rod like a
"splint" wrapping the lower portion around the existing tree trunk
and the upper portion around the side branch. It may be impossible
to get the side branch completely vertical without snapping it off,
so don't overdo it. Check your wrappings each month to make sure
they aren't constricting the trunk or the branch "in training."
After a year or so, the side branch will stay in the upright
position on its own and become the new tree top.
Keep in mind that if
this tree isn't hardy in your area, it could freeze back again
during future winter cold snaps.
Q: I have
20 year old sugar maple that has split-off a quarter of the tree.
What can I do to this tree if anything?
guessing this splitting-out created a large open wound in the trunk
of the tree where some branches were previously located. There may
not be much you can do to restore the tree if the damage is
significant, but you can still follow some basics by removing any
damaged branches or branch stubs, and cutting loose bark back to
where it is firmly attached. TreeBoss does not recommend sealing
large open trunk wounds with paint.
I am having
a BIG problem with Trees of Heaven and I don't know what to do.
I believe the invasive roots and small trees that come up everywhere
are lifting my home. I would gladly take down the trees (even though
I don't believe in downing trees). What can I do??? If I take the
trees down how do I kill the roots? They are now coming up in my
neighbors yard going under a cement block wall. I feel that my house
is being pulled apart and I'm very worried. Is there ANY kind of
help or advice you can give me. Thank you for any help.
indeed these trees are lifting your house and damaging surrounding
property, you may have to break your rule of not downing trees and
whack `em. Once a tree is removed that has roots that continue to
sprout, you need to stay vigilant and keep removing any new shoots
that appear. Eventually the roots will weaken and die. If you decide
to use herbicides to kill the shoots and roots faster, check with
your local garden center for the appropriate product to use in your
area. Always read and follow label instructions.
I have a large tree in my backyard that has a split in the trunk
but the tree is still growing and looks fine. Yesterday I noticed
some fresh saw dust at the base of the tree. In reading your website
I saw you explain “southwest sunscald” and talked about bleeding
wounds. The area of my tree that is split does face southwest and
there is a small area that is bleeding. Can the saw dust be the
result of carpenter ants; or termites? What can I do to save my
tree? Thank you.
mentioned two troublesome symptoms with your tree: an area that is
bleeding (wetwood) and fresh sawdust. Ongoing bleeding is a sure
sign of disease, and you named two of the likely culprits for
sawdust: termites and carpenter ants... borers would be the third.
You didn't mention what kind of tree it is, so it is impossible to
make specific recommendations.
Carpenter ant damage
What time of the year is best - for trimming a very old honey locust
A: The old saying is to trim
trees "anytime the saw is sharp." While this applies in most cases,
there are some trees that shouldn't be trimmed at certain times of
the year. Oaks shouldn't be trimmed April thru October due to the
prevalence of Oak Wilt disease pathogens, and Dogwoods shouldn't be
trimmed in spring while their nemesis, the Dogwood borer, is active.
To avoid the "drip" of freshly trimmed Maples, they should be
trimmed while fully leafed out. TreeBoss isn't aware of any limiting
factors or specific timing requirements when it comes to trimming a
recently moved to a new home, and
think is an ash tree, was mostly dead. Once we started a
sprinkling schedule it got shoots on the trunk, which is only about
2 inches in diameter. It also got a couple of suckers growing at
the bottom. We cut off the dead trunk and branches. It has been
about three weeks now, and the new growth looks nice and healthy.
What would be the best to do? Encourage one of the side growths,
which are about two feet above the ground, to grow straight, or to
allow one of the suckers to grow and cut the original trunk away?
A: You didn't
mention where you live, but most Ash trees in the north central US
(Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and surrounding states) are now
subject to being totally wiped out by the
Emerald Ash Borer. Perhaps your Ash was already
infested and is making its comeback attempt. Affected Ashes will
reveal themselves with dieback in the crown of the tree, and bark on
the trunk exhibiting "D"-shaped exit holes from the EAB. If it is an
Ash, you are probably best off to remove it and plant a hardier and
more desirable species. To answer your other question in a more
general sense, I would go with culturing one root sucker, assuming
the tree isn't grafted (the roots and trunk belong to the same
I have six 14-ft
tall white pines, and I use a 10' ladder to stand on to trim the
tops... I took a wooden 1x2, made a holder on the end to attach my
hedge clipper, lay the ladder against one side of the tree to trim
the tops of each tree. Unfortunately due to the landscape on the
opposite side I can not use my 10' ladder but can use an 8' folding
ladder on a terrible angle but can reach the opposite top. I am
getting too old to continue this process and do not want the trees
to grow higher and get out of control. I would like to consider
making the trees shorter so I can trim them without the effort I
currently have. I am concerned that if I were to bring them down to
about 10-ft tall, would that be too drastic and kill them or should
they sprout enough so they can be trimmed?
Thank you - Doug
"Topping" trees to reduce their height always presents risks, but it
may be a much more acceptable risk than you over-reaching from
precarious ladders and scaffolding set-ups. You didn't mention your
age, but falls have proven to be the beginning of the end for many
senior citizens. If you were to purchase a lightweight pole pruner (TreeBoss
uses one with 6-foot fiberglas pole sections that lock together,
with a lightweight pruning head on top pulled by a rope to activate
the cutter) you could do your trimming with your feet planted
firmly on the ground. A second alternative to topping the trees
would be hiring a landscaper or arborist to trim your White Pines
every June. If you are forced into topping your trees, try to make
your topping cut just above a "whorl" of side branches while leaving
as little of a trunk stub protruding above the branches as possible.
Slant your cut slightly if possible, to promote
rain water runoff. This will definitely ruin the shape
of your pines for several years, making them look "flat-topped." (sheared
White Pine in accompanying photo)
The bark at the base of the trunk on our 10-year old Red Oak, is
splitting and falling off on one side. The tree appears
healthy. The leaves are green and it appears to be growing well. We
need to find out if the bark problem is normal bark loss due to
growth, or if there is a problem. William P.
A: Your bark
splitting could be caused by a few different things:
1. It could be some sort of a canker disease causing the splitting.
2. If it is occurring on the southwest side of the tree, it might be
caused by "southwest sunscald" which is due to a strong winter sun
heating up the bark on a frigid day and causing the splitting due to
a temperature difference. You didn't mention if the wound is
bleeding (wet) or not.
3. Weedwhackers are also problematic when they are used around the
base of trees, damaging the bark and causing basal wounds on trees
that open them up to various destructive pathogens. Try to keep
grass away from your tree trunk by using mulch or hand-pulling any
If you have a digital photo of your bark split, please send it, as
photos always help with any distant diagnosis. You didn't say what
state you live in, but you might also consider taking advantage of
land grant university's agricultural
cooperative extension service as a great source of
Q: I live in
northern New Jersey and last week one of my pine trees showed
lots of inner needles that have just recently turned yellow and shed.
It is May now so I was wondering what could cause that quite heavy
shed, that has since subsided significantly. Is the tree dying?
Thank you for the photo, they always help answer these sorts of
questions. It looks like your pine has a "needle cast" disease, not
sure which one. You can send a sample to Rutgers for ID and control
suggestions. See the bottom of page 3 on this
PDF fact sheet from your state's land grant university, Rutgers.
