What Is Tree Dieback?
Tree dieback is a syndrome that develops gradually and is easy to miss initially. The tree loses branches and leaves over time and slowly starves to death. The cause is often a trauma, such as damage to the root system or bark, but it can also be a decline due to aging.
The syndrome differs from a tree’s measures to protect itself from drought or other environmental stressors. Dieback in trees eventually encompasses the entire system, rather than a tree just losing its leaves. It’s an ongoing process where the leaves drop first, and the branches wither and die.
The reason that you can miss the early signs is that the condition takes such a long time to develop. Fortunately, this also plays in your favor, as you can do several things to offset the damage and try to heal the tree.
What Can You Do to Prevent Dieback in Trees?
Knowing your tree’s species and life cycle is your first step in understanding dieback in trees. Learning how old the tree is and its expected lifespan prevents you from taking unnecessary steps that will have no useful impact.
Still, even if your tree is nearing the end of its life, you can still do a lot to support it. The treatment regimen is much the same as with any distressed tree.
Protect the Bark
The reason that you see rings inside a tree is that the cambium layer expands outwards. Every year, the tree grows new bark to replace the existing layer, and the old cells create a ring shape.
Damaged bark is vulnerable to insects and disease, and these can lead to dieback in older trees. Therefore, it’s critical to treat bark damage as early as possible. Depending on the cause, this may mean applying an insecticide, fungicide, or dressing.
Protect the Roots
A tree’s root system extends much further than you think. The roots go all the way to the drip line, which is the outer edge of the canopy. Therefore, anything you do in this area can affect the roots.
Is Lichen Harmful?
Fungus growing on trees is harmful, so many people assume that any growth is as well. However, Spanish moss and lichen are epiphytes or air plants. They merely attach to the bark and draw moisture and nutrients from the environment without damaging the underlying layer.
You should take care of trees that show excessive lichen growth. This indicates high levels of soil moisture, and that can, in turn, lead to root rot. Perform a quick soil test to check the soil structure and moisture levels.
Stop Using Weed Killers
Stop using weed killers, or use ones that are safe for trees. You might feel that you’re applying it to an area far enough away, but the roots might still be in the firing line. In addition, mowing the lawn can lead to cuts in the bark, damaging the tree further.
Watch for Soil Compaction
Your tree needs light, air, and space to grow. Walking across a lawn, driving a car across the soil, and many other things apply pressure to the soil. With every movement, the ground compacts more.
The effect is similar to planting in clay soils. The ground doesn’t drain as well, and the roots are less able to reach moisture and nutrients.