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Tree Problems and Tips

Top Ten Tree Problems
Top Ten Tree Pest and Disease Problems in San Diego County
Tree Care Tips

Top Ten Tree Problems

  1. Over thinning, topping: Removing too much live foliage from a tree or indiscriminately reducing the height of a tree to a stub can have long lasting negative effects, possibly leading to the premature death of a tree.
  2. Over watering: Applying too much water to tree root zone, especially where drainage is poor, can cause roots to suffocate and die. Tree decline and death often follow.
  3. Stakes left on too long: Tree supports should be removed as soon as a tree can stand on its own. The tree will develop a better, stronger rooting system and the chance of damage due to stakes and ties will be minimized.
  4. Lack of water: Trees need adequate amounts of water to survive. Infrequent deep watering is best. If you have just planted a new tree, be sure the root ball is as thoroughly watered as the surrounding soil.
  5. Fertilizing without a soil analysis: While applying fertilizer without an analysis is a common practice, it is best to know what nutrients are lacking in the soil before any applications take place. In fact, an abundance of certain elements can be toxic to plants and trees.
  6. Poor advice: Unfortunately, it is often those who hold themselves out to be professionals who end up offering bad advice. Be sure you talk to a Certified Arborist, Board-Certified Master Arborist, or Consulting Arborist, and don’t be afraid to pay for a professional opinion-it will probably save you money in the long run.
  7. Root bound plants and trees: Many plants and trees are purchased from nurseries in a root bound condition. This is a significant defect in young plants and trees and will often lead to death or failure years after planting.
  8. Weed whip damage: Too many young trees have been irreparably damaged by aggressive weed trimmer use. Keep any turf at least 8-12 inches from a tree and this problem will be less likely to occur.
  9. Root pruning: In most cases loss of root tissue will have an effect on the overall health, and possibly the stability, of tree. Keep in mind that the effect of root pruning may not be evident for several years.
  10. Wrong tree, wrong place: There are volumes of information about putting the “right tree in the right place”. Be sure you have considered all the environmental, spatial, and maintenance components of a particular location for a tree before you put it in the ground.

Top Ten Tree Pest and Disease Problems in San Diego County

  1. Wood-boring insects: The adult or larval stages of certain insects bore in wood tissues beneath the bark. Wood-boring insects can become serious pests because they weaken limbs and trunks and can kill branches or entire trees. Examples are pine bark beetles, oak bark beetles, eucalyptus long-horned borer, and shot-hole borer in citrus.
  2. Psyllids: Psyllids are tiny insects that feed on leaf tissue by sucking out tree juices. They produce honeydew as a sticky liquid and cause tree defoliation, often resulting in tree decline and death. The most common are Eugenia psyllid, red gum lerp psyllid, and pepper tree psyllid.
  3. Scale insects: These guys are small, largely immobile “bumps” on tree and plant stems. They also feed by sucking out tree juices. Heavily infested branches may die.
  4. Whiteflies: These are not true flies, more closely related to psyllids. High populations cause leaves to yellow, shrivel, and drop prematurely.
  5. Aphids: These are small, soft bodied insects that suck plant juices. High populations can slow plant growth or cause leaves to yellow, curl, or drop early. Over 200 species are occasional or frequent pests of landscape plants or trees.
  6. Fire blight: This is a bacterium that mainly affects ornamental pear trees in San Diego. It causes a sudden wilting, shriveling, and blackening or browning of shoots, blossoms, and fruit. Prolonged serious infections can kill trees.
  7. Anthracnose: A fungus disease which causes irregular dead areas on leaves, it is most common on sycamore and ash trees.
  8. Fusarium Wilt of Palms: This is a serious disease of Canary Island date palms. It is seen as abnormal dieback of fronds and overall stunted growth. Infected palms will die as there is no known remedy.
  9. Sooty Mold: These are dark fungi that grow on plant and tree surfaces that have become covered with insect honeydew. They are generally harmless to plants except whey they are extremely abundant and prevent enough light from reaching leaf surfaces, causing plant and tree to become stressed.
  10. Bacterial Leaf Scorch: Mainly seen on oleander, this disease can also affect ash, elm, mulberry, sycamore, liquidambar, and olive trees. Tips of infected leaves turn yellow, brown, dry out and trees eventually die.

Tree Care Tips

To avoid malnutrition, be sure to give your trees an adequate amount of micronutrients, such as magnesium sulfate, limestone, gypsum, iron, and zinc. However, trees need very limited amounts of these compounds, and an overabundance can be harmful. Have a certified arborist advise you on the correct amounts of each you should provide.

Frost damage can be prevented if your tree’s leaves stay hydrated during a period of severe cold. Additionally, frequent watering and fertilization in anticipation of a cold night can also “harden” the cells of certain plants.

Borer insects are very hard to anticipate or eliminate. The best defense is simply maintaining your tree’s general health so it can bounce back if it does develop an infestation.

Overwatering or poor drainage can cause root rot in your trees. Fungicides or manganese treatments can be effective as treatments or preventative measures.