The cause of death of two sugar trees

El Dorado News-Times - - Living - Janet Car­son

Q We live in Cabot and planted two sugar maple trees sev­eral years ago. They have done fine un­til now. Last week the leaves of one of them sud­denly turned brown, and the tree died. This week the other one did the same thing. There was no warn­ing of any kind. They did not seem to be in any dis­tress be­fore they died. They are planted in full sun, and we wa­ter them reg­u­larly. Any idea what could have caused this?

A When the leaves turned brown, did they drop or re­main at­tached to the tree? If they de­fo­li­ated early, the trees may still be alive and will come back next spring. Did you spray any­thing in the yard for weeds, dis­eases or in­sects? Any fer­til­iza­tion? When they be­gan grow­ing this spring did they have a full set of leaves? One thing to look for is any tooth­pick-like pro­tru­sions on the trunk: Those could be caused by am­brosia bee­tles, which can kill seem­ingly healthy trees. Se­ri­ous at­tacks that re­sult in tree death usu­ally oc­cur dur­ing the leaf­ing-out stage, but we can have more than one gen­er­a­tion of them per year. In­fested wood is dis­tinctly dis­col­ored and can have a foul odor.

Q I would very much ap­pre­ci­ate your opin­ion on the fol­low­ing. A fam­ily who has plots next to my fam­ily plots at a lo­cal

ceme­tery wants to plant a cou­ple of dog­wood trees be­tween the fam­i­lies’ plots. I have to agree to this be­fore they can do this. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the ceme­tery ad­vises against it, as he is afraid the roots will en­croach on the mark­ers and cause prob­lems down the road. I hate to say no, but I lean to­ward tak­ing the ad­vice of the ceme­tery rep­re­sen­ta­tive.


First ques­tion: Is there wa­ter avail­able for the dog­woods, and is there a lit­tle shade? Dog­woods are shal­low-rooted trees that pre­fer morn­ing sun and af­ter­noon shade. If they are go­ing to be to­tally out in the open and left to fend for them­selves, they won’t sur­vive. If they have a good lo­ca­tion and care, they would be beau­ti­ful small trees and would not typ­i­cally up­root things.


I have lived in the same house for 20 years. On the south­east­ern (front) cor­ner, I have man­aged to kill three dog­woods and now a ser­vice­berry. The spot caps off a row of 20-year-old aza­leas across the front of the house. The spot gets hot, bright, af­ter­noon sun and sits in a wet spot from rain runoff and the lay of the yard. I would like a small or­na­men­tal tree for this spot. Any ad­vice? I’ve thought of a crab ap­ple and even a colum­nar English oak. The oak is not or­na­men­tal, but there is a nice one on at Hen­drix Col­lege in a some­what sim­i­lar spot.


While sun­light might have been the prob­lem with the dog­woods, the ser­vice­berry should have done fine. I don’t think it is the in­tense sun but the poor drainage. I would not at­tempt a crab ap­ple or oak in wet soil. Red­buds are more tol­er­ant of wet feet and might be a bet­ter op­tion, but solv­ing the drainage prob­lem or el­e­vat­ing the plant­ing would help.


I have a gravel drive­way and have been bat­tling this ground-cov­er­ing weed all sum­mer [the reader sent a photo]. It spreads quickly if left unchecked, but is eas­ily con­trolled with glyphosate. Can you tell me what it is?


The weed in ques­tion is pros­trate spurge. A very hardy

an­nual weed, pros­trate spurge can ger­mi­nate and grow in pave­ment cracks, dry and com­pacted soils and dis­turbed sites — it is more com­mon where there is lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion. This weed forms a ground-hug­ging mat, up to two feet in di­am­e­ter; it has a cen­tral tap root. Stems and fo­liage ex­ude a milky sap when in­jured. The flow­ers are tiny, but it blooms all sum­mer long, set­ting co­pi­ous seeds to help it re­turn again next year.

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