Here is the URL for their diagnostic clinic – they do charge – but
it's worth finding out which disease it is and follow any actions
that can be taken:
A note to
other readers: Every state in the U.S. has a land grant
university with a wide array of agricultural support services
available for residents. I would encourage use of them (most are
free of charge) and then remind your state legislators how valuable
these agricultural extension services are to all of us. TreeBoss
I just planted an Austrian pine 10 feet from a buried gas line.
Is that far enough? Also, my thundercloud flowering plum is 2 feet
from the phone line, 4 feet from electrical and 10 feet from the
same gas line. Is this okay? Thanks! Lori B.
Believe it or not, most tree roots are in the top 12 to 18 inches of
the soil. This becomes more obvious to people when they see a tree
that has blown over, like the evergreen in the photo. Most
lines (like water and gas) are usually buried several feet deep, but
depth can vary. Telephone lines are more likely to be shallower, but it
also varies from
house to house. The lines we encounter most often when digging are
cable TV, electric dog fences and lamp post wires.
Silver Maple roots are often an issue with older sewer lines that
were constructed using terra cotta pipe, the type with the "bell"
ends. Roots often find their way into those pipes through leaky
joints and will completely clog them eventually, leading to sewer
line excavation and replacement. Newer sewer lines use plastic pipe
with water-tight glued joints, so we rarely see root clogging issues
Rights of Way: The planting location of trees may be most important
as it relates to existing rights of way within what appears to
be all your property. A good example would be the street in front of a
house, often times being a 50 foot rights of way. Therefore, if the
paved street is only 25 feet wide, the actual rights of way extends
another 12½ feet into your front lawn from the curb. If your
municipality ever decided to widen the street, or add a sidewalk,
anything planted in that area would be subject to removal. The same
would apply to trees planted in a rights of way for any other major
utility line running through your property, if that line has to be
excavated, you will lose your trees. Major gas line rights of ways
are kept clear of trees, since windthrow could cause the line to be
ruptured. Therefore, it is best not to
plant in any rights of way, or too close to overhead lines, since
your utility company may have the right to prune (or remove) trees
without your permission.
I am replacing a Bradford Pear with another tree in front of my very
small townhome in Maryland. The Pear is 10 years old and came
with the townhome when they built it. I had it pruned about 2 years
ago because the neighbors were complaining. It is totally overgrown
and has that V-split and I'm now worried because I keep hearing this
knocking sound when the wind blows. Last summer our neighbor's
Bradford Pear split and fell on the cars. I was wondering if you
had any advice for what type of tree to plant there? I would like it
to get a little bit of height so that it doesn't totally cover our
view from our kitchen windows and I do appreciate the shade trees
provide. Thanks for your help. Madeline P.
sounds, especially in the night, aren't a good sign, so you were
smart to remove the tree. It sounds like you want a high-branched
tree that you can see under, while also having one that provides
shade in a narrow place. That puts us into the category of
columnar trees -- those that grow fairly tall yet have a narrow
growth form. There are three columnar trees that come to mind:
Armstrong Maple, Columnar Hornbeam and Columnar Oak. We've found
that Columnar Hornbeams do best in locations that aren't too hot and
dry (like those with extensive pavement around them). An Armstrong
Maple would grow a bit faster than the Columnar Oak.
fruit on a weeping cherry tree edible? Thank you - Charles H.
though we don't often see it on weeping cherry trees, some
ornamental cherries can produce fruit, like Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula.’
Those cherry trees with single blossoms (that retain their stamens
and pistils) are more likely to produce fruit than double-flowered
types (the second ring of petals replaces the stamens and pistils).
The University of Arkansas rates the toxicity of plants here.
These fruits are listed there as being generally considered non-toxic to humans.
replacing trees in our condominium complex due to old age and
tree roots coming up in people’s basements. Are there any trees
that have better root systems than others that can be planted that
grow down to alleviate this potential problem in years to come. lt
would have to be able to survive winter as I live in the
Detroit/Windsor, Ontario area. Thank you very much - D.K.
When asked to provide more details:
I think they were silver maple and some trees that have surface
roots-a different kind that makes it hard to cut the grass. Are
there any varieties that have a tap root that go down first and then
spread to lessen basement damage? Are evergreen trees acceptable?
In many cases, it's not so much of planting the right tree as not
planting the wrong tree. Sure, that sounds like double-talk, but
most problems are caused by a relatively small number of trees. From
my experience, I'll narrow my list to two trees:
#1 - Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) causes more maintenance
and service calls than any other tree I have come across. Why do
people plant them? Because they are fast growing and provide
quick shade. That is where the benefits end, since they soon become
too big and form dangerous "V" crotches, while their roots are busy
clogging older terra-cotta style sanitary sewer lines. To deal with
their size, tree owner's often compound their problem by having them
'topped' instead of just removing them and planting a more desirable
Silver Maples are very surface rooted.
- Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford') is what looks
like a great tree during its first 15 to 20 years of growth; white
flowers, glossy green leaves and a neat shape. However, rapid growth
and weak "V" crotches set this tree up for wind storm or ice damage
just about the time they are really looking good. 'Cleveland Select'
is a better variety to plant if you still desire a flowering pear.
Roots: Most tree roots are within the top 12 to 18 inches of
the soil surface, but surface rooted trees like Maples, become more
objectionable in lawn areas as trees age. I wouldn't necessarily
avoid planting all Maples for this reason, since the fall color of
varieties like 'Red Sunset' can be hard to beat, and the burgundy
summer color of 'Crimson King' is classic. Oaks are deeper rooted
trees, and while Pin Oak is usually the most commonly planted lawn
Oak, you would probably find it's swooping lower branches a problem
eventually. For a stately Oak, my favorite is still Red Oak, but
large trees need more of a park like setting with plenty of room and
time to grow. Other long term investment trees are the Beech family,
purple-leaf, tri-color, fernleaf and weeping, just to name a few.
Choices: Other issues to consider when planting and placing
trees in your condo area would be whether or not they are "messy"
trees that drop twigs, seeds, spent flowers or fruit. Avoid trees
with recurring disease and insect problems by looking for
'resistant' varieties. An example would be planting River Birch
instead of European White Birch, since it has natural immunity to
the birch borer. Crabapples are very popular for their spring color
and winter fruit, but many varieties have considerable disease
issues, so make your selections carefully. 'Snowdrift' is still one
of my favorite white crabs.
Evergreens: As much as I love White Pines in the right place,
they are overused in commercial plantings in many areas and become
too much for property owners to handle, since they grow 3-feet a
year without timely candle pruning every June. For an evergreen with
more compact growth that requires less trimming, and whitetail deer
resistance as well, the Colorado or Norway Spruce is an option.
Summary: Plant a mixture of trees so you aren't wiped-out by
one blight or insect infestation. Allow trees room to grow by only
planting smaller varieties near buildings. Use 'improved varieties'
when possible. Plant container grown trees carefully by slicing
circling roots, and remove all bindings from root balls and trunks
that won't decay. Establish a tree inventory with a monitoring and
maintenance program for the coming years, and then practice
preventive maintenance, just like you would with your automobile.
