Help with my oak?

pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)January 16, 2012

Can anyone offer any advice on the oak (I believe it's a swamp oak?) pictured below:

The tree has small round "nodes" on the branches approximately the size of a marble (see below). I have knocked them off in past years but they always seem to grow back. I'm not sure if they are hurting the tree or not.

Also, the tree is a parkway tree and was supplied by the city. A couple of years ago the tree had a branch that was damaged in a storm and I pruned the tree down during the following winter to improve its shape. Does it seem to be shaped properly? Is there anything else I should do besides stake it for straightness to improve it's health/appearance?

Thanks in advance!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
famartin(z5 NE NV)

Hard to see in the photo, but they are either acorns or galls. Based on your description, likely the latter. Probably harmless.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
famartin(z5 NE NV)

Oh, and regarding the overall tree shape: It looks decent enough to me. I wouldn't worry about staking it.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks famartin. They are definitely not acorns (although it has produced quite a few the last few years).

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 8:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

it needs a lot of work ...

and i need better pix of the branches in the red circles ... i think there was improper pruning there.. and i would want to remove or fix such ...

everything marked in blue has to go

do you know how to prune properly???? do you know what a branch collar is????

i would also like a pic of the trunk at the ground... i see no trunk flare at ground level... pull back the mulch ...

what it amounts to .. is that i want to bring it up a couple feet ... fix the two improperly pruned branches near the top .. and remove a few dangling small branches on the one at 3 o'clock ...

i would also remove some of the minor twigs along the trunk .. they will die eventually when the canopy shades them out.. so take them off while they are tiny ....

the second blue from the top.. is not the main branch.. but a spindly little one ...

what you will be left with.. is a strong leader.. with two strong laterals.. and the one higher up that comes toward you in the pic ..

the trees response to this removal.. will be explosive growth ...

I AM PRESUMING THAT IT HAS BEEN IN PLACE FOR A FEW YEARS ... if not.. i might not remove this much canopy .. how long has it been in place ...

you can not link on my pic.. you can use the OP's pic above to see clearer ...

ken

ps: i do not recommend ladder work in snow ....

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

Those are nearly all temporary branches. As such, they will eventually be gone. I see nothing, or next to nothing, that actually needs doing. Oaks are among the species that very rarely need corrective pruning. They "shape up" just fine with no help.

And def. don't stake it! It doesn't need to be staked and doing so will only prevent the trunk from developing taper and strength to withstand the winds of it's open location.

Sure, there's little stubs here and there, and had I pruned it, they wouldn't be there. But they're old and what's done is done. Why mess with it still more?

+oM

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i like to walk under my trees.. w/o fear of getting my eyes poked out ....

so at a min.. i would remove all that straggle near the bottom ...

ken

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

Yeah, that much I'd probably do too. Even there though, with oaks, no hurry, unless the stick is already in your eye!

+oM

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 2:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

but ... but ..... you cant find the saw AFTER it pokes your eyes out.. so i recommend pruning prior to eye loss ...

and then. after you are recovered.. and really pissed off.. you end up pruning it up like i suggest in the first place ... lol...

tom is right.. after safety.. there is no hurry ... though for a novice.. its much easier to saw off a bunch of small branches.. than to wish you did in 5 years.. and have to practice on 2 to 4 inch branches at height ....

ken

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
texasredhead(z8Texas)

It looks to me like the tree is planted too deeply. It appears to come out of the ground like a telephone poll. The tree is under stress because the root flare is burried.Soil sould be removed from around the trunk to expose the root flare. There are aborists that can do this with an air spade. Given time with the tree's roots starved for oxygen, will kill the tree.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 10:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Pmsmith2032, next time you get a dry day (and the ground/mulch isn't frozen), go out and rake the mulch back from the base of the tree. The mulch may be too deep there, from what I can see in the picture. Look for signs of the root flare (the top of the first large root). IF there are no signs of larger roots, dig down a little and see what you find. IF you have to dig far, Texasredhead may be onto something. At this point, we can't say whether the tree is planted too deeply, but, if it is, that could be a contributing problem.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 1:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

Forgot to comment on planting depth. The two previous posts have this covered. The tree does indeed look like it may have been planted too deep.

