Dying Trees

Asked August 19, 2020, 10:31 AM EDT

I have a Fruiting Cherry tree that has been loosing its leaves early the past several years and this year it was 95% bare by mid July. Last year I found carpenter ants in the trunk and read that they are most likely not the problem, but appeared because the tree health was already compromised. This year I had a White Pine that appeared fine, and then one day out of nowhere the needles turned brown and within 2 weeks they had all turned and were falling off quickly. I've had several types of trees and plants along a path in my yard die the past several years and I'm wondering if there's something in the Soil. I don't know who to contact to find out. I want to replant but would like to first know what's going on and the best trees to plant.

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

Are these cherries you harvest for fruit, or an ornamental cherry grown for flowers (since they can produce small fruits as well)? Are you able to send us photos of the tree's overall condition? Pictures of the lower trunk (including where it touches the ground) and any suspicious areas (oozing sap, cracks, etc.) would also help us to diagnose it. You can attach up to three image files per reply, but you can reply more than once if needed to send additional photos.

White Pine trees are susceptible to a range of stress factors common in suburbia (compacted soil, overly wet or dry soil, air pollution, opportunistic wood-boring insects or fungi, and more) which can shorten their lives and cause drastic dieback or total loss. Sometimes the problems have been ailing the tree for years until a tipping-point is reached and something pushes the tree past the point of tolerance or recovery. Then, symptoms can manifest fairly quickly. When pines lose needle color and shed foliage that drastically, nothing can be done and the tree needs to be removed if there is a danger of it damaging structures when it falls (eventually, not necessarily right away).

You can send us photos of the general area of the yard you are having problems with; perhaps something will stand out to us to suggest changing. You can also see where downspouts from the roof empty and if they shunt too much water into this area, as some plants are quite intolerant of excessive moisture around their roots. Has anything else changed in the area, like soil re-grading (changing depth) or construction that dug into root zones? Flooding from temporary sources like a pool emptying or pipe leak? Herbicide use? (Some chemicals can be absorbed into surface tree roots or through bark, though they will caution against this on their label instructions.)

We can make replacement suggestions once we know more about the site conditions. How well does the soil drain, and does it seem to dry out often or stay on the wetter side? How much sun does it receive in midsummer? Are there deer around that eat plants in the yard or rub antlers on tree trunks in autumn?