Signs of A Dying Tree

Your dying tree could cause catastrophic, life-threatening damages if it falls on your property. By knowing how to identify the signs of a dying tree, you can take swift action to restore its health or minimize its threat.

Prevent trees from dying by recognizing the signs of disease and infestation gathered information on signs that indicate your tree is dying, and what you can do to help it.

Leaf Discoloration (Chlorosis)

One of the first signs that your tree is dying is the offseason loss of color, drying out, or premature leaf drop. The canopy of a healthy tree is full and vibrant, consider the following disorders or deformities when looking at your tree:

Leaf Deformities – When a tree is stressed by infestation or disease, it will likely produce smaller, deformed leaves.

Chlorosis – This condition is the loss of color in a tree’s foliage. It can be caused by multiple diseases or boring insect infestations. When chlorosis occurs, bright, green leaves will give way to yellowish-brown sickly-looking leaves.

Foliage Wilt – When a tree’s leaves wilt, it is an indication of hydraulic failure and/or drought.

Foliage Death – If leaves are quickly wilting and dying, but not falling off of your tree, this is a sign of a fast-acting pathogen within your tree.

Wilting and dead tree foliage can be a sign of disease

Early Leaf Drop – When leaves fall from your tree prematurely, especially if they are falling while still green, your tree may be experiencing hydraulic failure and impending death.

Note: The way trees are structured, infection or infestation can devastate a portion of the tree and leave the rest of it unaffected.

If any of these conditions are apparent in your tree’s foliage, contact a professional tree service to evaluate your tree, gather more information, and offer treatment suggestions.

Dead Branches

As a disease or infestation advance within a tree, not only will its foliage show signs of trouble, but entire branches can die. However, some tree species are self-pruning, and while they may appear to be dying or in trouble, they are simply shedding unneeded branches.

When multiple branches appear to be dying, those branches should be marked for removal during the next pruning season.

If those branches show signs of disease (cankers, mushroom conks, etc.) or insect infestation (sawdust or exit holes from boring insects), do not wait for the pruning season. These branches should be immediately pruned off of the tree.

Tip: Use your fingernail or a sharp knife to scrape a small area of bark from the branch. A live branch will display a green, moist cambium layer beneath the bark, while a dead branch will be brown and dry beneath the bark.

Note: Dying or dead branches can fall at any time. These branches should be removed from your tree to avoid catastrophic damages should they fall.

Bark Irregularities

Tree bark should seamlessly wrap around a tree’s trunk and limbs. If the following are present in the bark, your tree may be in rapid decline:

  • Cankers (open wounds oozing fluids)
  • Deep cracks (sign of the tree drying out)
  • Large swollen or bulging areas (sign of festering disease)
  • Sunken, discolored areas of bark (sign of sunscald)
  • Woodpecker damage (they search for beetles)
  • Exit holes from a beetle infestation
  • Sloughing bark (sign of hydraulic failure and dying cambium layer)
  • Ropes, chains, or vines tightly wrapped around the trunk (girdling it)

Vines growing on a tree can easily girdle it causing hydraulic failure and death

Tree bark problems can spread throughout a tree quickly and require accurate, professional diagnoses, and treatment.

For more information about how vines can ravage a tree’s health, read

Tree Architecture

Healthy trees usually grow symmetrically with sturdy branch to trunk unions/joints. If your tree is lopsided or is leaning, this can be a sign of declining health or severe root damage.

Especially in cases where the tree is leaning, emergency tree removal may be the only option to protect your property and well-being.

Root damage is the likely culprit of problems with a tree’s architecture. Consider the following:

  • Surface roots are easily damaged by foot traffic or landscaping equipment
  • Compacted soil can suffocate and kill roots – read more at
  • Disease or infestation can cause root rot
  • Poorly-drained soil can also cause root rot

If the problem with your tree is limited to lopsided growth, consult a trusted tree service about crown thinning and pruning to encourage growth in a specific direction. Read more about pruning purpose and techniques at

Insect Infestation and Disease

While trees have developed natural defensive mechanisms over millennia of evolution, opportunistic insects can successfully attack stressed trees or those already in decline. In many cases, severe damage occurs with repeated attacks over multiple growing seasons. Some of the most destructive insects to tree health include:

  • Aphids (damage to foliage and stems)
  • Scale (damage to foliage and stems)
  • Adelgids (consumes sap causing loss of foliage)
  • Caterpillars and Moths (heavy consumption of foliage)
  • Beetles (interrupt the flow of water and nutrients by consuming the cambium layer, rapidly killing the tree)
  • Borers (create chambers in the cambium layer and chew into heartwood, rapidly killing the tree)

The best way to prevent insect infestations is to promote the health of your trees and treat them with insecticides. When a boring insect or beetle outbreak is detected in your region, schedule more frequent inspections of your trees. Consult an ISA certified arborist about treating your trees during such an outbreak. Infested trees in decline and deemed unsalvageable should be quickly isolated and removed.

When it comes to fungal or bacterial infections, look for the following signs:

  • Cankers (discolored, damaged areas or depressed places on the bark)
  • Mushrooms growing around the base of the tree
  • Mushroom plumes or conks attached to the root flare or trunk
  • Carpenter ants nesting inside the trunk or branches (these opportunistic ants remove decayed pulp but do not chew at the heartwood)

Mushrooms or conks growing from a tree trunk are a sign of disease and rapid decline

These are signs of dangerous rot in the roots or trunk. With time, decay will extend further within the tree’s heartwood leading to the tree’s death and potential collapse. It is highly recommended that diseased trees be evaluated and treated by a professional tree service immediately.

