Age of the tree, the climate, floods, insect damage, and even a forest fire by examining the trees. Determining the age of the tree by counting annual rings is called Dendrochronology. “Dendro-” is Greek for tree. “Chron-” means time. And, “-ology” is the study of. Here are some methods scientists use to tell a tree’s age.
Look for a fallen tree nearby that is the same as the one you wish to know the age. Scientists use these statistics to avoid having to chop down and kill a tree. If the downed tree is similar in width and height, then it can be used to give a close estimate of age. Whorl around the tree. Another way to tell the age of some trees is to count the whorls around them. A whorl is the circular growth of branches in the same spot around the tree trunk. As the tree gets older, it will lose its whorls, and markings will be left behind. Count from the bottom whorl up to tell how old it is.
Drill a boring tool into the core of the tree to tell its age. A boring tool is a T-shaped tool with a long, thin hollow plug that drills into the tree to take a core sample. Scientists count the rings on the sample to determine the tree’s age and then cover the hole to keep the tree alive. Look out below. If a tree is cut down, look inside the core for circles. These are called annual circles or growth rings. The circles start very small in circumference and get larger with each ring.
Count the rings of each annual circle. One growth ring represents one year of life for the tree. Begin with the innermost part of the core called the pith and count outward towards the bark.
Tips to Keeping Your Trees in Tip-Top Shape
One of the joys of living in the country is being surrounded by big, wonderful trees. Not only do they add shade and beauty, but they also add greatly to the value of your property. Replacing even a small tree can run into hundreds of dollars. It only makes sense, then, to protect your investment and nurture trees so they can be appreciated for generations. Here are ten tips for keeping your trees healthy.
1. Back off. The good news is that, for the most part, trees can fend for themselves. After all, those centuries-old beauties you see dotting the countryside didn’t get that way with lots of fussing and primping.
2. Watch where you dig. Construction is probably the biggest killer of mature trees, especially when heavy equipment is involved. Consider the case of a Missouri couple who designed the driveway of their new house around a glorious 200-year-old tree. They laid the driveway, and the tree promptly died.
Even if it seems construction is taking place relatively far away from a tree, remember that a root system can extend two to three times farther than the branches. With a mature tree, that means heavy equipment operating even 60 feet away can compact the soil and damage roots, causing the tree to die in a few months or slowly for years.
So whether you’re laying a driveway or building a shed, take a moment to talk about protecting the trees with any contractor and specify where heavy equipment can and can’t go. It’s best to mark off areas around trees during construction. Stake off areas at least 10 feet from the tree’s drip line, that is, as far as the branches of the tree extend.
3. No parking. Avoid parking vehicles under trees. Over the years, the soil becomes compacted and can slowly kill the tree.
4. Whack carefully. Mowers and weed whackers (power string trimmers) can be tree enemies, nicking the bark and weakening the tree, making an ideal entry point for disease.
5. Mulch regularly. It’s important to mulch around the base of your trees (except trees in a woodland situation). Apply a 1- to 4-inch layer of wood chips or shredded bark, pine needles, shredded autumn leaves, cocoa hulls, straw, or other biodegradable mulch. The mulch should start an inch or two from the trunk of the tree, extending as far as the drip line or at least 3 feet away from the base of the trunk. Not only will mulch protect your tree from lawn equipment, but also it will suppress weeds and keep moisture in the soil.
6. Don’t overwater or overfertilize. For the most part, a mature tree needs little assistance when it comes to food and water. While trees planted in the last three or four years benefit from additional fertilizing and watering, large trees can be damaged by fertilizer and too much water. Lawn and garden herbicide applications can also damage them—another good reason to lay down that big circle of mulch, so you’re not pouring chemicals into at least part of the tree’s roots.
In the arid West, new homeowners installing sprinkling systems often unwittingly begin watering trees that are used to dry conditions, soaking the soil and depriving them of the oxygen they’re used to. This can lead to sick or even dead trees.
7. Trim back on pruning. Benign neglect is also useful when it comes to pruning. Mature trees seldom need much, other than removing dead or damaged branches and trimming off any suckers that shoot up at the base. Thin, crowded growth on mature branches (especially fruit trees), called water sprouts, should be regularly trimmed, as should any rubbing or problem branches.
8. Know your trees and your diseases. Even though your trees don’t need much from you, it’s a good idea to keep a watchful eye on them. Many diseases are specific only to certain species, so to diagnose the problem, you’ll first need to know the tree. A good reference book can come to the rescue.
9. Walk your property. Walk your property regularly, and take a close look at your trees. Check leaves and branches for any insects or signs of insect activity, dead twigs, mushrooms growing on or around the tree base, and odd spots on leaves.
10. Stand back and enjoy. Few things on your property will give you as much beauty and pleasure for so little labour as your mature trees.
6 Important Facts For Healthy Trees
It’s not uncommon for people to believe that rain provides enough water for the trees at their home. But trees will suffer during periods of no rain, and while some drought-stressed trees may bounce back, there can be a point of no return for others.
The last thing you want is to lose a tree to drought stress when problems could have been prevented. After all, trees are a valuable part of our landscapes. They provide beauty and shade—and for a lot of homeowners, they hold quite a bit of sentimental value.
But drought-stressed trees can become sickly looking, cause problems, and potentially even become hazards.