Water young trees weekly during droughts. Find a reputable
nurseryman in your area who can visit your condo property and make
specific tree planting recommendations for your climate and
location. Also locate an arborist who knows how to properly prune
trees (not just run a chainsaw) and have him perform periodic
pruning as the trees age.
tree is growing right next to my foundation and I am concerned
about the roots damaging my house foundation. Can you tell me the
most efficient and least expensive way to get rid of the tree
growing under my window and the stump?
Right now it is about as tall as the top of my
window; maybe 7 or 8 feet tall.
Sincerely – Dana B. in Texas
squirrels and rodents manage to plant acorns in the wrong spot, and
this would be one of them. I would definitely remove the tree since
it is so close to your foundation and will never cohabitate well.
(Imagine the 'Mighty Oak' in the photo growing next to your window) The least expensive way to get rid of this oak is using a small
pruning saw -- we like the folding-type pruning saws that lock open,
and fold-up small enough to fit in your back pocket. We prefer the
Felco 60 folding saw (with a 6-inch blade) that costs
around $20). These are small yet mighty tools, and very sharp, so be
Begin by cutting down the tree that is currently there. Since it is
over head height, it would be best to remove individual branches
first (you could even use pruning loppers for many of these), then
cut the trunk down in sections. Cutting the tree into 3-foot lengths
will also make it easier to bundle and dispose of, possibly with
your curbside trash pickup. Check the tree stump every two weeks for
any re-growth and continue to remove all sprouts. Eventually the
tree and stump will fade away due to depleted energy reserves.
If you go further and attempt to remove the stump, it would require
some tedious hand-digging or stump grinding in tight spaces. Those
would be more expensive jobs best left to professionals. You need to
locate your private and public utility lines (gas line, water line,
electric, sprinkler lines, etc) before any stump removal work is
zone is okay for planting a Norfolk Pine outside? Barbara
A: Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria
heterophylla) is a warm weather plant native to southern
latitudes and doesn't like frost or any sort of cold temperatures in
the 30-degree F. range or below. Therefore, Zone 11 would be your
I had two very small White oak saplings growing in pots on my deck
that I grew from acorns. Both were ripped out of their pots by some
neighborhood kids and I was wondering if they (the saplings) could
be saved. I am not sure how long they were laying on the ground,
but I repotted them as soon as I found them and watered them well.
Is there anything else I can do? Any chance these might actually
live? Thanks - Sean
You did the best thing you could, repot the seedlings, water them
in, and hope for the best. You should know the final outcome by
June. Keep them watered but don't overwater them and kill them with
kindness. I've seen wildlife, like squirrels, do similar uprooting
work in my own yard. Also, some animals are drawn to organic
fertilizers placed in the root zone of plants, especially those
planted close to a woodsline or natural area. In the chance that
yours were uprooted by wildlife, you may want to protect them in
We'll call my accompanying photo "Garden Lockdown"
Are the needles on a Washington Hawthorn tree poisonous?
TreeBoss reply: You mean to eat?
No. My husband was pruning the tree and one of the thorns stuck him
in the finger. It swelled up and that has been a week ago. It still
isn't right. So we were wondering if the thorns have a numbing or
poison on them. Thank you, Mrs. H.A.
Take him to a hospital emergency room, he may have
another infection! Years ago, while trimming for a local
dermatologist, he warned me about thorns and sporotrichosis.
While usually associated with rose thorns, this fungus exists in
nature and is common on baled hay, conifers and particularly sphagnum moss. All wounds from
thorns should be treated with special attention, especially
on people with compromised immune systems.
When working around Hawthorns, wear leather gloves and a heavy
jacket if possible, as well as some eye protection. When it comes to
shrubs, Barberry is the very worst for having thorns that
break off under your skin.
3 of my Japanese Maples had the bark chewed away around the entire
circumference of the tree, up to a height of eight inches. On
two of the trees the bark stripping continued onto the lower
branches. We had a large amount of snow cover and when the snow
melted there were both rabbit and what appeared to be mice type
droppings. I am wondering if these trees will survive? And if I
should do anything as far as covering or treating the damaged areas.
Thanks much! Deby from Michigan
This type of bark damage is usually caused by rabbits or other small
rodents like mice, often under the protection of snow cover. I see
this type of chewing most often on Burning Bush and have included a
photo below of similar, but much less severe damage. This is one
reason it is not recommended to mulch up around tree trunks. The
first nurseryman I worked for in the early 70's had the economical
solution of having his daughters wrap tree trunks over winter with
several layers of newspaper. These days, there are white plastic
spiral covers that you can place around tree trunks to protect them
from this sort of damage, plus you can always install a basic hoop
of hardware mesh around the trunk for winter protection. Plan for
snow accumulation since rabbits and rodents may be chewing at an
elevated height due to snow depth.
your already-gnawed-off case, about all you can really do is cross
your fingers. It wouldn't hurt, but also won't help much, to place
some of those spiral protectors around the lower trunks of those
trees for some protection from sun and wind. They have holes in them
to provide ventilation. Hopefully the chewing wasn't deep enough to
destroy the phloem and cambium, since the damage covers the entire
circumference and could effectively 'girdle' your trees. Be aware
that your trees may give you false hope by leafing-out this spring,
but then collapsing when they can't get food reserves back down to
their roots through the phloem. You'll know for sure by mid-July. If
the trees do survive, it goes without saying that some sort of
protection will be in order for subsequent winters. Good luck!
We have a large (30-40 foot) Austrian Pine in our backyard that we
understand is infected with Diplodia tip blight. The needles
have started turning to light green from a vibrant green, and will
likely go yellow before going brown. We had a similar tree beside
this one removed last year with the same infection. Is there any way
to treat/prevent this disease from spreading? We would like to save
this last tree if at all possible. J.K.G. in Canada
The fungus is so bad it even changed its name.... Sphaeropsis
sapinea was formerly Diplodia pinea. Seriously though, it does
affect Austrian Pines and I frequently see it on Scotch Pines
(photo on right - often grown as cut Christmas trees). Older
trees that are well fertilized with nitrogen are most
susceptible, and wet weather favors splashing of this pathogen's
spores throughout the tree, with lower branches usually succumbing
first. As with many other destructive plant diseases and insects,
weakened trees are the most susceptible.
Like many other destructive plant fungi, control measures are
directed at protecting new growth. For Austrian Pines, this
is a 2-week period during, and immediately following spring
bud break (April-May depending on your geographic region). Here's a
Penn State's page on
Sphaeropsis (Diplodia) Tip Blight with specific product
recommendations, which you will need to compare with registered
products in Canada. Always read and follow label directions.
Finally, trees should not be pruned during highly susceptible
periods. If and when deadwood is removed, pruners and saws should be
disinfested with Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol between cuts.