Signs of a Tree in Decline

In this article, you discovered the many indicators of trees in decline and how to deal with them before they kill your tree.

By knowing how to identify tree problems early and who to call for help, the chances of saving your tree significantly increase.

Being uninformed about tree diseases, insects, and signs of decline could cost you when your tree collapses on your property, causing unfathomable damages.


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How Do Pine Trees Reproduce?

Your pine tree’s annual reproductive cycle can indicate its good health, or that you need to take action. Knowing how your pine tree reproduces can help you better care for it and give you valuable insight into its strong or declining health.

Pine trees reproduce when female cones open and release seeds gathered information on what pine trees do to reproduce and the startling information this process reveals.

How Do Trees Reproduce?

All forms of life share the drive to survive and reproduce. Trees are not exempt from this and have developed two main strategies to accomplish their reproduction:

Pine trees reproduce when fertile seeds are disbursed and sprout into saplings

Angiosperms – These are trees that produce flowers and rely heavily on pollinating insects and wildlife to carry their genetic material from one tree to another.

Gymnosperms – These are non-flowering trees or conifers (including pine trees). These trees produce pollen as well but have different means of achieving their reproductive goal. (These trees date back to prehistoric times)

Both types of trees reproduce through seeds but have very different strategies for how that seed is produced.

Pine Tree Reproduction

For a pine tree to successfully reproduce, 3 distinct steps must take place:

Step 1 – The first step in pine tree reproduction is pollination. For pollination to happen successfully, pollen must be transferred from male cones to female cones.

While pine trees grow both male and female cones, the intention is not to self pollinate. Female cones are produced high up in the crown of the pine tree, while male cones (catkins) are produced on the branches below.

Male pine cones do not look like the pine cones many are used to seeing but are long, thin, and soft structures located in clusters on the lower branches. Male cones are only present in the spring when producing pollen.

Pine trees reproduce when male cones release pollen from lower branches into the wind

Pollen is carried from the male cones of one tree to the female cones of another by wind currents. Thus, completing the first step of reproduction.

Read more about tree pollen at

Step 2 – Once the female cones have been pollinated, they will produce fertile seeds within the closed cone. It takes about two years for this step to complete itself. As the cone becomes brown, it develops scales, opens up, and resembles the familiar pine cones we all know.

At the base of each scale on a female pine cone, a seed lies waiting to be carried off by the wind or wildlife. Thus, completing the second step of the tree’s reproduction.

Step 3 – Seed dispersal is the final step in a pine tree’s reproductive cycle, and even this step displays how brilliant nature is. As the female cones open up, several species of birds and squirrels come along to feed on the seeds, potentially dispersing them miles away from the parent tree.

Pine trees reproduce when female cones release seeds to be disbursed

Sometimes, the pine cones are knocked off or fall off the tree. The shape and flexibility of cones allow them to bounce and roll away from its origin while dispersing its seeds.

Then there are those cones that remain closed until exposed to extremely high temperatures, like those temperatures produced in a forest fire. These cones only release seeds under such conditions, likely corresponding to the death of the parent tree in a fire.

Tip: When planting a pine tree on your property, it is smart to plant more than one. By doing this, you can all but guarantee the successful annual pollination of your trees and dispersal of viable seeds.

Pine Tree Health

The healthier you maintain your pine trees, the better they will be at reproducing annually. Likewise, when a pine tree is under stress from drought, has suffered a successful insect infestation, or has been infected by a disease, it may do something peculiar.

When your pine tree is stressed, damaged, or dying, it may produce a stress crop. A stress crop would look like an explosion of pine cones maturing in the upper branches and falling from the tree.

Pine trees produce stress crops when the tree is threatened by disease or insect infestation

Producing a stress crop is one of the measures pine trees utilize to guarantee the continuation of their species. It also serves as an alarm bell for humans to take a closer look at the tree. Some infestations and diseases can be treated, while others may require the removal of the tree to protect other trees on or near your property.

If your pine tree is producing a stress crop or has developed signs of disease, call a professional tree service to inspect it and offer a course of action to either restore its health or remove it.

Read about how you can save a dying evergreen at

How A Pine Tree Reproduces

In this article, you discovered how pine trees reproduce and how that reproduction may indicate trouble for your tree.

By caring for your pine trees and knowing how they reproduce, you can detect signals that tell you when the tree is stressed, and when to call for help.

Ignoring your pine tree through its reproductive cycle may lead to its decline in health and eventual death.


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Tree Pollen Allergy Season

Don’t let tree pollen allergies steal your joy this spring. Knowing how to cope with seasonal pollen allergies can help you breathe easy and give you a better perspective on seasonal changes.

Tree pollen season from spring through summer causing allergic rhinitis gathered information on pollen allergy seasons, symptoms, and allergy relief.

Tree Pollen Season

Springtime is a beautiful time. The flowers are beginning to bloom, the grass is turning vibrant shades of green, and trees are filling back in after their winter slumber. About those trees, they are also producing insane amounts of pollen.

