Dying Balsam fir? insects or overwatered?

Asked May 11, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

Hello, my neighbor's tree is dying from trunk out to tip of branches. Some of the pitch blisters are oozing, some are dry with a tiny brown beetle leaving tracks under the bark. The tree is about 20 yrs old and has grown in an undisturbed lawn that entire time. Last year a new owner rototilled 270 degrees around the tree, for dahlia and shrub beds and a Cornus florida. All beds were watered extensively all last summer and now the fir is almost dead? Is the new water quantity, root disturbance, or insect the source of the tree decline? Any solutions?

Washington County Oregon urban forestry

1 Response

The answer is pretty much "yes" to all your questions. Since the majority of a tree's roots are in the top three feet of soil, the rototilling likely killed a great number of roots. The change in watering regime was equally bad for the tree, and when it became stressed, the beetles invaded. So, they are all likely the cause of decline.

You could hire a Certified Arborist to take a look at it, but judging from the photos, it is probably time to remove and replant.

Here is a link to a brochure that will help avoid these sorts of problems next time:

http://extensionweb.forestry.oregonstate.edu/sites/forestry-extension/files/FINAL_UCF_HomeownersGuide.pdf

Hope that helps.

Paul