Avoid planting young 2 and 3 needled pines in the vicinity of your
Austrian Pine. (Note: Eastern White Pine - Pinus strobus - is
a 5-needled pine)
I have a mature red oak multi trunk tree with three trunks that
create a reservoir in the middle that holds water. I have tried
to “wick” the water out with a rope, but not sure how successful
that is in the long run. The tree provides our house with shade from
a western exposure. I do not know how deep the reservoir is but
would guess it is about 12”.
Can the trunk rot? Can I fill the reservoir with a material so it
will shed water? Thanks very much for your help - Don L.
A: It's interesting to note that I've probably seen more
multiple-trunked Red Oaks (Quercus rubra) than any other variety of
Oak tree. People usually think of a "clump Birch" when they think of
multiple tree trunks (photo on left). While your case creates an
unusual situation with water ponding in the junction of the three
trunks, it's not necessarily going to threaten the health of the
tree, provided the outer bark is intact on each trunk and still
showing healthy new growth in that area (as opposed to an open trunk
cavity that exposes the heartwood). Removing the water is probably
still a good idea, especially for mosquito control, but try not to
damage the bark.
Attempting to fill that area with any sort of material may actually
make matters worse. Tree cavities have traditionally been filled
with solid material, but of course, the outer bark grows around that
material, eventually compartmentalizing it. In your case, any sort
of solid material would be outside that same bark, restricting
growth and potentially increasing the length of the wet period.
Can I "top" a
Norfolk Pine without killing it? It has grown to 10 feet tall
which is right at my ceiling, and it has no more room for growth.
I've had it for a long time and hate the thought of having to toss
it out. However if I can't top it I have no other choice, because
I'm not cutting a hole in my ceiling. Terry
I think you have a pretty good handle on what
needs to be done if you plan to keep your Norfolk Island Pine
indoors: 1) cut a hole in the ceiling, or 2) top the tree.
I would suggest using a sharp set of hand pruners (similar to what
you would cut roses with) since the tree tissue may be difficult to
cut with any lighter weight hand tools. To play it safe by not
spreading pathogens with your pruners, you can disinfest the blades
of your hand pruners with isopropyl rubbing alcohol first. You
can buy a small inexpensive bottle at your local pharmacy. Read the
Your pruning cut should be made directly above the top whorl of
branches, so you don't leave a stub protruding upward. It's not
necessary to dress the wound with any pruning paint. Your Norfolk
Pine will probably attempt to initiate new growth from around the
pruned area on top, so you will need to prune off new growth as it
appears in order to maintain the trees new height
When a Fraser fir tree is a cut Christmas tree does it have a chance
to be planted back and grow again?
Believe it or not, this isn't the first time TreeBoss has fielded
this question! Last year a family in Florida sent me the same
question and included the photo on the left. It's easy to see why
this phenomenon tricks people into thinking their Christmas trees
have a second life. Eight weeks after Christmas you would expect
your cut Christmas tree to be turning brown, not sprouting new
growth! Especially when you consider that most trees are cut and
shipped before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the answer is the same,
that new growth sprouted due to stored energy in the branches and
buds. Cut Christmas trees don't have any way to sustain life without
roots. On the bright side, look at the extended period of time your
family has had to enjoy this evergreen tree. You could always buy a
B&B tree next year if you wanted one to plant outside, but there are
additional considerations: 1) the tree will be heavier to move and
should only stay indoors for two weeks, and 2) it will have to be a
variety of tree that grows in your area. For more information on
planting live B&B Christmas trees, see
I have a
HUGE black walnut tree in my backyard. I would like to have it
removed as it drops very large branches from time to time, and I
worry about my grandchildren who live next door playing beneath it.
I’ve been told that these trees are very valuable, especially one
this large. It’s approximately 60 inches in diameter, and about
50-60 feet tall. Do you know who I would contact to sell this tree?
I live in upstate NY about 25 miles north of Albany.
Thank you - Judy
Various trees are known for the high value of their saw logs, and
Black Walnut is definitely one of them. The ideal scenario for most
commercial timber is long sections of straight trunk, free of
cavities, knots, and nails. The standard for pine used to be 16-foot
long saw logs that could be easily cut into 16-foot board lengths.
On more valuable wood like walnut, shorter sections of trunk would
probably still be desirable. The idea here, is having good, sound
usable pieces of wood. Nails are bad since they can quickly ruin a
large sawmill blade. Next, it has to be worth a logger's time and
effort to come cut and haul away one tree. They usually contract
large areas of wooded acreage and cut multiple trees, making their
operations more cost-efficient.
Now to your question. I would first check with
Community Forestry at
Cornell University. If that doesn't work, you could then search
online for a local "forestry consultant" or sawmill in your area,
since they are most likely to be in touch with clients searching for
timber. In the meantime, it would be an excellent idea to have all
the deadwood removed from the tree, reducing the chance of injury to
children playing beneath it.
My family came across a tree covered in brilliant red berries when
we were cleaning up broken limbs after a recent ice
storm in northwest Tennessee. I searched
the internet and found that these berries might match a variety of
cotoneaster. The tree is bare of all leaves but full of berries and
it stands around 12 foot tall. Could you look at this picture and
possibly tell me precisely what this tree is? Thank you so much -
Thank you for providing TreeBoss with a good photo of the red fruit
and your location, since every piece of the puzzle helps in
answering these identification questions. Your tree looks like a
Crabapple (Malus) with bright red fruit the birds haven't eaten yet;
by spring the crabapples will probably be gone. Crabapples are most
recognized for their bright blossoms in spring, but many varieties
also have quite striking, colorful fruit in winter. One of my
favorite "old fashioned" varieties of Crab is 'Snowdrift' with its
pure white blossoms. There are also many improved crabapple
"cultivars" (cultivated varieties) available, selected for their
resistance to 3 common Crabapple disease problems: apple scab,
fireblight and cedar-apple rust. Overall, I've found crabapples to
be hardy, strong growers in the landscape.
During the recent winter storm in Kentucky we had our large river
birch damaged. There were 4 main offshoots from the base. One
of them became split from the rest. I trimmed it way back, it is
split from but still attached to one of the other main vertical
offshoots. Is there a way to reattach it? Bob
Even if you could reattach this branch to the tree Coach, it is very
doubtful this major branch would be able to restore itself to a
natural state with good strength, since bark would have to
compartmentalize completely around the torn area. Your best bet is removing the broken branch as
cleanly as possible, without leaving a stub
or any loose bark.
How-to photo: First get the weight off the limb. Undercut the
broken branch first at #1, then cut down from the top at #2. Watch
the cutoff branch doesn't bounce back and "spear" the trunk. Now
that most of the weight is off you can make your "surgical" cuts.