Tree pollen production in spring

Allergy season for those who suffer from allergic rhinitis (pollen allergies or hay fever) begins when trees initiate pollen production. The more significant culprits for tree pollen dispersion are:

• Alder
• Ash
• Aspen
• Beech
• Birch
• Box Elder
• Cedar (November to January)
• Cottonwood
• Elm
• Hickory
• Mountain Elder
• Mulberry
• Maple
• Oak
• Olive
• Pecan
• Poplar
• Sycamore
• Willow

Some tree allergies can cause sensitivity to certain foods. Some proteins in vegetables, fruits, and nuts are similar enough to tree pollen to confuse your immune system. When eating these foods, you may develop an itchy or swollen mouth, face, or throat. This reaction is known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). It is frequently triggered in people allergic to Alder and birch trees.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction often prompted by a cross-reaction between tree pollen and nuts like almonds and peanuts. If itching or swelling occurs while eating nuts, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Watch this video to see the volume of pollen a single tree can produce.

Tree Pollen Allergy Symptoms

Pollen released by trees (February – July), grasses (May – June), weeds (July – October), and cedar (December – January) can cause people with pollen allergies to have the following symptoms:

• Sneezing
• Runny Nose
• Mucus Production
• Itchy Nose, Eyes, Ears, and Mouth
• Nasal Congestion
• Red and Watery Eyes
• Swelling Around the Eyes
• Coughing

Those who suffer from allergic asthma and are allergic to tree pollen may exhibit asthma symptoms which include:

• Coughing
• Difficulty Breathing
• Shortness of Breath
• Wheezing
• Chest Tightness

If you are experiencing asthma symptoms, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention.

Tree pollen allergy season symptoms and relief

Tree Pollen Allergy Relief

There are many options available for relieving pollen allergy symptoms. You can talk to your doctor or a board-certified allergist about your symptoms and treatment options. Medicines that may be prescribed are:

• Cromolyn sodium nose spray
• Leukotriene receptors
• Nasal corticosteroids
• Antihistamines
• Decongestants

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications include:

• Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
• Zyrtec (Cetirizine)
• Dimetapp and Nasahist B (Brompheniramine)
• Allegra (Fexofenadine)
• Xyzal (Levocetirizine)
• Claritin and Alavert (Loratadine)
• Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine)
• Tavist (Clemastine)

Before taking any medication, consult with your primary care physician to evaluate your symptoms and recommend an appropriate medication, exposure reduction, or dietary change. Other options may include a long-term treatment regimen like immunotherapy to reduce the severity of your allergic reactions.

Tree Pollen Exposure

During the tree pollen season, that “yellow dust” seems to infiltrate and cover just about everything in sight. However, the following steps can be taken to reduce your exposure to it.

Testing – If you have not been tested for allergies, see a board-certified allergist to get tested for pollen allergies. Once you know which allergy you have, the more precise your treatment can be.

Research – Learn more about the trees in your region and when they produce the most pollen. For example, pine tree pollen peaks in the morning. If pine tree pollen triggers your allergies, reserve outdoor activities for later in the day.

Medication – Start taking allergy medication before the start of the pollen season.

Environment – Keep your windows and doors closed. Use HEPA filters or ones rated for pollen capture on the air intake of your central air unit.

Wearing Your Clothes – Change and wash the clothes you use outdoors.

Drying Your Clothes – Use a dryer to dry your clothes instead of hanging them outside.

Shower – Take a shower after outdoor activities. Pollen can easily hitch a ride on your skin and in your hair.

Driving – During your commute, keep your windows rolled up and activate the recycle feature on the car’s air system.

Move – Another way to avoid a long pollen season is to move to a region where pollen seasons are shorter, and trees are more sparse.

Another method of avoidance is through education. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) offers an interactive tool through their National Allergy Bureau (NAB) to see realtime pollen counts by city or region and further defines conditions, treatments, and education. You can access this resource at

Pollen released in the air during allergy season from spring through summer

Allergy Season Relief

In this article, you discovered information about the tree pollen allergy season, allergy symptoms, allergy relief, and how to reduce your exposure to pollen.

By identifying your allergies and taking proactive measures to mitigate them, you are saving yourself from feeling miserable and unable to function normally.

When you ignore pollen season and neglect the steps to reduce your exposure, you may find yourself reliant on medications and the side-effects they bring with them.


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Soil Compaction Solutions

Is soil compaction depriving your tree of life-giving water and nutrients? By taking action to reverse and prevent soil compaction, your trees, plants, and grass can benefit from continued growth and thrive.

Soil compaction and crusting occur when topsoil is eroded and it rains gathered information on what soil compaction is, how to reverse soil compaction, what causes it, and how to prevent it.

What is Compacted Soil

Compacted soil is soil that has been compressed and has lost its porosity due to erosion or surface pressure. Compacted soil has a reduced capacity to absorb water, and even less ability to drain water.

For trees, shrubs, and other plant life, soil compaction hinders their roots from transporting water and nutrients, leaving them in declining health and contributing to their eventual death.

Soil compaction is not limited to farms with heavy equipment. This condition can occur in parks, playgrounds, gardens, yards, and any place where there is soil.

soil compaction around tree

Read more about how your soil quality impacts tree health at

How To Reverse Compacted Soil

Reversing compacted soil can be accomplished by first halting any foot or vehicle traffic over the compacted area. The following steps will help you continue to reverse soil compaction:

1. Using a shovel (use a spade or a pickaxe if you are working around tree roots), break up the top three to six inches of soil.
2. Mix organic matter into the soil (use a ratio of 1 to 1). This may seem like a lot, but it is necessary to develop the porosity required to reverse compaction.
3. Provide weekly deep waterings to the area to encourage deep root growth (this also delivers the added organic material deeper into the soil).
4. Add earthworms to your newly mixed soil to boost the soil organism community.
5. Plant grass or a cover crop “green manure” like alfalfa or clover to prevent erosion or damage from the sun.

