Ask a Consulting Arborist Q&A: Tree Health

Q: Would a sick white oak tree produce a large amount of acorns?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015  

Q: I have a giant white oak tree in my front yard, about 80 to 100 feet tall. The canopy spreads over half my house. This year, the tree looks as if it's struggling a bit--kind of sparse in the leaf department. I had an arborist look at it to determine its health. He said he suspects root rot and that I can treat it, but there's no guarantee that will work. My question is, would a sick tree produce large amounts of acorns? Because this one has a lot. My roof has been constantly pelted with large acorns for the last three weeks. The driveway, yard, and flat part of the roof are a sea of acorns. Could this be an indication that perhaps my tree is healthy after all?

A: Your oak tree needs to be inspected more closely to determine what would be causing decline symptoms like loss of leaves or the canopy getting less dense in a short amount of time. This can be related to weather events, changes in the site conditions (less irrigation, more irrigation, flooding, grade changes adding soil or digging out soil, etc.) or pest problems (fungus, insects, diseases). The symptoms you describe are not enough to identify exactly what has occurred and what can be done to treat the tree to improve health.

A "bumper crop" of acorns is usually not a sign of improved health. It can just be part of the normal cycle, where some years are more productive than others, so look for other oak trees in the area to see whether they also have greater than normal crops of acorns. If not, the increased generation of acorns can be a sign of declining health, showing that the tree is putting increased energy into producing acorns to grow more trees before it dies; this is a natural reaction to severe stress in many plants and trees.

Have a Certified Arborist or Registered Consulting Arborist inspect your tree further so that treatments can be planned for improving the health. Find one at www.asca-consultants.org or www.isa-arbor.com. Hopefully this situation is just weather-related and nothing more complicated.

 

Responder: John Harris, RCA #468, Hollywood, FL