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Hardwoods dying--starting at top7/12
On my father's property we have something happening that has us both stumped:
He has some two hickory trees, two white oaks, and several dogwoods that have either died or are dying. They all started dying at the top first, and then the whole tree dies. I cut them yesterday and noticed that some of the trunks (even on the trees that still had a majority of green growth) had soft (decaying) wood in them.
We also noticed that a couple of longleaf pines are starting to brown at the tops as well.
Have any of you ever seen anything like this? In my experience usually it is one species of tree that is affected, but in this case it is several. All these trees are located over 1-2 acres; all the remaining trees (and the remaining acreage) is fine.
Thanks for your help.
This is really a forestry question. A forest pathologist should be able to help. Contact your county forester (part of the state forestry people) for potential on-the-ground help.
Groundwater contamination. The only cause that fits all the facts. The Doc is right...You will need a forester To examine the area and the dead trees. The trees may have accumulated toxins over a long period of time, which ultimately may have damaged the system trees use to distribute water. Again, no way to know for sure until you get an expert on site. I will ask my neighbor who is a consulting forester.
Thanks yall. I will contact our forestry dept. to seek their help. I'll post the findings in case you're interested.
Chet, your diagnosis would seem logical (though I don't know of any contamination sources, but you never know). Thanks for checking with your neighbor as well.
I'm in east central Alabama (should have put that in my original post).
I meant to post this under "Forestry", but I guess with my 2 year old climbing all over me while posting I just went to the wrong category--my apologies!
In soils in your area that have a sandy type topsoil, there is a root rot fungus that is killing a great many trees, mainly pines. I am not sure if this fungus attacks hardwoods, but there are a number of other diseases that also impact hardwoods. I suspect that the problem in in the soil. Was the area compacted, puddled, rutted or damaged in the past?
The soil is red clay (the sandy stuff is a bit farther south from us), and the area that these trees are on has not been disturbed; however, the adjacent property had some fairly large-scale grading work done around 10 years ago. These trees are close to the property line, with the closest of the dying trees being around 30 feet off the line and the farthest being around 150 yards away. But, as I mentioned its been about 10 years since any work was done there.
As you know Alabama and other parts of the south have experienced severe droughts for the past 2 - 3 years. Drought does not kill big trees in the year of occurrence, rather it stresses them making them more susceptable to attack from pathogens which may take several years to kill the weakened tree.
Dieback in the tops (the part of a tree which feels drought stresss most profoundly) and the fact that you have several affected species point to drought stress as the cause.
Because it can take several years for drought stress to kill a tree don't be surprised if you see additional mortatlity.