Earthworms help boost the soil organism community and reverse compaction

If you are trying to reverse or prevent soil compaction on a farm or open land, read this

The addition of sand is a common fix for compacted clay soil. However, you may end up annihilating soil structure completely if the sand and clay are compatible enough to develop cementing conditions.

Tip: When working around tree roots, those roots must be protected from injury. Wounded roots can attract disease and insect infestation, adding to the stress caused by soil compaction.

Note: If your tree has been affected by soil compaction (wilting, early leaf drop, reduced leaf size, etc.), call a professional tree service to evaluate the tree. In severe cases, the tree may have to be removed to prevent the sudden toppling of the tree or branches falling to the ground.

What Causes Compacted Soil

Compacted soil may result from either natural or man-made causes. The following are some of the many potential causes of soil compaction:

• Vehicle Traffic
• Vehicle/Machinery Storage
• Construction Supply Storage
• Constant Foot Traffic
• Tillage
• Rain (Soil Crusting)
• Topsoil Erosion

soil compacted by erosion and vehicular traffic

The more compacted your soil becomes, the less plant life can take root. Consequently, as the life is squeezed out of surrounding vegetation, soil compaction may appear to spread.

Uncover more information about how tree roots grow by visiting

How To Prevent Compacted Soil

Prevent structure degradation and soil compaction in your yard and around your trees by taking the following measures:

• Add organic material to your soil twice per year
• Mulch your trees and shrubs with a three to six-inch layer of organic mulch year-round
• Stop erosion by installing barriers or planting shrubs, plants, and grass
• Water your yard to keep it moist (not flooded) with occasional deep waterings to encourage deep root growth
• Avoid working and tillage of wet soil. In fact, avoid tillage altogether.
• Install walk/pathways to avoid foot traffic on the soil
• Do not use areas of your yard or around trees for equipment storage (use the garage, patio, or install a shed for that purpose)

Organic mulch added to soil to reverse and prevent compaction

Read more about improving soil quality at

Fixing Soil Compaction

In this article, you discovered the definition, causes, treatments, and preventative measures of soil compaction.

By taking action to reverse and prevent soil compaction, you are providing your trees, shrubs, and plants with nutrient-rich soil to grow deep and healthy roots.

Your inaction to reverse compacted soil can add immeasurable stress to your trees and plants. The inability for them to transport water and nutrients will ultimately contribute to their decline and eventual death.


For the original version of this article visit:

How To Save A Girdled Tree from Dying

By knowing what to do when your tree is girdled, you may be able to save it from dying a fast death. Even though trees are magnificent in their survival tactics, they cannot overcome most cases of girdling on their own. gathered information on what girdling is, what can cause it, how to repair it, and when to call a professional.

What Is Tree Girdling

To understand how to save your tree, you need to know what girdling is and what you are trying to repair.

A tree is girdled when water and nutrients can no longer flow between the canopy and the roots by way of the xylem and phloem (found directly underneath the bark). You will be trying to bridge the gap caused by bark damage, reconnecting the xylem and phloem.

Girdled tree with severe bark damage

While there are many causes of this condition, the following measures address girdling caused by damaged or removed bark around the circumference of the tree.

How To Fix Girdled Trees

When your tree is girdled due to bark damage, the following procedure may restore the flow of water and nutrients from the canopy to the roots:

1. Collect scion wood. These are “new growth” twigs about a thumb-size in diameter and 2 to 3 inches longer than the wound (mark the top part of the twigs to identify the flow or direction).

2. Clean the wound by removing any loose bark. Use a sharp and clean knife if necessary.

3. Trim one side of the twigs so they will lie flat on the tree trunk.

4. Trim each end of the twigs into a wedge shape.

5. Make two parallel cuts in the bark above and below the wound (in line with each other), you are creating flaps that the twigs (bridges) will be inserted under.

6. With the topside up, lift the flaps and place the bridge under them.

7. Cover the graft connections with a grafting compound or wax to preserve moisture and protect the grafts from infestation and disease.

8. Repeat this process every 3 to 4 inches around the damaged tree trunk.

If the trunk layers and bridges join, the flow of nutrients will be restored. If the bridges fail, the decline of the tree will occur quickly, and a professional should be called in to evaluate the tree and recommend a course of action.

Bridge Grafting Pros and Cons

Bridge grafting is comparable to bypass surgery, only for a tree. This procedure does not always work and is certainly not attractive. To learn more about this method, read

However, when bridge grafting succeeds in restoring the flow of water and nutrients within a tree, you get to enjoy the benefits of that tree for countless years to come.

What Causes Tree Girdling

There are many ways a tree can be girdled. Consider the following before making any decisions on treatments or courses of action:

• Bark damage or removal (by animal or human activity) occurring entirely around the circumference of the trunk.
• Extreme weather events that cause the stripping of the bark from the tree trunk.
• Lightning strikes can instantaneously evaporate the moisture within the bark. Such strikes can cause irreparable damage to the tree trunk.
• Circling roots can wrap themselves around the tree below the root flare. These roots tighten as they grow, and through immense pressure can stop the flow of water and nutrients between the crown and roots.
Tree bark damage girdling caused by circling root
• Climbing vines are also a common culprit. As they grow and circle the tree trunk, the pressure they exert as they thicken can be enough to girdle the tree. Read more about how climbing vines damage trees at
Tree bark damage girdling caused by climbing vines
• Strings, ropes, and chains left wrapped around tree trunks will eventually lead to the girdling of the tree. Over long periods, either friction will make them cut into the bark, or the outward growth of the tree trunk will cause them to tighten and eventually girdle the tree.
• A successful beetle infestation can wreak havoc as beetles will bore through the bark and feed on the xylem and phloem in all directions, eventually causing hydraulic failure through girdling.
• Diseases like verticillium wilt can cause girdling at a cellular level by causing the tree’s vascular system to “clog up” and stop the flow of water and nutrients from the crown to the roots.