Undercut the remaining stub first at #3 and then finish your cut at
#4. Clean-up any loose edges. Be very careful not to damage any of the healthy
shoots or remaining bark while doing your tree surgery. If you like,
you can paint the exposed edge of healthy bark (1/4-inch wide area
around the open area) with orange shellac, but don't paint the
entire open trunk area with anything. The good news is River Birch
are fast growers and you may forget this even happened in another 5
I have to replace a very old Post Oak tree which has died. This
tree grew no more that 1-foot from the wall of the house, and formed
an umbrella over the entire patio and shaded the west side of my
house. I’ve purchased an
American Sycamore Tree
to replace this stately old oak. Am I making a mistake in planting
this type of tree so close to my house? Thanks - Unsure and in
need of advice - Lewis
No one understands better than you the issues of having a large tree
close to your house, especially with things like encroaching
branches, leaves and tree debris in gutters, and the fear of
collapsing your house's foundation. Sycamore (London Plane Tree) is
known as a "messy" tree that drops quite a bit of debris in addition
to leaves, most notably its "button ball" seeds and exfoliating bark
(see photo). If you have the space available, it is best to plant
large trees at least 15-feet away from your house. Sycamores love
moist areas, typically growing along streams and creeks in the wild.
Should I cut off the 'water sprouts' on my fruitless plum trees?
They are about 12 feet tall and up 7 feet above the first branches.
Thanks - Kristin
A: Whether you have
'fruitless' plum trees or another variety of tree, it is always a
good idea to remove water sprouts. Water sprouts are those fast
growing shoots that grow straight up, unlike the rest of the
'normal' branches on a tree. On top-grafted trees, these sorts of
sprouts often originate below the graft, with weeping cherry trees
being a good example. I would suggest waiting until the start of the
growing season, as your plums begin to leaf out, to remove these
Would like to know how and when to trim a ChinaBerry tree in So.
Cal.. It's a wonderful small shade tree, approximately 40 years old.
very much - George
A: Since the
Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) has a fragrant flower, you will
want to do your trimming immediately after the tree blooms.
When: By always trimming flowering trees (and shrubs) within
a couple weeks after they are done blooming, you ensure that next
year's flower show won't be interrupted. When many flowering plants
are trimmed too late in the season, the flower buds for next year
are removed, and much of the bloom can be lost.
As with other trees, trimming should be prioritized as follows:
1) Remove dead or broken branches. 2) Remove crossing branches
- those that rub other branches - leaving the branch in the best
growing position. 3) To reduce the overall size of the tree,
trim branch tips back to side branches that are growing outward from
the trunk, without leaving any stubs. 4) Comments: When
removing major branches, be sure to leave the branch "collar" (the
swollen area where the branch meets the trunk) intact without
leaving a stub. (The photo shows where to make your cut when
removing a dead branch stub) Trees have natural defense mechanisms
within this collar area. You can read more about pruning on the
the heading "Trimming trees in the right place." Do not paint
the cuts unless doing so for aesthetic reasons.
Q: We are
in process of purchasing a small, older suburban house on a hill
side with a number of very tall (50-100 ft trees with long,
straight trunks and branches starting about 2/3 of the way up) in
the back yard. Some are pretty close to the house and obstruct a lot
of sun causing some exterior mold issues on the deck and
siding. Other trees also seem neglected with branches encroaching on
the roof, the neighbors’ yards and growing into retaining walls. The
beauty of this naturally sloped and treed back yard was one reason
we were enchanted with the house! We plan to bring in an arborist
to help us determine what kinds and the health of the trees. We are
considering (weep weep) removing 2 or 3 closest to the house and
trimming some of the older trees. Any advice about dealing with
these rather neglected mature trees in general, especially those
encroaching. What is feasibility and effectiveness of trimming these
tall giants? Do you have any idea of what we might expect to pay for
the removal of a large tree in the Washington DC metro area?
Thank you, New web-site devotee, Chrissie
A: You are
now a charter member of the TreeBoss Cult, so I'll answer your
question with a question: If a tree falls in the woods and no
one hears it, does it make a sound?
Now, on to your questions.... Yes, poor air circulation around a
house can lead to problems, more than just the run-of-the-mill
leaves in the gutters every fall. Whatever you can do to improve air
circulation and sunlight will surely help matters with your house in
it comes to selecting an arborist, look beyond price and choose one
who knows how to selectively trim, instead of a mad-topper who only
knows how to top and hack. By the sounds of your suburban lot,
selective thinning of trees and branches will help maintain the
overall aesthetics while still accomplishing your purpose. If your
budget can't handle the entire job right away, ask the arborist how
he would suggest phasing his work into stages over the next few
Trimming the tall giants: Since these tree trunks probably resemble
straight, narrow utility poles (like the tree in the photo), some
charlatans might want to climb them with tree gaffs -- those sharp
metal spikes attached to work boots, like utility workers use to
climb poles. The ONLY time gaffs should be used for climbing a
tree is when the tree is going to be completely removed.
Finally, you asked about prices for tree removal, so I would suggest
getting three bids from reputable, insured tree services in your
area, then choosing the one you feel will do the job safely and
efficiently. When you remove trees, always remove the stumps and
budget for filling those stump holes in with topsoil. This will
complete the job.
I had a question
about cloning trees since I want to plant trees on our family
camp, but with college tuition and working, haven't really had the
time or money. How do you think a rooting hormone would work? I was
mainly thinking Oaks in my grandmas yard that I can clone, Apple,
and possibly Walnuts to help feed the wildlife and help the
environment. In the long run I would like trees that would increase
the property value. Thanks for any help - Bryan
Good to hear you are planting trees for all the right reasons! Many
plants can be grown from cuttings, but for your project I would
suggest planting seeds (acorns and walnuts for two of the tree
varieties you mentioned) or purchasing small, inexpensive
transplants from a seedling nursery. By planting seeds you won't get
a true "clone," but if the squirrels in our area are any indication,
your success rate will be very high when planting walnuts. If your
camp is in a wooded area, you'll want to make sure to protect your
young trees from some of that same wildlife you wish to feed, namely
deer that love to browse off young seedlings, and rabbits that chew
off bark. Your tree protection doesn't have to be quite as well
engineered as the accompanying photo.
As far as apple trees, the best varieties are usually "grafted,"
meaning the top of a good apple producing variety is physically
attached to a hardier root system. Look for varieties of apple trees
with the least amount of disease problems, such as apple scab. Your
trees should be planted where they get plenty of sunlight. Regular
care will require watering them until they are well established, and
you will also need to keep weeds cleared around them so they don't
compete for light, water and nutrients.
honey locust trees along our driveway are beginning to heave the
asphalt. An arborist said the trees should be removed since they
will continue to damage the driveway and eventually the sidewalk. He
said locust trees are fast growing and send out big surface roots
looking for water. The trees are watered very well by a good
Is there anything we can do to stop the damage to the
driveway and not have to remove our beautiful trees?
In the event we do
have to remove them can you recommend a deciduous tree for that area
that would not cause similar problems. Thanks so much, Joan
An onsite inspection by a qualified arborist offers far more value
than what I might offer from thousands of miles away. That being
said, I'll offer a few comments on your situation. Trees like maple
(heaving the sidewalk in the photo), honey locust and sweet gum are
naturally surface rooted, so it doesn't have much to do with lack of
water. Besides, living in Spokane, water shouldn't be an issue
anyway, particularly not in 2008. As far as roots damaging paved
surfaces, please read the question directly below this one, since it
discusses the use of root barriers. Something to think about
using next time around, then tree selection won't be quite as
At this stage of the game, you will probably have to either tolerate
the driveway damage (and potential tripping hazard) or follow your
local arborist's advice by removing the trees. Root pruning is
rarely a good idea and may not even be an option for these well
established trees. If you do decide to remove the trees, be sure to
have the arborist remove as much stump and root system as possible,
so the remaining wood doesn't interfere with your newly planted
trees. While considering new trees, see what varieties are planted
along city boulevards in your area that have done well. Most state
universities provide a list of
recommended tree varieties to plant in a tree lawn where roots
are constricted and pavement damage is always an issue.
