Dying Limbs On Oak Tree - Knowledgebase Question

Arlington, TX
Avatar for sparkie3
Question by sparkie3
June 5, 1998
My post oak tree is about 45 feet tall. It has lost a lower limb for the past three years. The limb leafs out in the spring then dies shortly thereafter. This year whatever is killing the limbs looks like it's spreading up the limb. I don't see any signs of bugs. Most leaves on the dying limb are not fully developed. The dead leaves stay on the tree. Some have brown veins within a green leaf with brown underside. The rest of the limbs look healthy, although the leaves might be thinner in the past few years. No construction has disturbed the roots. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer from NGA
June 5, 1998
Post oak trees are notorious for such decline in residential settings. Anything that stresses them such as construction, soil compaction, herbicide use to the turf beneath their branches, etc. can begin a slow (or rapid) decline.

Lack of water for a tree that is used to receiving regular irrigation can also cause a problem as can overwatering (soggy soil). As a post oak gets older it becomes much less resilient and its ability to recover from stresses or to heal a wound decreases significantly.

There is little you can do to help such a tree. When you have a cold the doctor's advice is to "get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids". In other words, don't stress your body but put it in a place to heal itself and recover. The same is true for this tree. Give it deep, infrequent (once a week) soakings during summer droughts. Avoid anything that would stress the roots such as soil compaction, soil disturbance, herbicide use on the turf under the tree, etc.

Avoid trying to fertilize the tree back into health. The problem is not lack of nutrition, and this can only compound the problem.

One other possibility is the disease oak wilt. Your description of the leaf sounds a bit like one of the oak wilt symptoms. Contact your County Extension Office for assistance in diagnosing this disease. Dotty Woodson, your Horticulture Agent, can provide instructions for how to go about taking a sample for analysis as well as how to treat the tree if oak wilt is diagnosed.

Good luck with your prize tree.

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