Dawn Redwood troubleshoot

Asked September 4, 2019, 1:57 PM EDT

Hello, I am a proud owner of two new dawn redwood trees. They have been growing well for the last year until 3 weeks ago I noticed the leaves were missing on the lower branches and it appeared as if an animal was eating the lower limbs. I fenced the trees hoping that would solve the problem. It didn’t. The trees are about 8-9 feet in height and were originally missing foliage from the bottom 2 feet, now that area has expanded to 4-5 feet. The top of the tree appears normal however the bark seems to be flaking off and a brown moss-like powdery coating is under the flaking bark. The trees are planted within 25 and 40 feet of a stream in moist soil. The area is near mature hardwoods but they get full sun most of the day. It is a shaded area in late afternoon. I have mulched them with rough-hardwood chips.

I did a little internet searching and found that I seem have the same problem as this person’s previous post: ”I have a Dawn Redwood tree about 10 years old and 20ft high. The lowest branches (up to 3' on the trunk) are disfigured by peeling bark and a brown powdery substance. Although the branches are still alive they also seem to be stunted and as they do not grow as vigorously as branches higher on the tree. All the branches above that 3 foot space appear normal. I've attached some photos of a lower branch and a more normal looking higher branch. The disfigured branches, as you will see, bud just as well as the higher branches. Apparently whatever is going on is not affecting the tree's overall growth. I am curious to know, though, if this is a disease of is it something that is not unusual for Dawn Redwoods...”

Could this be mites? A fungus?
Thank you,
in MD

Anne Arundel County Maryland abiotic issues dawn redwood tree

2 Responses

This does not look like a disease or insect issue. The bark is normal for a down redwood. The trees are young and are struggling to establish their root systems.
To help your trees establish successfully here are some tips to consider before and after planting.

  • Check the soil drainage and make sure it drains well.
  • Before planting, if the roots are root-bound within the container, make several cuts along the outside of the root ball and tease the roots out so they can establish into the surrounding soil. (See the planting process). https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/planting-process
  • Do not plant too deeply. Dig the planting hole deep enough to accommodate the plant with the top of the root ball level with or slightly above ground level.
  • Mulch should be no thicker than 2-3 inches. Keep it several inches away from the stems of the plants.
  • Check the soil moisture of new plants weekly and water deeply. Water established plants during dry periods.
At this point, make sure the mulch is not too deep and keep it away from the base of the trunks. Check the soil moisture at least once a week and water deeply. You may need to probe with a screwdriver and make sure the soil is moist about 6 inches deep. Let the soil dry slightly before watering. Do not overwater.


Thank you for your response. The planting tips you mentioned were applied on these trees, I don't think the roots are compacted. I will continue to watch them closely and make sure they are getting enough water. We’ve had a lot of dry, hot weather lately... Usually this area is very seldom ever dry. It's located near a stream and at the bottom of a hill.
I suspect that a deer ate the foliage and the mulch may have been too thick.