I need a tree that will keep a small root area to not
break out our new rock wall. I live in Reno, Nevada so I do need
something that will survive the winter. I was told that Reno is in
Zone 6 or 7. Thank you
for your time - Chris
A: When it comes to walls, their
demise usually comes from an inadequate foundation, poor drainage
behind them, and freeze-thaw cycles especially in soils with high
clay content. That being said, it doesn't hurt to factor-in
potential root problems. One approach would be to use root
barriers when planting your trees. These are most often used
when planting street trees that have the potential of lifting
concrete sidewalks. Put simply, they are large plastic pots without
bottoms in them, and they force roots to grow down instead of out.
There are also linear barriers to stop root growth in a certain
DeepRoot is a good place to start if you want to pursue this
As far as tree choices, I would first decide how tall you want your
trees to grow.... 15 feet, 35 feet, 60 feet? Evergreen or deciduous?
This will narrow down your choices, combined with the knowledge of
your hardiness zone, as verified on the map below. While
making your final tree selections it is always good to travel
through local neighborhoods and talk to neighbors to see what you
like. Then visit local tree nurseries to get further advice and
check tree availability.
Nevada Hardiness Zones
Reno is Zone 6 or 7 according to the
Hardiness Zone Map below.
(click on map to enlarge image)
There is a beautiful
walnut tree in the garden with bark damage from heavy machinery
on one of the butresses from approximately 4 months ago- the end of
the summer. Shall I get on with it now or is there a certain time of
year to do it? I have not cut away the loose bark yet but it is
unattached down to about ground level and to the side- roughly where
my hand is.
Thank you for your interest. Moby
A: I would
suggest waiting until early Spring, as the tree begins to leaf-out,
to perform any surgery on the bark. You should trim the loose bark
back to sound, living tissue that is still well connected. With bark
that thick, you will probably need to use a large, sharp knife, or
perhaps even a wood chisel. Don't cut any deeper into the underlying
wood than is necessary. The edges of any living tissue should be
painted with orange shellac, to help seal and disinfest the living
tissue. Resist the urge to paint the large open area of trunk with
Trees don't replace tissue like human beings, they
compartmentalize their wounds. So the goal of this exercise is
to have the surrounding bark grow back over the open wound from all
sides, thereby enclosing the wound. With a wound this large, that
could take 10 years or more. In the meantime, do everything you can
to keep the tree vigorous.
We love your
website and have a few questions. How do we go about linking to
your website? How can we advertise on TreeBoss.net?
Thank you - Deb (Marketing Assistant from an
Illinois Tree Service)
A: Thanks for
your feedback Deb. I notice that both our companies have been in the
tree business for over 30 years! Your website and others are
welcome to place a link to TreeBoss.net. In turn, we will consider
placing reciprocal links to quality websites like yours, especially
those in landscaping or tree businesses. As far as advertising on
this website, you should contact Google through their
program for all the details about advertising on TreeBoss.net.
Please contact me with any further questions.
Happy New Year! TreeBoss
I have a tree that I
can't identify, is there some way that I can send you a couple
of pictures of the leaves and maybe the bark so you can take a look?
Photos help TreeBoss (and website visitors) more than anything else,
and yours are excellent! These look like the
interesting leaves of the Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum). This
is one of the few (only?) trees in North America that has 3
different leaf shapes; single lobed, double lobed (resembling a
mitten) and triple lobed. Most parts of the tree are aromatic when
crushed. Judging from your 2nd photo,
not shown here, you have a very large specimen of the tree.
Sassafras is probably most famous for the tea once made from its roots,
but that is now considered a health risk in many circles, so do
further homework on this topic. Also, before you decide to make tea
from the tree roots, be sure to verify
my identification with a local arborist, forester or
Michigan State University
How far up should I trim the branches off my two Washington Hawthorn
Washington Hawthorn (Crateagus phaenopyrum) is best known for its
profuse bright red fruit in winter, as well as its white flowers in
spring.... and who among "the initiated" can forget those thorns!
The tree also has a nice, varied fall coloration of scarlet, orange
and purple. The tree can either be trained as a single stem or
multi-stemmed tree, your choice.
you desire single-stemmed Hawthorns, I have indicated where to make
your cuts in the two accompanying photos. I would suggest waiting
until April (in Michigan) to make these cuts, after new growth has
begun. The 3-stemmer would be the best one to leave as a
multi-stemmed tree if you decide to have "one of each." In the case
of your "Y-shaped" tree, it is usually desirable with any
tree to pick the strongest stem (or the one in the best growing
position) as your "leader" and remove the second leader. Why?
Y-shaped crotches are weaker when ice, snow and strong winds strike.
a tree in my back yard that drops large, long, flat, dark brown pods.
I live in a retirement park in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. No one
here knows what kind of tree it is, do you? Brenda
your photos, I would guess you have a handsome specimen of the
Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua). Carob trees are most common in
warm temperate countries like those surrounding the Mediterranean,
since the tree has the ability to withstand hot, humid coastal
areas. In the United States, you find them growing in California,
Arizona, and of course in your case, Texas. Carobs belong to the
Legume family, meaning they are able to fix nitrogen from the air
into the soil, similar to the Black Locust tree (Robinia
pseudoacacia) which is widespread in the northern U.S.
common name for the Carob is St. John’s bread, due to the
pods having some religious history with John the Baptist. Carob also
has some significance in other religions, being used in juice or
eaten as dried fruit. Carob is also used as a chocolate substitute,
and the seeds in the pods are often called locust beans.
However, I would not eat any of the seeds until you make a
positive identification of your tree, and then do some further
research on proper preparation of the seeds to make sure they are
How long does fresh mulch from ground stumps have to age before I
can use it in my beds? I have chips from one pine and one
A: Fresh wood
chips will rob nitrogen from the soil during the wood decay process,
so it is advisable to apply some
fertilizer to counteract that reaction. Nitrogen is the first
number on a fertilizer bag. Keep fertilizer away from direct contact
with the tree trunk or plant stem. (Even if you compost your wood
chips before using them as mulch, they will still require some
nitrogen for the decay process but not quite as much).
Maple chips may cause a slightly alkaline reaction with the soil,
while the pine chips may be slightly acidic. Following that line of
reasoning, the pine chips would be better around acid loving plants
and the maple chips would be best around plants preferring
a "sweeter" (more alkaline) soil.
When mulching trees, keep the mulch back a couple inches from
tree trunks so that you don't encourage the hidden activity of bark
chewing rodents, or hold too much moisture next to the tree's bark.
It's my belief that one
to two inches of mulch depth is sufficient, while some experts
call for up to four inches. It's definitely a case where too much is
worse than not enough. Repeated heavy mulching can lead to mulch
build-up, so allow time for mulch to breakdown before automatically
adding more mulch.