When you suspect the girdling or hydraulic failure of a tree, it is essential that a professional tree service is called to evaluate the tree and offer a course of action. This may include treatment or removal.

Tree Girdling Repair

In this article, you discovered what girdling means, how to repair it, what causes it, and when to call a professional tree service.

By taking quick action to treat and repair a girdled tree, you can save it from dying a fast death.

When you allow a girdled tree to go untreated, the tree will die. A girdled tree’s root plate destabilizes over time, and the tree may topple in even the lightest of storms.


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Winter Mulching for Your Trees and Garden

You can prevent freezing temperatures from killing your plants and trees this winter. Mulch can help you keep your tree and plant roots from freezing and help them explode in spring growth.

Winter mulching from tree trunk to drip line for root protection gathered information about what winter mulching is, why it is necessary, and how you do it.

What is Winter Mulching?

Mulching is a long-standing gardening and landscaping practice used to regulate soil moisture and temperature.

• In spring and summer, mulch is applied to the ground to retain moisture, control weeds, and prevent erosion.
• In fall and winter, mulch is used primarily to regulate soil temperature.

Winter mulching prevents winter root injury by slowing down the daytime thawing and night-time freezing process in late fall and early winter. As mulch traps soil moisture and warmth, tree and plant roots can continue their growth farther into the winter months.

In regions with sustained below-freezing temperatures, the soil will freeze eventually. In early spring, mulch is of little help to stop desiccation (drying) of evergreen foliage. However, mulch allows your evergreens to go into winter better hydrated, dramatically reducing the damage from drying out when spring arrives.

In the Garden – Winter mulch should be used to protect your perennials from winter weather. This is suggested to safeguard perennial plantings and flower beds from alternating freezing and thawing cycles through winter, not from freezing.

The goal is to maintain your plants in a state of dormancy, rather than maintain them warm. Plants may break bud if kept too warm, and any subsequent growth will die during winter.

Winter Mulching Your Trees

When we mulch, we are replicating an eons-old process occurring naturally beneath trees in forests and wooded areas. Falling leaves and dying plants form a blanket over the forest floor protecting the soil from temperature variations and the trees from desiccation.

Use these tips when mulching your trees:

Apply Organic Mulch – Compost (well-decomposed), disease-free leaves, tree bark, pine needles, and plant by-products can all be used as organic mulch.

Winter mulching with organic well decomposed material

Do Not Volcano Mulch – When mulch is piled against and around the base of a tree resembling a “volcano,” you risk insect infestation, disease, the decline of the tree, and its eventual death.

Volcano mulching over root flare

Learn more about the adverse effects of volcano mulching by reading

Mulch to The Drip Line – Begin laying mulch around the base of your tree (three to four inches from the root flare) and continue outward to the drip line (the outer extremity of the crown).

What you should end up with is a three to four-inch layer of organic mulch shaped like a donut around the tree.

Refresh Old Mulch – Over time, mulch can settle or become matted and compacted. Use a rake to break up the existing mulch and mix in fresh organic mulch to return it to its proper thickness.

Read more about mulching trees at

Winter Mulching Your Garden

Like mulching your trees, winter mulching your garden protects your plants from winter root injury and plant death. It does this by slowing down the thawing and freezing process in late fall and early spring.

Winter mulching plants to protect their root systems from freeze

Follow these tips when mulching your garden:

Use Organic Mulch – Compost (well-decomposed), disease-free leaves, and plant by-products can all be used as an organic mulch in the garden.

Prevent Evergreen Desiccation – Evergreen Desiccation occurs in late winter and early spring when temperatures begin to rise, but the plant roots are not yet extracting moisture from the soil.

You can significantly reduce or eliminate this occurrence by mulching your evergreens earlier in fall and increasing watering intervals to twice per week with one deep watering per week until winter.

Avoid Volcano Mulching – Once you lay your mulch in the garden bed, be sure to pull it back from plant stems and shoots. As with the base of tree trunks, plant stems (especially woody plants) must remain un-covered and dry to prevent disease, infestation, and death.

Winter mulching to protect trees and plants from root damage during freezing weather

Remove the Mulch – In spring, when your plants resume their growth, remove the mulch from your garden bed. For woody plants and shrubs, the mulch can be left to provide weed control through spring and summer.

To learn more techniques for protecting your plants and trees in the winter, read

Mulching Trees and Gardens

In this article, you discovered what winter mulching is, why your plants and trees need it, and how to do it without harming them.

By mulching your trees and plants for the winter, you are providing a layer of protection from the erratic freeze and thaw patterns associated with late fall and early spring.

By neglecting to winter mulch, you risk severe winter root injury, the decline, and possible death of your trees and garden.


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How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy on a Tree

Those suspicious-looking vines growing up your tree can kill the tree and give you a painful rash if you touch them. For the safety and well-being of you and your loved ones, poison ivy should be removed from your trees.