That’s why we’re talking about ways that you can potentially prevent drought stress in the first place (with proper watering) or at least identify when your trees are struggling. Understanding some of these important facts will help you protect the trees on your property.
Watering Trees in Drought
Understanding how to properly water can help prevent drought stress for trees.
When homeowners have smaller, ornamental trees that they can reach the top of, they may be inclined to water from overhead. But you want to avoid getting the foliage wet as this can promote disease. Leaf spot diseases, for instance, can thrive in wet conditions.
The other problem when watering from overhead is that a lot of the water may never even make it to the tree’s root system. You need to make sure that’s where you’re watering.
The best way to water trees is with a soaker hose, allowing water to slowly ooze out of its entire length. Watering slowly and steadily works particularly well for the clay soil here in the Lehigh Valley. Clay soil does a good job of holding water once it’s absorbed. Allow the soaker hose to run somewhere between two to four hours. Once or twice a week should be sufficient. Ideally, you want to water in the early morning or the evening so that you avoid losing water to mid-day evaporation.
Recognize the Signs of Drought-Stressed Trees
When it comes to your trees’ health, you must be paying attention to potential signs that they may be struggling. If you’re not paying close attention, the problem will only get more serious and could reach a point of no return.
Some potential signs that a tree is drought stressed include the leaves curling, wilting and completely drying out; leaves or needles (on an evergreen) yellowing; overall stunted growth; and premature leaf drop.
Although these symptoms can sometimes be signs of other tree problems, if your landscape has gone without rain for a few weeks and the temperatures are high, then you’ll likely know that your tree is struggling from a lack of water and that you need to step in.
Even better, before waiting for signs of a problem, when you know that there is going to be a period of drought, take the proactive step to preventatively water your trees. With something as valuable as a tree, it’s always best to prevent problems rather than scramble to fix them.
Trees Can Go Dormant in Drought
You might also be wondering, do trees go dormant in a drought? Are these symptoms signs of dormancy? Yes, some trees do go dormant in drought. For instance, a deciduous tree will go dormant.
Premature dormancy is not ideal for a tree’s health. As they go into dormancy and drop leaves (and sometimes also go through fall colour changes, though not as bright as you’d see in the fall), they also lose their ability to produce food. After all, the purpose of the leaves is to produce food for the tree through the process of photosynthesis.
While dormancy is a natural cycle for trees in the winter, it’s not something that you want to happen early, in seasons when your trees should be thriving.
Drought-Stressed Trees are Prone to Insect and Mite Damage
In addition to some of the symptoms that we mentioned you might see as a result of drought stress, it’s also important to mention that drought-stressed trees are more likely to see an increase in insect activity. This is because when trees are stressed, they release a chemical that attracts these types of opportunistic insects.
What’s concerning is that sometimes these are piercing insects that use their sharp and sucking mouthpieces to literally suck plant fluid from the tree. As they extract even more fluid from the already fluid-deprived tree, its health can really begin to go downhill fast.
However, wood-boring insects also take advantage of drought-stressed trees. Their larvae feed on the internal parts of the tree trunks and the branches, causing irreversible damage in their path.
Of course, simply watering a drought-stressed tree which is also dealing with an insect infestation, will not be enough. Once insects have begun to feed on your stressed tree, they’re not just going to disappear because you’re watering it. That means you’ll simultaneously need to have the insects treated to be controlled while also watering the tree to restore fluids.
How to Bring Back a Dying Tree
If you have one or more trees on your property that are drought-stressed, you might be wondering if they can be restored.
The answer to this is typical, “it depends.” Some trees will bounce back from drought stress, while others may not. Evergreens are an example of a tree type that tends to be lost if it has suffered too much. This is because their ability to regenerate a whole new set of foliage (like deciduous trees can) is not there.
An evaluation by a professional is the smartest step in determining if your tree can be saved. Oftentimes, a drought-stressed tree may have more than one issue occurring at once. Just like insects are more prone to feed on a stressed tree, the disease is more likely to ravage an already struggling tree.
A professional can help determine whether your tree is too far gone or whether it can be treated. Even if leaf drop is occurring, you should not necessarily just give up on irrigating. There are other plant parts that need water internally, and just giving up on your tree completely could make it worse. A professional could advise what’s best based on what they see in an evaluation.
One thing that we utilize at Joshua Tree is a beneficial fungus that we can incorporate at the root system to help trees better trap and hold moisture around their roots. This can help trees that typically struggle to become more drought tolerant. But this is not a cure. Some trees are simply too far gone to be recovered, which we’ll talk about next.
Dying or Dead Trees Need Safe Removal
It’s important to recognize that when a tree has reached a “point of no return,” that you need to have a realistic conversation with a professional about removal before it becomes a serious hazard. The last thing that you’d want is for a dying or dead tree to start dropping limbs in your yard, or even worse, on a person or a structure.
The fact is, if a tree becomes brittle, it actually becomes a hazard even during removal. This is because it can literally fall apart during the removal process—and that can be serious.
A tree that has become brittle and is no longer safe for tree removal professionals to climb may require specialized equipment like a crane or a bucket truck. You’re now talking about the added cost, too.
That means if you suspect you have a dead or dying tree on your property, it’s beneficial to get it evaluated and to discuss the best course of action as soon as possible.