Is My Favorite (Oak) Tree Dying?

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Is My Favorite (Oak) Tree Dying?

Post by PW405 » September 5th, 2021, 5:06 pm

My beloved Laurel Oak (I think, at least based on discussions here: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=24599) has been having the challenge of its life over the last ~18 months. A summary below:

April 2020 - Tree sprouts leaves as expected. Looks great, I pruned some of the inner branches the prior fall.

May 2020 - Tree begins to drop a significant amount of leaves. I discover it has a pretty severe infestation of scale insects.

May to Sept 2020 - I contacted an arborist about the scale infestation. He applies a topical spray & root soak insecticide. He follows up again at the end of summer. It kept the leaves it had, and I think all is well.

October 2020 - Historic Ice storm - at least 1.5" of ice accumulation on all surfaces. Trees still had leaves, but the oak did pretty well. Lost a few branches near the top. This ice was absolutely devastating to other trees.

February 2021 - Historic cold front - reaching temps around -20°. I didn't think much of it at the time, because the tree had dropped all leaves.

May 2021 - The arborist comes back to apply the final round of root soak & topical spray. He only leaves an ominous note:
"Scheduled to apply final scale treatment today, but did not perform any service. I did not want to stress the tree further. Cut back dead branches, may treat next season if tree survives".

As we near the end of the growing season, you can see the tree sprouted plenty of leaves, but still has a significant amount of dead growth tips. I have a tree service scheduled to trim off all dead tips on Wednesday. The amount of scale infestation is as of yet unconfirmed. I have not climbed the tree to investigate yet.


However, what concerns me now, is the majority of the surface roots seems to be losing their bark. They spots bellow make a hollow sound when you knock on them. The bark in these spots can easily be pulled away by hand.


In the 7 years I've had this tree, I haven't observed the root bark falling off before. Unsure if this is merely "part of the healing process" or, the beginning of the end. Hopefully, just a side effect of the extreme cold.

Does anybody happen to know what the loss of root bark may mean?

As always, I appreciate the feedback of the ATY Community!


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Re: Is My Favorite (Oak) Tree Dying?

Post by MorpheusPA » September 6th, 2021, 1:14 am

Much like the layers of our skin, tree bark is...strange. Removing the very top layers isn't usually a problem. They regrow.

Go too deep, like cutting into the deepest layers of our skin tissue, and you create deeper scars. Those are a problem. And in the case of a tree, they also move water and nutrients in that layer, so if you do that all around the tree, the tree dies. It doesn't seem to be a complete girdling, which is good, but does seem to be extensive damage.

If it survives, the tree will grow new roots, with new bark. But yeah, I don't like the tipping going on there, either. Nobody could really say if the tree will survive, but I'd tentatively suggest that the course of events, stresses, and results really isn't looking great at the moment.

What would I do? I might feed very, very gently, just by feeding the lawn a little heavier in that area when I fed--with an organic. With a synthetic, just feed normally, those are plenty strong. And make sure to apply the September and October nitrogen to your lawn. While even faintly green and not fully corked off, leaves are still producing some energy for storage. November apps really won't help trees unless yours is still green at that time--my oak is long gone by then.

If a drought hits, water the tree with the same inch a week your lawn would want. Don't let it stress. Respond to insect invasions as soon as they happen, and watch for other problems and react immediately to those as well.

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