Shamel Ash - Bark Cracking

MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZApril 26, 2010

Hello Folks, This tree was planted October 2005. I'm disappointed in its slow growth rate, had expected it to be much bigger in 4.5 years.

It does not look healthy, the bark is cracked and splitting. Does anyone have advise on what may be wrong?

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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Here's the whole tree.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 1:06PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

My neighbor's tree planted only two years ago - looks much better. He says I need to water my tree more. Ugh! I wish I had chosen a palo verde instead!!! That's hindsight for you!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 1:13PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ comments folks??

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:26PM
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greenthumbjeff(Zone 9 - Gilbert, AZ)

It appears the bark damage may be caused by sunburn, since the canopy is limited. If the bark becomes sunburned, the growth of the tree will be affected.

At this point, it is unlikely the tree will grow tall like your neighbor's, since it has already developed branching at such a low height and the bark is still damaged.

You could try some aggressive pruning to encourage more upward growth in the center of the tree. But even that will take many years to come close to your neighbor's tree. If you really want a tall tree, you are better off getting another one.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 1:00AM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Thanks Jeff.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 8:14AM
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Cracking bark is a bad sign. As Jeff mentioned this is a symptom of stress most likely caused by sunburn but could be compounded by water stress as well. Ash trees are one of the highest water users. They grow naturally along streams and rivers where access to water is unlimited.

Your tree is located in a gravel area where there is lots of reflected light, unlike your neighbors tree that is planted in grass.

Check to make sure you are watering deeply - down to three feet each time you irrigate. Don't water near the trunk, but rather near the edge of your basin or at the tips of the branches. That's where the majority of feeder roots that absorb water and nutrients are located. If necessary, expand your basin a bit, taking care not to dig and disturb any roots near the surface of the soil.

The organic mulch you used is perfect! It keeps the soil cooler than granite and decomposes allowing nutrients to return to the soil.

If I had to guess, I'd say your tree needs about 30 gallons of water once a week in the warm months. In winter you only need to water about once every 3 to 4 weeks.

To protect your tree from further sunburn you can wrap the trunk loosely with burlap or cardboard, or with 'tree wrap' sold at local nurseries. You could also paint it with latex paint - any color will do just dilute 1:1 with water.

Don't fertilize your tree until you see signs of improving health and then only lightly. I wouldn't recommend pruning your tree now - it needs every leaf to help shade the trunk and branches and to produce the sugars that the tree uses to grow. Wait until next winter when the tree is dormant to do any pruning. If you want to attempt it yourself, a good resource is Pruning, Planting and Care by Eric Johnson.

Here is a link to watering that should help. Check out page 18 for guidelines depending on the season. Your ash tree will be in the 'high water use' row.

certified arborist

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscape Watering by the Numbers

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 1:50PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Thanks treelvr - Do you think I could dig up the tree and replant it at my neighbor's? Even if it's next winter. Would the transplant likely kill it? I'm more educated now than I was in 2005 when I picked this tree and would rather replace it with a palo verde. My neighbor would like the ash if we can do it without killing it.

And I don't want to pull it out just to kill the tree. My poor decision should not punish the poor tree.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 8:36AM
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Transplant would be difficult and tree is likely to die.

It looks like the leader was severely damaged early in the tree's life, so it's growing strangely.

I would remove it and replace it with a tree that can handle the reflected heat, and one that suits your watering practices. Any new tree will need more water, but Shamel Ash is not as drought tolerant as desert natives.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 9:20AM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Lazy, that tree has taken a lot of wind abuse in its short life. That's probably what happened with the leader damage. Hot, hot summer winds.

Dang. I hate when I make a mistake like this.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 10:26AM
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First, shamel ash trees do require regular irrigation. Your tree is in the middle of the yard and does not appear to have a sprinkler, drip irrigator, or other source of water. We have a shamel ash that is located in the backyard of a house in San Jose, CA. However, the water from nearby irrigation is almost always available. This tree very definitely requires supplemental irrigation especially when it is young (

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 11:40AM
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