We have a black gum (Nyssa silvatica) that the county planted on our tree...

Asked July 7, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

We have a black gum (Nyssa silvatica) that the county planted on our tree lawn last fall or winter (2013/2014). It has been doing fine until this weekend (weekend of 7/4-7/6) when the leaves started turning, yellow, then brown then drying up completely - all within the span of about 48 hours. We've been watering it regularly (when we've had less than an inch of rain per week) and don't know what has happened. Should we continue to water it and pray for the best or is all hope lost? We see no signs of tent worms or other external parasites...

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

It looks like the tree is dead, though you can scratch the bark and look for green tissue underneath which would indicate that there is still some life left in it. We can't say what killed it based on the photo.

However, we cannot see the flare at the base of the tree. It's possible that it was planted too deeply. If the trunk goes straight into the ground like a lollipop, then it is too deep and that will slowly kill it. You can pull away mulch at the base of the tree (mulch should not touch the trunk) and see if you can find the flare where the trunk flares out into the roots.

Black gums tolerate wet soil, so we doubt you overwatered it, however if it had a large root ball, it is possible that it needed more water at each watering.
You may find some clues in our online publication, Plant Tips for Trees: http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG24_Planting_tips_f...
This tree was young and never got a chance to get established. An excellent publication on tree problems is: http://extension.umd.edu/learn/common-abiotic-plant-problems-hg86

Thank you for your quick response. We'll see what we can do to revive it!