Q: I live in
Alabama and have a
question about these flat blackish seeds that seem to be exploding
husband jokingly says they are alien pods. Thank you, Lori
You are probably
referring to the SANDBOX TREE (Hura crepitans).
Click here for
an offsite webpage with photos. Your husband has a good name for
the pods, sections of which have been used to make jewelry. Some
call it 'Dynamite Tree' due to the sound of exploding
pods, with reports of seeds flying the length of a football
field. In furniture, the tree's wood is called Hura.
is the proper way to trim my white dogwood tree?
A: If you trim your
Dogwood now (November) you should be aware that you will remove some
of next spring's blossoms. Trimming a Dogwood is similar to trimming
other trees; remove the deadwood first, then remove the crossing or
rubbing branches. If the overall size of the tree needs reduced, cut
branches back to a good side branch growing outward.
Do not trim
Dogwoods in the spring while the dogwood borer is active, since you
may attract this destructive insect. If you are spraying your
Dogwood to protect it against the borer, an insecticide labeled for
that use should be applied to the trunk and major branches in
spring, usually May in the northeastern US. If your Dogwood already
has borer damage, you will see "D" shaped exit holes in the
Dogwoods should be "sited" properly when they are first planted --
they prefer partial shade as you can see from where they grow in
nature -- and are 3-times more likely to be affected by the borer if
planted in full sun. In managed landscapes, be certain to protect a
Dogwood's trunk from lawnmower bumps and stringline trimmer damage.
Don't overfertilize your tree or overwater it, but remember that
most woody ornamentals benefit from a thorough weekly watering
during periods of hot, dry weather.
The Kousa Dogwood
-- Cornus kousa -- is generally considered more hardy than the more
commonly planted Cornus florida. Kousa blooms later, usually in
June. One popular cultivar is 'Milky Way.'
More: My former Penn State entomology professor has a great web page
My Bradford Pear
trees look like they need to be shaped. They are about 4 years old and I would like to keep them from
getting too big and tall. Some limbs are longer than the others,
so what should I do? Thanks, Shirley from Virginia
A: The first
thing you should do with any young tree is remove any "conflicting"
branches, those that crossover each other, or grow inward toward the
trunk instead of outward. If you have to decide between two
branches, try to leave the one in the best spacing and position.
Next remove all water sprouts, which are those branches that grow
straight up. Also remove any suckers, those vertical growing sprouts
coming off the roots or base of the tree.
these steps haven't adequately thinned the tree, select some
addition branches around the interior of the tree for removal, so
that wind can pass through the tree more easily. If wind can pass
through the tree, instead of the branches and leaves acting like the
unfurled sail on a boat, it will be much more likely to
strong summer storms, unlike the pear tree in the photo.
back" the branch tips of the tree in order to create a more even
outline and reduce the overall size of the tree by 10 to 20%.
Bradford Pears are also undone by the weight of ice toward the end
of branches, so "heading back" a Bradford every year or two may help
keep it from splitting-out, by allowing the branch strength and
thickness to catch up to the rapid outward growth. If feasible, trim
branches just above an outward growing side branch, in order to
direct new growth in the right direction (away from the trunk).
The "V-shaped" crotches formed by Bradford Pears are the basis of
their downfall, since a V shaped crotch is much weaker
structurally than a 90-degree crotch. Combine the weak structure
with rapid growth and you have the formula for eventual disaster.
Anything you can do to reduce the leverage created by long branches
Trimming your Pears right after they bloom in the spring will help
preserve the flower show for the following spring. Pears take to
pruning very well since they are so vigorous. Watch using too much
fertilizer on them (they probably don't need any to begin with)
since they are subject to a bacterial disease known as "fire
I live in the UK and have a honey
locust (thorny kind) tree. Last summer the leaves appeared
quite late and dropped quickly in Autumn, but the tree appeared
healthy. This year it was slow to come into leaf and many of the
branches appear to have died. The main trunk is sending out new
shoots, but the dead branches are brittle and fall off the tree when
windy. I cannot find any evidence of fungus or boring beetles. Can
you suggest any other cause of the demise of the tree as it is
clearly dying. We have not had any serious drought within the last
two years but have had two very wet summers in a row. Emma
trees are generally a very hardy sort, even recommended for urban
conditions with higher levels of pollution. We have worked with the
thornless honey locust tree for a number of years and only observed
one major problem with them, that being the Mimosa Webworm.
Thornless Honey Locust
sort of insect damage causes areas of the tree's leaves to brown-out
prematurely, and you can usually observe webbing on the leaves
similar to spider webs. There are a few other insects that attack
the tree, but the webworm is the most common. See this page for
photos of the symptoms:
that, we have to play detective and try to remember if anything
unusual has happened in the area of the tree over the past few
years? Are there any wounds or openings in the tree's bark, or any
"bleeding?" Has the root system been disturbed?
Emma's Reply: Mimosa webwork pics do not resemble what has
happened to my tree, however all the leaves have dropped off and
been disposed of now. 18 months ago we have a new
put around the property and employed professionals to uproot several
hawthorn trees very close to the honey locust so it is possible
there could have been some disturbance to the roots.
TreeBoss: You may have answered your own question... that timing
seems to directly relate to the beginning of your troubles. Other
than reducing water uptake abilities, any cutting or wounding of
tree roots helps provide a ready access point for various
destructive fungi. Also see this page on
installation under a tree.
How can I winterize
my evergreen trees? Last winter they developed brown
needles on one side and it took all season for them to start looking
Evergreens exposed to northwest winter winds can experience
windburn. You have a couple options for protecting them. The first
would be to place a barrier 12-inches or so away from the tree to
help shield it from winter winds. You will often see burlap or
landscape fabric used for this purpose, and it is usually attached
to and supported by wooden stakes. This sort of barrier will also
help protect plants near a highway from airborne de-icer mist,
kicked-up by passing vehicles on wet roadways.
Another option is to spray your evergreens with an anti-dessicant
like WILT-PRUF. This milky colored spray solution dries to
shiny clear and helps prevent moisture loss (dessication). It may
need to be applied more than once to remain effective, so be sure to
read and follow label directions on use. This product also works
great on Christmas greens by improving their overall appearance and
prolonging their fresh looks.
Finally, it is beneficial for all evergreens to enter winter with
ample moisture in their root zones. By giving your evergreens a
thorough watering before the ground freezes, you will help ensure
that they have sufficient soil moisture to draw upon through the
Q: Can you tell
me how to plant
the seed pod from a sycamore tree. I was in southern Ohio and
collected a couple of the spinney balls from under a Sycamore tree.
Can you help?
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is commonly known as London Plane
or Button Ball Tree. Sycamores prefer moist creek banks in their
natural habitat, as seen in the photo on the left.
1. Break open the seed pods (button balls) and you will find long,
narrow seeds with a hairy, light brown seed coat.
2. Take these seeds and spread them over some weed-free soil,
preferably in a moist area.
3. Cover the seeds with a light layer of soil (1/8 to 1/4-inch) and keep
the area moist to encourage germination.
