What is Wrong With This Tree?

Asked July 24, 2019, 1:22 PM EDT

This tree has been struggling for at least three years, and it seems to be diseased. The bark has green spots on it, it is scrawny and thin, has few, curled up leaves, and tree fertilizer has no effect at all. Can anyone identify what is wrong with it? I can also get a soil sample done if this is needed to be sure.

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

The green patches on the trunk of the tree are lichens and are not cause for decline. See more on our website https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lichens

This looks like you may be dealing with an abiotic issue not a disease or insect problem. We cannot identify the type of tree that is planted as the photo was too distant and not in focus. Send photos of details of the leaves, leaf margins and if the leaves are alternate or opposite on the stems, any fruits etc. Also send photos of the whole tree, around the base, and affected foliage.

We notice branch dieback and looks like the tree is struggling to establish its root system. Reasons may be: poor growing conditions; too much moisture or lack of; limited planting space (we cannot see); planting too deeply - in heavy soils, it is recommended to plant trees and shrubs with the top of the root ball slightly above the existing soil line.
If this was a container plant, some container plants may be root bound within the container before planting. Roots may be growing in a circle around the rootball within the container. Roots should be teased out into the surrounding soil before planting. container. Make sure mulch is no thicker than several inches and keep away from the base of the plants. Take a look at some of these problems https://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_docs/programs/hgic/HGIC_Pubs/TreesandShrubs...

Also, many plant have been affected by the abnormal rainfall we had last year. The very wet weather we had last year and into this spring has been tough on a lot of plants. In soil that is too saturated, roots do not receive sufficient oxygen and then decline -- which leads to dieback since the plant has less of a root system to take up water.