The death, or decline in health, of trees

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Sudden tree death
According to the Arboricultural Advisory and Information Service, the number of reports of the sudden death of trees has notably increased this year. These trees may have either failed to come into leaf this year, or have flushed, with the leaves subsequently dying.

What to look for
Firstly, has the tree genuinely died, or are there still signs of life - such as green shoot tips? If the tree has died it may be beneficial to find out the cause of death, as if it is by fungal pathogen it may be necessary to take immediate remedial action to stop its spread. A number of other factors may also have caused a rapid decline in health or death of a tree such as climatic; i.e frost or lightning, chemical or general poor management.

A common killer of garden trees is Honey Fungus, and it can be quite easy to spot this as sheets of white mycelium may be present under the dead bark, often with a strong smell of mushrooms. Black bootlaces (rhizomorphs) may also be present in the soil around the stem base and rooting. Honey fungus may kill a number of trees and shrubs in the vicinity and early detection can stop further problems occurring, although it should be noted that Honey Fungus may be present on or around a tree which has been killed or weakened by another agent. The fruiting bodies of Honey Fungus can also be easily identified - with a classic yellowy toadstool appearance when mature, and a ring or collar present on the toadstall stalk. These often do not last too long, particularly after frost, but still may be evident by a mass of blackend, mushy stalks on the ground. The best action in such cases is to completely remove the entire tree or shrub, including roots, with all of the arisings being burnt on site, although this is not always possible and arrangements may be made to remove the affected branching and wood to a suitable site for disposal.

Other significant fungal pathogens of the Phytophthora species are also affecting a wide range of trees at the moment. You may have read reports of new outbreaks of tree disease occurring over the last few years, most notably Sudden Oak Death and the death of a number of Larch trees (both Phytophthora ramorum), and other cases of Lawson Cypress trees dying (P. lateralis). Identification of these fungi is often not immediately clear, and it may be necessary to undertake closer inspection and gather samples for analysis.

Lightning damage may be obvious by a long strip of dead or blown bark, or even underlying tissue, starting in the tree crown and often reaching down the stem to the base.

Ask an expert
Cotswold Tree Surgeons have trained staff who will be able to inspect your dead or dying trees in order to find out the cause of their demise or decline. Sometimes it may be necessary to take samples from which more detailed analysis may be made, and we can also take care of this for you.

If you have a tree or shrub of which you have concerns it would be beneficial for you to note your own observations such as;

1. When you first noticed a change in the tree health

2. When and/or where fungal fruiting bodies were seen - with photographs if possible (fruiting bodies often only have a short life cycle)

3. Other notable factors such as extreme weather occurrences, chemical spillages or excavations adjacent to the tree

4. The taking of samples - leaves or shoots etc, which may be put into a sealed plastic bag for possible further analysis

Tree surgery
In addition to our arboricultural consultancy we also offer a comprehensive tree surgery service in all aspects of arboriculture. If you have a tree or shrub, no matter how big or small, that requires attention give us a call! All of our details can be found on the CONTACT US page of this website.

Submitted by Iain on Monday 24th September 2012

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