Poison Ivy climbing vines can kill a tree gathered information about poison ivy, how to identify it, how to remove it from trees, how the rash is spread, and how to treat the rash.

Poison Ivy on Trees

You may think of poison ivy as a creeping vine along the ground or growing over small bushes and structures. While this is true, there is another side to poison ivy that you may have never noticed.

Whether in the countryside or the city, poison ivy can latch onto trees and upright structures. If allowed to grow long enough, poison ivy can weave its way throughout the entire canopy of a tree. It can take on the appearance of a tree with “limbs” sprouting out from its host by as much as 6 to 8 feet.

Poison Ivy growing on a row of pine trees

With the ability to grow as ground cover, shrubs or climbing vines, poison ivy is found throughout North America (except in the desert, Alaska, and Hawaii) growing in open fields, wooded areas, on trees, and along roadsides or riverbanks.

Learn more about how climbing vines can kill trees by reading

How to Identify Poison Ivy on Trees

Positively identifying poison ivy can be a little tricky. The following traits can help you avoid contact with this “irritating” species:

Poison Ivy leaves in spring with urushiol oil

• Poison ivy grows with a large leaf at the end of a stem and a slightly smaller leaf shooting off on either side (leaves of three).
• The leaves have pointed tips and can have notched or smooth edges.
• Foliage is reddish in the spring, green in summer, and yellow or orange in the fall.
• Clusters of green and white berries and green or yellow flowers are common through spring and summer.
• As a climbing vine, poison ivy roots attach to a tree, fence post, or light pole using rootlets (see image below), and is the more reliable indicator of this species.

Poison Ivy roots clinging to tree trunk with rootlets

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” is real. While there are other plant species with this trait, it is best to avoid these plants, unless you are sure the plant is not poison ivy and poses no threat.

How to Safely Remove Poison Ivy from Your Tree

There are two principal ways to remove poison ivy from your trees:

Herbicidal Treatment – Use glyphosate or herbicide with the compound Triclopyr. Always follow the directions on the label precisely.

You can use pruning shears or a hatchet to nick the trunk in several locations (deep enough to expose the xylem and phloem), then apply the herbicide to the open wounds. By spring the plant will have taken up the chemical and should not leaf out.

Or you can sever the vine close to the ground and immediately apply or daub the open wound with the herbicide using a paintbrush for directed spot-treatment or equipment as suggested by the product label.

Physical Removal – If your plan includes removing freshly cut or long-dead poison ivy, the following will help you avoid contact with the rash-causing urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol) oil.

• Apply a barrier cream to any exposed skin before handling poison ivy (over-the-counter creams are recommended)
• Protect your hands with washable or thick disposable gloves
• Wear long sleeves and long pants
• Wear tube socks (knee-high if possible) and boots
• Do not touch or scratch any exposed skin after contact with poison ivy
• Do not burn poison ivy cuttings. Smoke may carry the oil, allowing you to breathe in the irritant.

use protective gloves to handle poison Ivy leaves stems and roots

When removing poison ivy, it is essential to remember that the urushiol oil is present in the foliage, the stems, and in the roots. Use extreme caution when pulling up the roots of poison ivy.

For roots that have attached or clung onto the trunk of your tree, take extra care to prevent the removal of the tree bark. In cases of mature poison ivy growth, it may not be possible to remove the attached roots without severely damaging the host tree.

In the winter (when the plant is dormant), or when the plant has been dead for several months, the danger associated with urushiol oil continues. This oil may persist for years on dead foliage or plant parts.

After removing poison ivy from your tree, the following will help you avoid contact with urushiol oil:

• Carefully remove the gloves and wash them in hot, soapy water (detergents work well) or dispose of them
• Wash your hands thoroughly
• Carefully remove your clothing, placing it directly in a washing machine (wash with hot water and laundry detergent)
• Use caution when removing your clothing to avoid transferring the urushiol oil to yourself, furniture, carpeting, walls, or appliances
• Thoroughly wash your shoes and shoelaces with hot soapy water
• Take a shower, thoroughly washing your face, neck, arms, hands, and other body parts that may have been exposed to the plant
• Using disposable gloves, wash all equipment used to remove the plant with hot soapy water

If you suspect or are exposed to urushiol oil, you have between 15 and 30 minutes before the oil penetrates and bonds with the deeper layers of your skin.

What to Do After Exposure to Poison Ivy and Urushiol Oil

The development of a poison ivy rash occurs as an allergic reaction to urushiol oil. This oil naturally occurs in the leaves, stems, and roots of poison ivy.

Avoid Spreading the Oil – The rash may be spread by touching the plant, contaminated clothing, surfaces, or body part, then touching another body part.

Pets may carry the oil on their fur after playing in areas where the plant is growing and spread that oil to anyone who subsequently makes contact with the contaminated fur.

If you suspect that your pet has contacted poison ivy, put on some plastic gloves, protective clothing, and give it a thorough bathing.

Wash It Off – If you know you have come in contact with poison ivy, use hot, soapy water to thoroughly cleanse your skin.

Thoroughly wash hands after any skin exposure to poison Ivy

When a rash develops, it will be sensitive and should still be washed with hot, soapy water. This will minimize the potency of the oil and avoid spreading it to other body parts.

Don’t Scratch – A rash caused by urushiol oil is typically sensitive, itchy, and can persist for weeks. Avoid scratching affected areas to prevent bacteria from your fingernails, causing an infection.

