The Q&A Archives: Can I save my tree?

Question: I have a Navajo globe willow that was transplanted from the front of the yard to the back. It started leaking some white gunk that the wasps really like. Anyway, the tree died. When we went to take out the stump, we discovered new growth, so we trimmed it back to 2 branches and let it go. It grew really well for about 2 years and is now over 6 feet tall. Last year it started leaking like the previous tree. The leaves and branches are dying. I also have a small clear space around the tree where I had some flowers planted. Most of the flowers have died or simply won't grow. What can I do? If I have to take the tree out and start all over, should I do something to the surrounding area to insure it won't happen again to a new tree? Any advice would be welcome. Thank You.

Answer: What you describe is a disease called frothy flux. Frothy Flux invades young as well as old trees, killing the cambium and contributing to the tree's death often within a few short years. The organism -- not yet positively identified by researchers at Colorado State University (or any other university to my knowledge) -- in addition to invading the tree through freeze injury, may gain entry through pruning wounds, insect damage, or mechanical injury caused by lawn mowers, weed whips, or other devices. Once gaining entrance to the cambium layer, the fermentation of the bark cambium and inner sapwood layers of the tree occurs. This results in a froth that exudes through cracks in the branches and trunk of the tree at the site of attack.

Frothy flux often invades the tree in a branch crotch that has cracked or split. The growth habit of the Globe Willow is such that these branch attachments are naturally weak and prone to splitting in high winds and during late spring snow storms. Snow damage is increased due to the tree's tendency to leaf out earlier than many other trees.

Larger, reasonably healthy trees seem to outgrow the problem. A weaker tree may have frothy flux for a year or two; the problem may seem to go away for a year or two; and then the problem reappears. Improving the health and vigor of the tree helps reduce the chances of the problem becoming severe.

The common recommendation for eliminating or helping solve the frothy flux problem on Globe Willows is to remove all damaged, decaying tissue down to the wood and as far back as necessary to eliminate any brown or yellowish streaking of the cambium or sapwood. This area is then swabbed with alcohol and a coating of amber shellac put on the wound in hopes of retarding any further `infection' of the area. This treatment is only advised when the disease is in a small area of the tree.

There's no guarantee the problem won't reoccur so I can only advise you remove the willow and plant something in its place.

Wish I had better news for you!

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