Monday, June 15, 2015

What Happened to Our Pine?

We've been inundated with rain this spring. I hate to ask for it to stop though, because it's about this time of year that it stops and doesn't return for a couple of months, which has me doing rain dances. But really... enough for now!

We had a particularly windy storm pass through this afternoon that put an additional half-inch in the rain gauge, and except for a brief break, it's been raining ever since.

During that break, I walked out to the garden to take a photo of something and noticed a large branch from one of the pine trees lying on the ground next to it.

It almost looked as if it had been pruned away, but when I looked up at the tree, I could see that it came from the top. Closer examination of the broken end revealed what looked like rot that may have been a result of insect damage or a fungus.

Something's not right here...

There is a small amount of dead material at the place where this broke away. I know there are a number of rot diseases that can affect pines, but I'm just not sure what this is.

Can anyone shed some light on it?


Colleen said...

Looking at your bottom photo it looks like you have a lot of mulch around the base of the trunk. One thing you don't want to do is having mulch up against the tree trunks. Needs air to breath.
You want the mulch more around where the root ball is and not close to the trunk; you have more of a chance for insects to cause problems and having rot when mulch is piled high, up by the trunk.
We planted pines a few years ago ( I live in Texas) and never mulched our trees. Just kept them well watered and they are now over 30 feet tall.
Sometimes people think that they need to add a pile of mulch around their trees thinking it would help but many times it does more harm than good.
Ground Inspection.
A tree is held up and fed by its root system. There are two types of tree roots. The anchoring roots support the tree, and are the most visible. The small absorbing roots pull water and nutrients from the soil. When the anchoring roots rot and decay, the tree will have severe problems. The tree may appear healthy, and could be fully clad with foliage because the absorbing roots are still actively supplying the tree with nutrients. It may be completely vertical, or it may have a slight lean. In either case, if there are root problems, even a gentle wind or rainwater sitting on its leaves could cause the tree to topple without warning.
◾The ground and soil surrounding the base of the tree can provide clues to a serious problem. Pull ivy and other material away from the base of the tree because it often hides telltale fungus growth and other defects like cavities and hollows. Cracked or raised soil opposite a tree’s lean can indicate root disturbances that could point to a tree in the process of uprooting. Look carefully for signs of a tree beginning to fall over.

◾Fungal growth like mushrooms on or near a tree trunk is indicative of rot or decay. The presence of fungus is particularly serious if it is profuse. To determine if the tree is unsafe, you need to know how extensive the decay is. Call a certified arborist immediately if you see fungal growth around the base of a tree.

The most accurate procedure for detecting root rot or trunk decay makes use of tool called a Resistograph. Here’s how it works: A tiny drill bit, less than of one-eighth inch in diameter, is pushed into the tree with a gear. A scratch pin records on a wax paper strip the resistance to the drill bit as it enters the tree. This does not damage the tree, and it can tell the tester how decayed or hollow the tree is.

Colleen said...

Oh, another thing you want to watch out for is Bagworms.
If you see any, cut them off, put in a plastic bag and destroy them; putting in garbage can or burn them. Bagworms will spread and can do considerable damage to roses, shrubs, trees, etc.

Jenny said...

The rain has been crazy! Every time the wind blows I hear of another huge tree that has fallen because the ground is so soggy the roots can't hold them up against strong winds. I too, try to never complain about the rain. It really wasn't that long ago that we were in a serious drought here. One thing for sure, my moss is very lush!

I hope you find out what's wrong with your tree.

Kylee Baumle said...

Colleen ~ Thanks for all the information. Actually, there isn't a lot of mulch and I'm always very careful to not pile it up against the trunk. In fact, "volcano mulching" is one of my pet peeves and I have written entire columns on it for my weekly newspaper column. Mostly what's at the base is pine needles from the tree itself and they aren't more than an inch thick. No bagworms either. We dealt with those a long time ago on a Colorado Blue Spruce, but there weren't enough to damage the tree. We burned them. I did a blog post about those disgusting things too. I cut one open and photographed the worm. They look as if they're wearing armor. LOL.

Jenny ~ Since pines are somewhat shallow-rooted, it's always a concern when we've had this much rain that they'll be blown over in some of the strong winds we have with our storms. The heavy clay soil is what has saved them many a time, I'm sure! But now and then you'll see a pine laying on its side after a big storm. :-(

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Looks like you have plenty of advice from the experts. That's good! I hope your tree will come through it all OK. For some reason, here in Madison, we're just north of all the torrential rains this spring. We've had enough rain, but not too much. Highs in the 70s and 80s. No complaints. I'll take the perfect weather when I can get it, because so many months out of the year are too cold for me. It's almost summer! I hope it's a great one for you, Kylee!

Lilly M said...

I recently watched a webinar on conifer problems from Michigan State University (I'm an Advanced Master Gardener). I know that I saw something similar in the webinar, but I will be doggone if I can remember right now. I would suggest sending the photos to the Dept. of Horticulture at MSU and I bet they will identify the problem quickly and give you good advice....Lillian

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