Treatment – In mild cases of poison ivy rash, cool baths, soothing lotions, or over-the-counter medicated lotions can be used to minimize the symptoms while the skin heals.

More severe rashes (with blistering or oozing pus) or rashes on the face and genitals should be examined and treated by your primary care physician. In these cases, prescription medication, including antibiotics, may be necessary to treat the symptoms.

Prevention – To prevent a poison ivy rash, follow these tips:

• Learn how to identify poison ivy in all seasons
• Avoid touching or grabbing unfamiliar foliage
• Avoid any skin contact with poison ivy
• Remove poison ivy from your landscape
• When hiking, try to stay on cleared pathways
• When camping, pitch tents in areas free of poison ivy
• Keep pets from playing in wooded areas to keep urushiol oil from sticking to their fur

Avoid poison Ivy when camping and pitching a tent

NOTE: Urushiol oil can remain potent for several years. If you put away a contaminated piece of clothing without washing it and take it out one year later, the oil on the clothing may still cause a rash.

My Trees and Poison Ivy Vines

The vines on your tree may pose a health risk to you and your loved ones while it robs your tree of essential sunlight and nutrients.

In this article, you discovered how to identify poison ivy, safely remove it from your trees, avoid spreading the rash, and treatment for a rash once you have it.

Allowing poison ivy to grow on your trees and in your landscape can kill your trees and result in violent rashes caused by the urushiol oil that’s produced by the plant.


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Evergreen Tree Disease – Needle Cast Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Is your evergreen tree turning a worrisome color? If the answer is yes, you need to take action before it’s too late to save them.

Evergreen tree with discolored foliage from needle cast infection

As the name implies, these trees should be “always green.” When they start yellowing, browning, or blackening, something deadly is likely happening on the inside. Proper treatment depends on interpreting visible symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.

The team at gathered information on needle cast, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and answers some frequently asked questions.

Evergreen Tree Disease – Needle Cast

Needle cast diseases are tricky to diagnose and treat because the symptoms only become apparent 12 to 18 months after becoming infected.

Evergreen tree with chlorosis from needle cast infection

Needle Cast Symptoms

Since needle cast diseases are caused by various fungi, there may be slight variations in symptoms. However, they have many of the following symptoms in common:

• Needles turn entirely yellow or brown.
• Girdled needles will appear to be tri-colored; green from the base to a reddish brown spot in the middle, and yellow from the spot to the tip.
• Infected and dying needles will be riddled with dark, light, or yellow rounded or spider-like fruiting structures depending on the invading fungi.
• Diseased needles are shed in mass, making the tree look sparse and thin.
• In many cases, only the current season’s needle growth will be left on the tree.
• A tree’s lower branches are typically more severely affected and usually the first to present dieback.
• In more advanced cases, branch dieback may occur anywhere on the tree.

As other non-infectious evergreen diseases may mimic needle cast symptoms, it is essential to make a positive identification. Two of the above symptoms are an absolute giveaway of a needle cast infection; girdled needles and fruiting structures on infected needles.

Diseased evergreen tree infected with needle cast

During winter months, your evergreens may suffer from drought and sun scalding. The appearance of this condition is very similar to that of needle cast, read more on Winter Protection for Evergreens, Trees, and Plants at

Needle Cast Diagnosis

Once you have determined that needle cast is present, it is essential to identify which disease is affecting the tree by sending a sample to a plant clinic. The methods of control will vary according to the fungal species causing the infection.

You can accomplish this by:

• Hiring an arborist to remove samples and have them tested.
• Contacting your state’s Department of Agriculture and sending a sample of the infected tree to one of their field offices or testing centers.
• Contacting your state’s university to locate one of their plant and pest diagnostic clinics or extensions.

Universities and Departments of Agriculture will likely have a sample submission form to fill out along with specific instructions on how to handle and ship samples to them.

Needle Cast Treatment

If the disease is not too severe, control of needle cast can be accomplished through treatment and preventative measures:

• Remove and destroy all infected needles.
• Trees that have already died should be removed by a professional tree service and properly disposed of.
• Preventative chemical controls should be applied when needles are half elongated and again once they reach full length.
• As this disease can remain asymptomatic for 12 to 18 months, chemical controls should be applied for a minimum of two years.
• To reduce the risk of reinfecting more mature trees, chemical controls may be required indefinitely.
• Select resistant evergreen species when planting.
• Make sure trees are adequately spaced to allow good air circulation.
• Eliminate all methods of overhead watering (splashing water spreads spores).
• Sterilize all equipment (including protective clothing) used to prune, dig, or handle infected trees before using them on healthy uninfected specimens.
• Follow all control and prevention instructions given by the plant clinic.

Advanced cases of needle cast are challenging to treat and will usually result in the death of the tree.

Dead evergreen tree from needle cast disease

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can a brown evergreen come back?
Answer: Yes. If the browning is due to an adversely cold and dry winter, your broad-leafed or needled evergreen can make a comeback as temperatures warm up in the spring and they get sufficient water.

However, if the browning is due to disease, you will have a much more difficult time getting your evergreen to rebound.

Evergreen tree infected and dying from needle cast disease

Question: Which fungi cause needle cast?
Answer: Several fungi cause needle cast in evergreen trees. Some of the more common fungi are:

• Lophodermium
• Cyclaneusma
• Ploioderma
• Rhizosphaeria
• Phaeocryptopus
• Rhabdocline

Proper identification of the fungi species will help determine the course of treatment for the infected specimen.

