Shumard Red Oak stressed

socrmomJune 11, 2014

We have a Shumard Red Oak that is almost 3 years old. We purchased it then, that is. It was not a huge tree but it was healthy. Enter the DROUGHT, now going into it's 4th season.

This Spring while it grew new leaves they are very light green but the veins are a deeper green. The ends of the leaves are now looking burned. We have a few places where the trunk has split open (stress or growth?). I have put tree paint on the openings b/c I don't want bugs to attack it. I have checked for moisture with my houseplant water meter and it is indicating it to be moist. The stem portion of the meter is 7.5" long and I am able to insert it all the way in. I use a soaker hose and water for about an hour at a time 3-4 days/week in the hot months and back that off to 1-2 days/week in the cooler months. We have recently had some rain up to 1" so that helps in the watering department. I already know one thing I need to remedy. My husband put the mulch all the way up to the trunk instead of leaving it mulch free. All our other plants and trees are fine. I even see other Shumards in the neighborhood that look nice and green. Granted they are more mature but still. The trunk and branches are green and pliable.
We have very alkaline soil. In fact we have a huge table of limestone running across our yard. It has been suggested it may need iron. Thoughts?
We don't use pesticides in the yard so I know we haven't poisoned it. Our yard is in a natural state. We don't water it mostly b/c of the high cost of watering a 1/3 acre lot ($300+/mo) so we just water beds and trees.
I have included a photo (I have more but seem to only be able to upload one( so hopefully I can get some good feedback on what to do for my tree. Any and all help is appreciated. Thanks.

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The yellow leaves are definitely a sign that it's chlorotic. The brown tips I would think would indicate it wasn't getting enough water at some point, but I don't think it's from the iron deficiency. Shumard red oaks are native to east Texas and like the acidic soil there. We have limestone here in Fort Worth and I see a lot of red oaks that look like yours. Texas Red Oak is native further west in our alkaline soils and would work much better. I don't know why they are not as common in stores. You may try your iron treatment to see if it helps. If not, maybe consider replacing it with a Texas Red Oak. That's hard to justify starting over thinking short term, but long term it would be a better looking tree for your soil.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:52PM
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What you may be seeing in your neighborhood are Texas Red Oaks (Quercus Texana) where as you have a Shumard Red (Quercus shumardii). The thing is they look alike and frequently hybridize. The drought has been rough on trees and if youre having cracks in your tree I'd be worried about getting Oak Wilt.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:24AM
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Perylene(7b TX)

If it's a big enough tree, I'd seriously suggest hiring a certified arborist. Trees are a big investment and I don't try to second guess treatment if I'm not confident enough about what's causing it. We tried to grow a medium-sized Shumard Red Oak two springs ago, and in the span of one year it died from a double whammy of slime flux and borers. It was a messy and depressing death, and it was obvious by about mid summer that the tree wasn't going to turn around.

One thing I've learned from arborists is that too much water looks the same as not enough -- you'll get the same burnt tip appearance on leaves. I'm not saying you're watering too much, that's just the other side of the coin. There's all sorts of other factors that can cause browning, so you'd have to get someone to look at the whole tree, see what the leaves look like from bottom to top, check the soil around the tree, see if anyone's spraying anything in your neighborhood, check the leaves against diseases, etc.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:41AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Pale green/brown leaves and cracks in bark (from fungal mats) are both symptoms of wilt on red oaks. Good chance that is NOT the case with your young tree, but agree with Perylene on getting input from a trusted pro. On the off-chance you acquired an infected tree, you would do your neighborhood a favor by getting all traces of it out of there ASAP.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Identify and Manage Oak Wilt in Texas

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:39PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Forgot to add your county extension folks are another "pro" option to check with. Can call or try the "ask" web extension service TAMU AgriLife participates in to route photos and description of the symptoms directly to your county experts. Imagine response time varies by location.

Here is a link that might be useful: Extension Ask an Expert

This post was edited by bostedo on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 21:08

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 1:24PM
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I doubt it is oak wilt. Any other oaks dying in the neighborhood? If there are any other species in red oak family planted nearby chances are they'd show signs too. Red oaks succumb very fast to oak wilt. And even if it is, treating it is cost prohibitive and you'd be much better off starting over with something else.

It's much more likely to be nutrient deficiency and drought stress. Spread some compost and mulch around the tree (not touching trunk) a small amount of fertilizer, and keep it well watered.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 12:48PM
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I'm inclined to agree with winterfell. We have 3 large, mature Shumards on our lot and had to have an arborist come out and treat one that was showing early signs of wilt. As the previous poster said, Shumards are very susceptible to wilt. Our arborist pointed out where several trees on our street had been removed and several more looked to be in bad shape because the wilt spreads through the root system, affecting other red oaks in the area. I agree with winterfell's suggestion of compost, mulch and fertilizer. If the tree doesn't show any improvement soon, maybe an arborist might be a good idea with it being such a young tree and all.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 9:03PM
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mrs.wiggley(8 Hill Country)

I planted a shumard about 15 years ago (prior to drought) and it is healthy and gorgeous. I give it additional water in the summers now along with my live oaks, but other than that no special treatments. I'm about an hour northwest of Austin with alkaline soils. However the roots may not have as far to go to reach the water table. I might be inclined to boost its overall immunity with a combination of diluted seaweed and fish emulsion every couple of weeks, on top of whatever treatment an expert might recommend. Spray the leaves with it using a hose-attachment sprayer and water the ground with it too early in the morning before the heat of the day.. I have had really good luck bringing ailing plants and trees back from the brink with that combo.

This post was edited by mrs.wiggley on Mon, Jun 16, 14 at 6:05

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 5:56AM
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If it's only 3 years old, I'd be inclined to cut bait. My guess is you picked up a tree grown east of here in more neutral or acidic soils and is showing chlorosis now.

In my old neighborhood in Pflugerville many of the "Shumard" Oaks planted by the builder were looking like your and many dying after 10 plus years in the ground. I asked the city arborist to take a look fearing oak wilt. He said it was most likely these trees were from a source east TX source and finally succumbed to our alkaline soils over time.

You could try to baby it along, but I would try again with a different kind of tree or a shumard grown more locally.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 9:22PM
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