For Release May 18, 1999

What’s Wrong With My Tree?

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

It never fails that when we have a cool, cloudy, wet spring we will have a lot of problems with tree leaves. This year the problem seems to be even worse. Some of the problems are related to the wet weather, and other problems have nothing to do with the wet weather!

One of the more noticeable problems this spring was the apparent delayed leafing out of many trees. Much of this problem was directly related to the very heavy seed crop that many of the trees produced. Most years trees like elms and maples start to bloom early, the blooms get frosted and most of the blooms don’t produce seed. We had relatively mild weather in the late winter and early spring this year, so many more seeds were produced than normal. Producing a heavy seed crop is quite a load on a tree.

A tree can produce a lot of seeds or a lot of leaves, but it can’t do both at the same time. With the heavy seed crop that many trees had, it simply delayed leafing until the seeds were mature and falling off. In some cases not all branches on a tree had the same seed load so some branches were leafing out while others were still bare. Now that most of the seeds have ripened and fallen the lagging limbs and trees should start to catch up.

Sycamore trees have been looking very sick lately. Anthracnose is a fungus disease that we see every year on sycamores (and many other species). When April started out warm and dry I thought we might dodge anthracnose this year. But just as the new leaves were emerging in late April, along came two weeks of cloudy wet weather and the sycamores were blasted! New leaves, buds and twig tips were all killed. The sycamore trees are now regrouping and producing new buds. With a little more warm weather they’ll start filling in nicely soon enough. Spraying a fungicide now is a waste of time as the infection period was weeks ago. If you have a small sycamore I might consider spraying it early next April just before it leafs out, but for a full size tree I doubt that it would be practical or helpful.

Junipers have been looking kind of tough lately also. Kabitina Tip Blight is an annual disease that infects trees in the fall and kills just the tips of branches. We’ve seen some of this again this year. Don’t treat for this as the plant will outgrow the problem. We’re going to start seeing a lot more Cercospora as the spring goes on because of the wet weather. This is more of a problem in upright junipers and just looks like the tree is dying from the bottom up. If you see this happening then spray with Bordeaux in early June and again in early July.

The worst problem in junipers this spring has not been a disease but environmental damage. Even though we had a relatively mild winter I’m seeing a lot of winterkill. It has to do with the warm weather and low precipitation January through March. There’s nothing to be done now but trim out the damage or possibly replace plants. Remember, anytime we have 6 to 8 weeks of low precipitation those evergreens need to be watered, even in the winter!

Peach and apple trees are also suffering. Peach leaves are curling, distorting and turning color. This is peach leaf curl and if you didn’t spray by April 1 it was too late. Mark your calendar for next year. The tree will put out new leaves and live. Apple trees also got hit with Cedar Apple Rust. Look for little yellow spots on the leaves. Same story as with peach leaf curl, it’s too late to treat. Apples also have Apple Scab right now (dark blotches on the leaves) and they could use some spraying with Captan or Bordeaux. This disease will continue as long as we have cloudy dampish weather.


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