Large aspen hardly leafed out by June 1, near Santa Fe, NM

Asked May 31, 2019, 6:57 PM EDT

I have recently moved to Santa Fe from CA and know nothing about aspens! But I am very worried about this tree. I bought the house in January, and of course the tree was bare. Then it made little tassels like pussy willows. The neighborhood is full of aspens and everyone else's is fully leafed out, as is a smaller one across my driveway. But the big one in photos here just has tiny leaves on just a few banches. I started watering it with drip hose and don't know if that will help or not. I hope someone has some ideas because it is a beautiful tree that I want to keep alive. The black cracks in the bark may mean a problem but I don't know enough about how they are supposed to look when healthy. I presume it is probably around 25 years old, because the house was built in 1995-? Thank you.

Santa Fe County New Mexico

2 Responses

Aspen trees that fail to leaf out or produce few flowers (catkins), may be starting to die off. Aspens usually have a life span of about 20-25 years. Life spans can also be shorter at lower elevations where they are not well adapted. The black cracks may be sooty black canker that is caused by a fungus (Ceratocystis fimbriata). It is usually not a fatal disease because of its slow development. Check out the following for more information about aspen trees:

James--thank you very much for taking the time to answer. I guess my tree is doomed...it did make catkins but then only a few leaves. Here in NM, we are supposed to have had a wet winter, so I hope my ignorance about watering big aspen trees wasn't the problem.
I am still watering my tree! Even if it dies altogether, I will leave it up for as long as possible because the birds love to perch up on high branches.
I read the whole website that you linked to; it is fascinating and even poetic!
Thanks,
Cynthia