Golden Raintree Death

Asked June 11, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

Two of our golden raintrees one 15 years old the other 5 years old were beautiful yesterday and today they have dead crunchy leaves falling off of the tree overnight. Help. We planted our first golden raintree oer 45 years ago. These are great grandchildren of the original tree. Please help.

Jefferson County Kentucky

1 Response

First, is the entire tree brown and crispy with all growth (buds and new leaves too) affected? If the answer is yes, then it may not be possible to save the tree. With both trees affected the cause is most likely something in the environment. Disease and insects rarely cause such a rapid and critical decline.

An established tree that literally declines overnight is unusual, but there are a few reasons this may happen especially in hot summer weather.

* Acute trauma such as a lightning strike, being hit by a car or roots cut during construction or trenching.
* Over fertilization (or salts).
* Exposure to lawn chemicals such as weed killers.
* Irrigation that is too frequent and too shallow.

These problems interrupt the ability of the plant to get water from the roots to the leaves. Hot weather makes any of these issues more damaging to the tree.

Once you discover the cause of the decline you may be able to change the environment around the tree or wait out the trauma to see if the tree will recover. (providing the damage is sporadic through the tree)

Correct irrigation and pruning out dead branches are a start to healthier tree growth.

A note on trees vs lawn: Trees and grass have different needs and developed in different environments. Tree roots can grow 1 & 1/2 times the height of the tree so avoid any lawn chemicals in this area if possible. These chemicals can easily be taken up by trees and other woody plants. If you fertilize the lawn, then fertilize the trees - the trees get fed twice. If you use herbicides to control broad leaf weeds - most trees are also broad leaf plants. UK has a great publication on how to keep both trees and turf happy:

If you have other questions or wish to talk to me feel free to call our office.

Let me know if I can help you further!

Carol Wilder
Horticulture Technician
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
810 Barret Ave
Louisville Ky 40204