Industry News: Tree Health

Q: My cryptomeria tree has thin foliage and browning branches. Is it diseased?

Thursday, December 31, 2015  

Q: My healthy cryptomeria started to go downhill after a summer drought of two months in North Carolina. The branches are all turning brown and the foliage is getting very thin. The tree has some new growth, but even that is dying after a couple weeks. I added wood chip mulch under the tree around the same time the problem started, so I'm wondering if that might be the cause, if mulch was diseased.

A: Cryptomeria prefers dry, well-drained, and acidic oils. There are no foliar diseases or insects that can cause the symptoms that you describe; however, cryptomeria does drop its older leaves about every 18 months, as do other conifers. This year, many cryptomerias went through this metamorphosis where the inner needles/leaves turn yellow, orange, brown, and then fall to the ground. The trees are left looking a little thin and shabby until the new springtime growth fills in. I suspect this is the cause of the majority of what you are seeing. If the soil is wet or you have poorly drained, high-density soils that are wet, especially in the shade, this can cause some limited dieback, or it can conceivably drown a plant.

Responder: Marty Shaw, RCA 470, Franklin, TN