Thursday, April 26, 2012

Watch Out For Tree Rot!


Decay in trees is bad, very bad. Tree rot can be slow to develop and potentially very dangerous. Unfortunately, existing fungicide products are not effective at stopping or reversing decay. Decay in trees is often unsightly, but it can also result in a safety or property damage hazard. Decayed trees, sooner or later, start shedding limbs or can topple in strong winds. Trees or large limbs riddled with rot can (and often do) land on houses, cars and, tragically, sometimes people.


There are two ways to deal with the decay - directly and indirectly. In most cases, it's best to use both procedures.

Direct methods are procedures, activities and techniques that incorporate awareness of the existing level of decay and immediately discourage the advancement of the decay. They include corrective pruning, eliminating codominant leaders early in the tree's life and removal of crossing, broken or diseased branches.  This type of work should be left to a professional tree service, like Trees "R" Us, Inc. on Chicago's North Shore.

Placement of protective devices that reflect the harmful effects of winter sun will help to prevent further damage to the bark of sunscald-prone trees. The device should be white or beige in color, placed in such a way that it allows air to circulate around the trunk and can be easily removed in the spring. Thanksgiving to Easter is the best time to protect against further trunk damage from sunscald.

Indirect methods include proper siting of trees (right plant, right place); proper spacing; proper planting procedures to prevent damage to the bole from basal decay and root rot, as well as the promotion of a healthy root system; and mulching with coarse wood chips to prevent mower blight and reduce grass competition. 

Inexperienced mower operators can cause serious damage to the protective bark. This can occur acutely or chronically. Either way gives decay fungi the opportunity to invade the inner tree tissues. By starting the mulch application 3 inches away from the trunk and using a 2 to 3-inch depth, vigorous rooting is also likely to take place.

The selection of new trees for a landscape has a bearing on preventing future decay, as well. Certain trees, such as cottonwood and silver maple, tend to decay rapidly once infected. Other species, including walnut, Osage orange and ginkgo are more lignified and decay slowly. To make good choices, consult your local tree service, like Trees "R" Us, Inc. on the North Shore area of Chicago.

Above all, when it comes to decay prevention, do everything possible to protect the bark. A solid, uninterrupted bark layer is the first and best line of defense against the invasion of decay organisms.

Keep in mind that as trees mature, most of them acquire defects of one sort or another and that opportunistic decay organisms are ubiquitous. Due to differences in tree anatomy, physiology and reactions to stressors, decay may not be readily apparent. Tree decay can be present in significant volume without any external symptoms or telltale signs. On the other hand, cracks, rot pockets (portions of the trunk where large limbs have been removed), lightning strikes and fruiting structures are good indicators of internal decay. In other words, don't rely upon superficial walk-by inspections to reveal rot in every tree. Sometimes you have to look more carefully.

Remember, decay is a disease that often takes years to develop and become noticeable, unlike diseases that damage tree foliage. For this reason, older neighborhoods and landscapes are likely candidates for infected trees. If you live in  this type of  neighborhood, and especially if your yard has mature trees, contact your local tree service, like Trees "R" Us, Inc., to inspect your trees for signs of decay and other problems.

Thanks for reading, 
Nick

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