Too late for this Hemlock?

kim_dirtdigger(IN 5b)March 10, 2007

This Tsuga canadensis has been in the ground for almost 3 years and was doing fine, until now. I noticed it turning brown over the past week, and it is progressing quickly. I've inspected it for wooly algecid & other pests, and see nothing. It is on a fairly steep slope, and I have tried to keep it well watered and mulched. It is in a partly shaded woodland area, good soil, no drying winds. The only thing I can come up with is shortage of water last summer and it is only now showing signs of stress. Any thoughts on what, if anything, we can do to save this tree? Thanks for any suggestions. I love hemlock, but have not had good luck with them.


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

are the buds dead at the tips of the brown stuff?

is the majority of damage near the bottom, since you didn't show us the top? ...... was there any chance that lawn herbicides drifted into it?

frankly .... it doesn't look all that bad... as far as winter damage might go ... was it newly transplanted last season?

i surely wouldn't dispose of it until at least fall .. to see how it responds this summer ...


    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 9:45AM
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This is an interesting case--you say it is protected from wind? The timing of this browing is the key. It is unlikely to be some disease, showing up at this time. There is some kind of stress on the tree and/or something has gotten on the foliage. Here are some questions:

1. Was there any application of fertilizer during the last summer or fall, or even this winter? Including even things like osmocote?

2. Is this tree anywhere near a highway--and I mean within even 200 feet or so--where any melting chemicals were used?

3. The weather: there was a blizzard in parts of the midwest. Did you experience anything like that, and if so, was it after an unusual warm spell?

4. It is protected from the wind? How protected? When the winds are extreme, is the top of this tree tossed around?

5. Ken asked about weed control chemicals that may have "drifted on to it." Were there any applications of weed killers on the ground around the tree--soil active things?

This last prospect is the most worrisome. But if the brownig was caused by some kind of winter stress, or if it is an effect of improper or ill-timed fertilizing, you could be OK.

Anyway, I would not remove this tree until it is completely brown.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 10:28AM
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kim_dirtdigger(IN 5b)

Thanks Ken and Spruce. I hadn't thought about chemicals, but now I'm concerned that might be the problem. I hate to admit it, but as we have been trying to establish a new lawn we do have it treated 4 x yr for weed control and fertilization. While this tree is not in the "lawn" area that would be directly treated, and therefore shouldn't have received any spray drift, it is just adjacent to the lawn, and down hill where the run off fans out in heavy rainfalls. Otherwise it is nowhere close to any roadways or other chemical exposures, and I have not fertilized or otherwise treated the tree. If this is the problem, could a heavy "drenching" with the hose help, trying to dilute any weed killer that may be in the surrounding soil? The area does drain well, so I wouldn't be too concerned about overwatering.

In response to some of the other questions, the damage is more concentrated at the bottom and center of the tree-- little to no browning towards the top, at least not yet. The bud tips mostly look good and healthy. We have had a couple of pretty good blizzards this winter, but no extreme cold immediately after a warm spell. We did have a slush/ice storm that coated the trees for a few days. The tree is not totally protected from wind, and the top probably whips around a bit in a heavy wind, but that is very infrequent.

Thanks again for your comments and wisdom.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 1:15PM
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If there are what appear to be healthy buds, then of course don't give up on it until well after green-up time in your area. If warm weather arrives on the dry side, be ready to water. Other than that, wait and see.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 5:33AM
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There is a good chance that the lawn treatment is the cause--and it may not just be the weed killer part, but it could also be the fertilizer part, and the two elements could have been working in combination.

Yes, I think some heavy watering around the tree with the idea that the excess water will soak down and away from the tree taking the chemicals with it, will help. I would not keep the tree continuously oversaturated, but maybe every two weeks I would give it an extra soaking.

I have seen these lawn weed killers damage and kill trees, especially if the application is heavy. The weedkiller treats anything except grass as a weed, including trees. Often if they are large and well established, trees are strong enough to be affected only minimally, but I never take the chance and never apply any of these things near trees. Fertilizer in the late fall or winter can affect conifers adversely by changing the balance of soluable elements in the soil making them more susceptible to cold drying winds. I made the mistake of fertilizing in late winter one year just before a heavy rain and then a spell of extremely cold temps and horrendous winds. Many of my little conifers browned overnight.

The fact that the tree had the browning more towards the bottom made me suspect the road salt issue. Sometimes when there are high winds and blowing snow, the drifting snow picks up tiny amounts of the salt, or calcium chloride from the road and it blows along the ground and gets on the lower parts of conifers and browns them. If there is a crust on the snow this drifting of new snow is enhanced and even more effects mostly the lower parts of trees. If this were the cause of the browning, I would not worry--it probably won't progress any further and when spring comes the new growth will not be affected. But the browning towards the center seems to fit more the lawn treatment cause--if it were wind-blown salt, I don't think that would be the case.

If you have other trees and shrubs in the area they may also be affected. With the deciduous trees, the effect will be that the leaves will turn yellow much earlier than usual, maybe even by mid-summer, and then fall off. At this point the tree may die, or it may try to put out new leaves. Sometimes trees show these effects, maybe even fot two years, and survive. If you have other plantings that may be in the affected area, I would give them the same drenching and not wait for any effects to appear later in the summer.

Anyway, the bottom line is that whatever the cause, I think your tree has a very good chance of survival, unless the browning continues to increase significantly before the new growth comes.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 10:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i thought you were a conifer collector????

what do you need lawn for.. geez.. what are your priorities .... lol ...

the ONLY way to insure no damage from lawn care... IS TO DO IT YOURSELF ....

and then you need a zen attitude about it... when i lived in suburbia... i had to have the perfect lawn.. hundreds of dollars a year on product ...

out on 5 acres .. former horse pasture... in pure sand... the lawn goes dormant in mid july .... the ONLY thing that stays green ... IS THE WEEDS ...

and the bunnies.. prefer to graze the weed patch than my conifers or hosta.. go figure....

if its green.. its lawn.. and good enough... dont waste your money on weed control .. but if you have to.. spot apply with a pump sprayer ...

and let the guys with the big trucks go away ....


    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 10:11AM
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