Red Beech Tree Illness

Asked June 14, 2016, 1:22 PM EDT

I have a red beech tree which I planted approximately 10 years ago. This spring it leafed out as expected and looked beautiful and perfectly healthy. About 3 weeks ago over the span of a week every leaf wilted. Now the whole tree looks dead with crispy dry leaves still attached. When I scratch the bark on the branches it is still green below the outer layer. Any information would be helpful. I hope this is something it can recover from. Tom

Frederick County Maryland

3 Responses

It is impossible to say what killed your beech. We assume you see no insects or specific disease symptoms, since you did not mention them. However, half the time plant problems have nothing to do with insects or diseases.

We notice that the lawn is completely free of weeds and assume that herbicide has been applied to obtain that condition. Beeches have shallow root systems, and if an herbicide was used that contained dicamba, it will travel down through the soil and kill roots. That would explain such a quick kill. Check your herbicide ingredients and label precautions.

Also, we did notice that the tree's root flare is not visible. At the base of the trunk, where the trunk widens and gradually morphs into the root system, the "flare" of the trunk should be above ground. Being planted too deeply can slowly kill a tree.
Pull away the mulch at the base of the tree (mulch should not be on the trunk, but kept a few inches back). You may need to also remove soil covering some of the base of the tree.

Here is a helpful article of conditions that can kill trees:


Thanks for your response. The lawn is not as weed free as it looks. I don't use all over herbicides. I just spot treat the bad ones. I didn't spray near this tree because I overseeded the grass. Closer investigation showed cracks in spots on the bark. Pic shows rot beneath. 2nd pic shows some small holes with rice sized sawdust blobs. 3rd pic shows old borer damage scar with sawdust. Seems like insects may be part of the problem. Or did they come once the tree got weakened? I have more close up pics but could only attach 3. Thanks again.

Based on the 2nd (center) photo, your copper beech was infested by ambrosia beetle. That light-colored tube is the sawdust pushed out of a hole bored by the beetle.
(The massive scar in the 3rd photo couldn't have been good for the tree and may have interfered with nutrient and water transport up and down the tree.)
Ambrosia beetles tend to target stressed trees. Copper beeches are generally not long-lived in this region.