An Ailing Friend

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12 years 10 months ago - 12 years 10 months ago #135453 by 2chops
An Ailing Friend was created by 2chops
I was headed home the other day and noticed something that caused some concern. One of my favorite climbers appears to be dying. It's a 90' sycamore that I've scaled several times. It's easy to spot from the highway, and I check it out every time I go by. Recently I've noticed that it hasn't fully leafed out. Last year it "had a nice head of hair" and showed no signs of distress. However, there had been some construction nearby that, at the time, made me wonder if it would affect this tree.

Now I have to mention that this tree is on municipal land and I'm technically not supposed to be on it. But it's one of those don't ask, don't tell situations. The Water Authority had dug a trench about 45' away from the tree in order to install a 24" sewer pipe. When I saw this taking place, my 1st thought was that the root system would be compromised. I was curious about how the tree would be affected, if at all. Well now I know. Only 1/2 of its foliage came out this year. Of course I'm going to go up and have a closer look to try and determine if there are other contributing factors.

One of the things I like about this one is that it has an 18" lead that veers off towards a river birch, which is about 30' away. The birch is a 40 footer, and the situation is such that one can do a nice traverse from one to the other. The traverse can be done by a cool Tarzan swing, or by more conventional means.

There are other trees to climb in the area. Nice ones. But you know how it is when one of your faves cashes in its chips. Now that I think about it, this was, I think, the third tree that I climbed recreationally. We have history. Anyhow, I just thought I would mention this little episode. I'll keep ya posted.

Ron
Last edit: 12 years 10 months ago by 2chops. Reason: Height corection of birch.

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12 years 10 months ago #135457 by michaeljspraggon
Replied by michaeljspraggon on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
I know exactly how you feel Ron. I remember the tallest Tree in Wales, which was cut down earlier this year. That was the first REALLY big tree I ever climbed. Every tree has it's own character and I'm not surprised you're worried.

Michael

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12 years 9 months ago #135465 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
One of the 1st things that came to mind when I noticed what was going on with "my" sycie, was the Wales tree you mentioned. I have a very busy schedual right now. The soonest I'll get to climb it is maybe next week.

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12 years 9 months ago #135466 by moss
Replied by moss on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
Many of the American Sycamore in my area lost their first leafout and are now putting out a second round. I've thought this was due to Sycamore Anthracnose disease. Some years it causes leaf loss, some years not. Cool wet springs promote anthracnose.

This spring there was heavy defoliation of silver maple, red maple and American beech due to European Winter Moth a relatively new exotic, trees are taking a beating this year.
-AJ

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12 years 9 months ago #135470 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
I don't think it's anthracnose. It doesn't show any of the witches brooming on it's branches. None of the other sycamores in our area have shed any of their leaves. This is the only one that I keep track of that is exibiting this kind of symptom. Like I said, my curiosity is peaked.

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12 years 9 months ago #135473 by moss
Replied by moss on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
2chops wrote:

I don't think it's anthracnose. It doesn't show any of the witches brooming on it's branches. None of the other sycamores in our area have shed any of their leaves. This is the only one that I keep track of that is exibiting this kind of symptom. Like I said, my curiosity is peaked.


Sycamore anthracnose is so common in my area it's the first thing I think of when I see American Sycamore defoliation. Looking forward to hear what you discover on closer examination.

One thought is that it's a first attack of anthracnose, witches broom growth indicates chronic infection as far as I can tell.
-AJ

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12 years 9 months ago #135474 by treeman
Replied by treeman on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
There is a good chance that heavy machinery traffic also disturbed the soil around it. Sycamore trees are water loving. Moist soil makes any kind of heavy traffic lethal. I have heard one pass of a heavy piece of equipment can sink enough to shear roots. One pass, one drive-over. The older the tree, the more fragile. Funny how most folks think the bigger the tree, the stronger. Not so.

Sad to see a tree you have climbed passing or hurt. Climbing trees are like old friends. A personal relationship for sure.

I would encourage you to do the forensics. I doubt there will be a "cure." Don't forget to touch the tree and thank it. I think every living thing likes to be appreciated.

Peter Treeman Jenkins

Waving from a treetop,
Peter Treeman Jenkins

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12 years 8 months ago #135509 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
I know it's been a few weeks, but I finally got to go up and examine the ailing sycamore. I shot a vid, and if I knew how to embed it here I would've. But since I don't, go to you tube and punch in "Sycamore tree exam / climb". I went up 85' and shot the footage there. You can get a pretty good view of the die back. Again my 1st guess is that the previous years pipe installation and the root damage it caused is the main culprit. Also, we had an overwhelming over abundance of rain this spring. This tree is in the flood plane, and was in fact inundated for a while. It's in a part of the Municipal Water Authorities flood control area. One of many in the city. So perhaps the extra saturation shares some of the blame. These are my 2 guesses. Anything any of you can pic out from the vid, shout it out. I shot it with my phone, so please bear with the quality. Thanks.

Ron

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12 years 8 months ago #135510 by treeman
Replied by treeman on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
So I looked at the video. Tell me what your last winter was like. Were there any freezes in early spring? If so, were they hard freezes? What I saw were some treetop twig shoots that had recently been killed off. They still had buds on them.

Possibly the flooding had an effect on the tree. When you starve a tree of oxygen due to flooding, sometimes trees die back a little bit. This would especially be the case with standing water on the root system.

You will need to monitor the tree. You will know for sure if the tree is going to make it within a three-year period of time.

Anthracnose is a leaf fungus. It has obvious blotch signs on the leafs. Are you seeing this? If not, it's probably something else.

Peter

Waving from a treetop,
Peter Treeman Jenkins

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12 years 8 months ago #135512 by Treezybreez
Replied by Treezybreez on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
I find it hard to believe that flooding could be causing the die back since sycamore grow naturally in swampy wetland arias. The wood of sycamore is not, however very rot resistant so it is possible that the ditches you mentioned caused root damage and the visible die back. There are some Sycamore in my area that have suffered the same die back, however they have been pruned and are leafing out quite nicely now.

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12 years 8 months ago #135517 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:An Ailing Friend
We had a brutal winter this year. We had one morning in which we couldn't get our bucket truck started until 1PM. Several others when it took an hour or more to get going. Very cold indeed. The leaves had no blotches on them. All appeared to be perfectly normal.

I think you're right Treezybreez, this tree has endured many years of annual flooding. I'm inclined to think that the root damage is the main cause of any problems. As to the winter freeze, it never crossed my mind. Thanks. I'll keep an eye on it.

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