The Q&A Archives: tree diseases

Question: We have an eight year old curly willow that has grown rapidly and appearded very healthy until recently. It appears to be dying with its leaves browning and falling off and no signs of life on the branches. I found a ring of holes aroung its trunk that appear so regular that they may appear to have been drilled (they were not). There is one or more woodpecker in the vicinity fo the tree from time to time.

What is killing this healthy 8 year old tree?

Can woodpeckers damage a tree to the point of killing it?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Answer: Birds tend to peck holes while looking for insects. They seem to know when a tree is distressed and will explore the bark while looking for insects. Woodpeckers can do damage, as can sap suckers. Both make patterns of holes in the bark. Generally they won't damage a tree enough to kill it, though. It's usually the other way around - they will frequent a tree that is already in trouble.

Willows can develop Bacterial Twig Blight which causes blighted twigs and branches to die back, and leaves to turn brown and wilt. This bacterium overwinters in twig and branches cankers and you can find brown streaks in sections of affected wood. Trees can be completely defoliated by this disease. If practical, you can cut out diseased twigs and branches. A bordeaux (lime-sulfur) spray applied in the fall may help to control this problem.

Hope this information is helpful!

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