4. As seedlings emerge, you may need to protect them from rodent or
deer browsing with some wire mesh.
Q: We have a lot
of tree damage from
Hurricane Ike but in particular a beautiful 40 foot pine tree in
our front yard. The top of the tree, about 10 feet, was actually
blown (snapped) off - also a lot branches up and down it. The tree
still looks good, not as nice as before though. I have heard this
can cause the tree to rot from the top down. Is this true and if it
is what remedies can we take to save this tree. Even if it is
costly, we do not want to lose this beautiful now 30 foot
pine tree. Any advice/information would be greatly appreciated.
hard to know, within the first few weeks, if more storm damage was
done to your tree than the obvious physical damage you see now.
(Please send me a digital photo if you can) It's possible the strong
winds caused extensive root damage which may not be obvious for
several months. We'll hope for the best.
In the meantime, it is time to do some
The purpose of the trimming will be to eliminate any stubs that
don't have green growth beyond them. In other words, the main trunk
should be cutback to just above some healthy side branches. It helps
to slant that top cut if you can, to encourage water runoff. If the
job is beyond your scope to perform safely, consider hiring a
professional tree service. You should perform the same style of
pruning to the side branches of your pine -- cut all broken branch
tips back to a strong side branch that shows green growth. Again,
try not to leave a stub.
Next year you should pamper the tree a bit with
fertilization and a thorough watering every week or two during
dry spells. If you notice any insect pests on the tree try to
address the problem early.
One final note -- To help trees survive high winds, trees should be
thinned out to let wind pass through them, as opposed to having them
densely branched and acting like the sail on a sailboat. Some wind
damage is unavoidable, but judicious thinning will help your trees
survive high wind storms. (More:
storm damage to trees)
Q: I've noticed
some of my trees have rows
of small holes in the bark. The holes have been there for a
number of years and never seem to go away. What sort of insect
causes them and will it cause problems for my trees?
A: The rows of holes you are describing aren't created by an
insect, they are actually made by a bird. Woodpeckers create these
rows of small holes in the bark of a tree, and then return on a
regular basis to eat any insects that have taken up residence in
those holes. It's not an ideal situation to have open wounds in the
bark of a tree since it is a defensive layer to various pathogens,
but chances are that a vigorous tree can survive woodpecker damage
if it isn't too extensive.
to tree bark
Q: I have a
question about burning tree roots
in a fireplace. My neighbor had a
locust tree cut down about five years ago. The stump is about
18 to 22 inches in diameter. This summer I have been digging up the
roots and cutting them out. Is it okay to burn the tree roots in the
A: You didn't mention whether they were black locust roots or
honey locust roots, but the answer would be the same either way.
Since they are basically wood, they should be fine to burn if they
have been properly seasoned (dried for 6 months to one year).
Black locust wood has good heat value, right up there with oak, but
it can be difficult to get burning. The best solution is to add it
to an existing fire with good coals already present.
Q: I live in
Canada and have several pine trees that need to have their
branches cut off. Am I correct in thinking that it's best to
do this job in late fall (say mid October?) after the tree sap has
descended out of the branches? Thanks for your help.
A: Pine trees aren't considered "bleeders" like Maple trees,
so the timing won't be important in that respect. That being said,
university research hasn't shown any damage to Maples due to
their bleeding anyway, even though the sight of it tends to worry
If your timetable is open, early spring would probably be considered
"the best time" for your project, since your trees will resume
growth shortly thereafter and begin to close over the pruning
wounds. Be sure to leave the swollen area at the base of each branch
known as the "collar" but don't leave a long branch stub.
|Proper pruning leaves the swollen
area at the base of a branch known as the "collar"
Q: How do I trim
a tree that has a bee hive inside
a branch and part of a trunk? My goal is to cut a branch
hanging down and closing off the hive access in the fall..... what
can I use to accomplish this? I would prefer to do it myself and
save hundreds of dollars; a professional is my last resort.
A: Saving money is fine provided you don't expose yourself to
serious injury or risk. It only takes one bee sting to kill someone
who is allergic, and countless amateurs have been killed doing tree
work that should have been left to a Pro. Carefully assess all risks
before attempting tree work.
With the current honey bee crisis resulting in reduced numbers of
bees due to
Colony Collapse Disorder, it is especially important not to kill
off these valuable pollinators unless absolutely necessary. If they
are honey bees, you may be able to find a beekeeper in your area who
can safely move the hive. If it becomes necessary to eliminate the
hive, remember that bees congregate around their nests and are least
active at night, providing the best opportunity for whacking them
all with an insecticide labeled for that use. Read and follow label
|A beekeeper removed this swarm for
free. They are now pollinating his farm crops and
Q: I want to
leave branch stubs for climbing… is
there a way to seal the end of the stub so this can be possible without
hurting the tree?
A: Leaving live branches would be better than leaving branch
stubs of course, since leaving any sort of stub beyond the "branch
collar" (swollen area where the branch meets the trunk) will make it
impossible for the tree to close over the wound and "heal itself" by
compartmentalizing the wounded area with new tissue.
That being said, does it do any good to seal the end of a dead
branch stub? It couldn't hurt I suppose, provided you use "tree
paint" to accomplish the task. Most tree paints are asphalt based
and black in color. While some are thick in nature and brushed on,
there are also some aerosol products on the market. The entire stub
will still be more vulnerable to insects and pathogens than a living
|Branch stubs like these may or may
not support the weight of a climber.
2nd Q: I think
I’m going to attempt the “tree paint” solution. I found a can of it
at HD. Do you think this will keep the branch there for (about) the
life of the tree or will the branch still decay and fall off?
2nd A: Hard to say what the eventual outcome will be. I don't
think you even said what kind of tree it is. Sometimes branch stubs
just dry up instead of rotting, but they could become brittle in the
process. Over time, dead branch stubs will increase the risk of a
tree climber falling.
Q: (a Priest
emailed TreeBoss...) I am
trying to keep a
mimosa alive in zone 5. I know this coming winter may take its
life. What can I do to prevent this?
A: You would take about the same steps you do with roses to
protect them from winter cold.... mulch the root zone around the
main trunk with straw or some other light, insulating material.
Erect some sort of wind screen to help keep the brunt of cold winter
wind away from the tree. And finally, praying wouldn't hurt! Global
warming does have its benefits, and may help you as well.
Q: I have
two types of maple trees and
don’t know which is which. I was told by professional that one does
not like to be trimmed but does need trimming. This one is a
different type than the one with we call helicopter seeds. Your
help would be appreciated.
A: One of the most common Maple trees is the native Sugar
Maple, and many of us remember those helicopter seeds from our
youth. The technical name for them is "samaras."
There are scores of
Maple tree varieties so it is difficult to know which ones you are
talking about, but it sounds like the Maple that "doesn't like to be
trimmed" might be Japanese Maple, with many varieties having red
leaves throughout the summer (not to be confused with the crimson
colored leaves of 'Crimson King').
If your Maple needs
to be trimmed, then you don't really have much choice. Try to trim
it in the Spring of the year when it has the most time to close
over pruning wounds and grow some foliage back.