Magnolia disease?

Asked May 22, 2018, 9:33 AM EDT

Hi, We have two magnolia trees. I noticed a month ago that the leaves on one were turning brown (image). It is in a dry spot in the yard so I thought it might be a water issue. We went away for 2 and half weeks and came home to a completely brown magnolia. Now, our other tree appears to be browning at the very top. Is there anything that we can do? I assume it is a disease as I noticed just this morning that a magnolia just behind our neighborhood's sign is completely brown as well. If there is anything that can be done, please let me know. Regards,

Montgomery County Maryland magnolia winter damage abiotic issues trees

1 Response

The photos do not look like a disease. Looks like winter damage.
Many broadleaf evergreens were subject to this due to our cold winter, fluctuating temperatures and dry periods. Dry soil in winter is tough on plants--especially on evergreens, and broad-leaved evergreens most of all. That’s because evergreens continue to lose moisture through leaves and needles all winter, then suffer when they can’t replace this moisture from dry frozen soil. Don’t let your evergreens enter winter in dry soil.

All you can do is wait for new growth as the weather warms up this spring. If the leaf buds were not damaged, new leaves will develop and the old ones will drop off. Be patient. Give them plenty of time to be sure they are dead before pruning. One test: scrape a bit of bark and look for green underneath, a sign of life.
You can send us additional photos if you notice more symptoms.
Here is more information on winter damage https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/winter-damage-trees-and-shrubs

Right photo - Looks like it may be dead but we cannot say for sure. The tree looks like it was located in a protected area but it may have not been hardy enough. There also may have been competition for moisture and nutrients from the other trees. Do the scratch test as mentioned above and look for green tissue and new growth. If you do not see it, then you will have to decide if you want to replant.

mh