My Evergreen is Turning Brown and Dying

When it comes to evergreen trees, “green is good” and “brown is bad!” These trees are built to be green, and when they start to turn yellow and brown, chances are good that you are dealing with needle cast.

In this article, you discovered the symptoms, how to diagnose, and how to treat a needle cast infection.

Your delay in identifying and treating needle cast can result in the death of the infected tree and propagate the disease to any surrounding evergreens.


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Tree Bark Canker Disease Identification, Treatment, and Prevention

Your trees could be sick and dying in plain sight with no apparent symptoms. Discover what to look for and how to fix it before one of them falls on your house.

Tree trunk with severe canker disease infection

By the time diseases that cause cankers on trees become visible, it is often too late to save the limb, branch, or tree. Keeping your trees healthy and having them inspected annually are two of your greatest defenses against tree disease and death. defines cankers, looks at the pathogens that cause them, the signs of an infected tree, how to treat them, and how to prevent cankers from becoming a severe threat to your trees.

What Are Tree Cankers?

Tree cankers are symptoms of a fungal or bacterial pathogen having infected damaged bark (from an impact injury) or an open wound (from unhealed pruning).

The fungi and bacteria that cause cankers are common, widespread, and harmful to an extensive range of tree and shrub species. Some of the more familiar pathogens that cause cankers are:

Cytospora (a genus of Ascomycete fungi) – Frequently found on pines, spruce, willows, and poplars.

Nectria (a genus of Ascomycete fungi) – Commonly found on oaks and maples.

Phytophthora lateralis – Infects cedars and yews.

Phytophthora cinnamomi – Over 1,000 species of conifers and hardwoods worldwide can host this pathogen.

Phytophthora cambivora – Affects conifers and hardwoods throughout Europe and North America.

Canker diseases can easily kill branches or cause enough structural damage for branches to break free in severe weather. At its worst, cankers on the trunk of a tree can be in the process of girdling and subsequently killing the entire tree.

Tree canker disease causing a deformed trunk

Signs and Symptoms of Tree Cankers

As a fungal or bacterial pathogen invades bark and sapwood, it blocks or kills the phloem (water and nutrient-conducting tissues). As the phloem succumbs to this invasion, wilting and dieback begin to occur.

Cankers form on branches, stems, and trunks as a result of the interaction between the pathogen and its host. As the pathogen grows and expands within the wood, the host tries to contain its growth through compartmentalization (this is the same process a tree uses to heal wounds from pruning activities). For this reason, it can take years for a healthy tree to begin showing the following symptoms:

• Wilting
• Dieback
• Stunted growth of new foliage
• Chlorosis (yellowing or discoloration of foliage)
• Early leaf drop (deciduous trees)
• Excessive loss of foliage (evergreen trees)
• Darkened lesions on the bark
• Split bark sometimes oozing sap or moisture

Tree canker disease causing sap to flow from the cambium layer

Cankers may vary in size and shape depending on the vigor of the tree and the aggressiveness of the pathogen. While most cankers appear as dark, sunken oval-shaped lesions, they may grow into what seem to be split open knots on the bark.

Now that you know the signs of cankers, read for tree stress warning signs to be aware of that are not associated with cankers.

Tree Canker Treatment

There are no universally registered chemicals for the treatment of cankers. However, once a canker is detected on a stem or branch, the following measures should be taken to prevent the pathogen from spreading to other areas or other trees:

• Sterilize all pruning/cutting tools between cuts with 70% rubbing alcohol or a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.
• Work only when the bark is dry to prevent the pathogen from easily spreading.
• For stems and twigs, prune them back to several inches behind the canker.
• Branches with cankers close to the trunk should be pruned back to the branch collar without leaving stubs.
• Never cut into a canker. By doing so, you may be allowing the pathogen to spread.
• When a canker is located on the trunk of a tree, do not attempt to remove it. In these cases, seek the advice of an arborist.

Tree canker disease on branch with severe decay

If you find yourself removing multiple cankers from a single tree or cankers from numerous trees, it would be wise to have your trees and landscape inspected by a professional.

Canker Disease Prevention

The prevention of canker pathogens, disease, and infestations all depend on a series of factors including:

• Appropriate seasonal pruning read more on pruning techniques and safety at
• Grow those trees and plants suitable for the USDA hardiness zone you are located in
• Select disease resistant species
• Use proper planting and mulching methods
• Provide ample amounts of water during dry seasons
• Maintain a nutrient-rich and pH adjusted soil appropriate for optimal growth
• Protect trees during winter and severe weather to avoid bark wounds

Another essential element in keeping trees healthy is the scheduling of annual inspections by tree professionals. They can often detect potential health risks in their early stages and help you to avoid catastrophic damages.

Tree inspection looking for canker disease and other pathogens

In cases where you think the damage has gone beyond repair, read and know when you may need remove the tree altogether.

Tree Cankers and the Diseases that Cause Them

Tree diseases often go unnoticed until they have done more damage than can be mitigated. Knowing what to look for and how to take action is one of your greatest assets in keeping your trees healthy and thriving for generations.

In this article, you discovered what tree cankers are, how they are caused, the signs of an infection, how to treat cankers, and how to prevent them from causing irreparable damage to your trees and property.

Your failing to take action when your trees are infected by invasive pathogens will result in the compromised health and ultimate death of the tree and may lead to that tree falling on your home, car, or causing catastrophic, even life-threatening damages.


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