+oM

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 10:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks everyone for all the great comments. A couple of observations/questions:

1. The tree was planted approximately 5 years ago by the city (parkway tree).

2. The mulch around the base of the tree is approximately 3 to 6 inches built up above ground level. I am not sure if it is solid mulch down to ground level or not. This was done by the city when they planted it. I will definitely pull back the mulch once the ground has thawed. Should it be level with the ground? Should there be mulch around the tree at all?

3. I certainly don't have an issue wth doing some minor trimming on the tree. I'm assuming during the winter is best? Is there an article you can refer me to on how to do it properly? From the picture ken-adrian (it's hard to see what you marked in blue) it looks like the bottom row of branches should come off? I am afraid to make cuts you specified up higher since it's hard to see markings on the picture. Should I retake the pictures with some close up shots?

4. The trunk on the tree is not completely straight. Is a slight lean ok?

Thanks again for everyone's help!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 8:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"Should there be mulch around the tree at all?"

Some people recommend removing all mulch right around the trunk out to a distance of at least a couple of inches. I prefer to taper the mulch down gradually so that the mulch is very very thin, but still present, right up to the trunk. Six inches up against the trunk is way too much according to current recommendations. A half inch of mulch there is very unlikely to have any disadvantage and still looks good.

"Is there an article you can refer me to on how to do it properly?"

Prune only what needs to be pruned (dead, diseased, rubbing, damaged limbs) and what you think is a "must" for aesthetic/access reasons. If there are stubs left from previous improper pruning, I'd also take them off if it were me. BUT, don't prune just to be pruning! Here are a few good articles on pruning basics:

ISA article on Pruning Young Trees

ISA article on Pruning Mature Trees

US Forest Service on How to Prune Trees

"Is a slight lean ok?"

It depends on what the reason for the lean is. If the root system is failing to support the tree, that can be a very bad indicator. In your tree's case, the lean appears, in the pictures, to be a function of the way the tree is growing. There is nothing wrong with that type of lean at all. In fact, some people might even consider it to add character (be more natural).

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 9:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

Yeah. I think you can do far more harm than good to this very young oak tree by insisting it needs pruning. As I've already said, there's only some VERY minor things to do, minor enough that doing nothing is a distinct possibility at this time. Sw. wh. oaks just don't need structural pruning for the most part. And temporary branches, well........they're temporary.

+oM

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 9:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I was able to get out today and pull some of the mulch away from the trunk of the tree. The mulch is still frozen down lower so I wasn't able to reach the trunk flare. I haven't reached ground level yet so I will try to remove more tomorrow (it's suppose to be 55 degrees). What is the flare is below ground level? The tree is to large to raise. Will removing the mulch to ground level help some?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Probably, some, but I'm really hoping you are able to find those large roots once you get down to the surface. If I was you, I'd dig down at least a little ways even into the ground to try to find where you stand.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Assuming I find the root flare/roots, do I then cover the top of the roots with an inch or two of mulch?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 8:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

here is how i remember it ...

roots are made to cope with water.. moisture.. soil.. etc ...

bark is NOT ... it is made to be in the air.. and though it repels water... it can rot and lead to problems if in the soil with constant moisture ....

so to keep it dry .. we should not put mulch right up to the tree... an inch or 3 blank space between the mulch and the trunk is all you need ...

this would be the same reason you are looking for the trunk/root interface.. as one part will enjoy the soil .... and one part really should not be in the soil ...

you should not worry about it all in the dead of winter .... the soil will thaw when spring comes.. and a few weeks is not going to make a difference ... just dont forget ...

keep us posted when you get down there ... it is not a big deal.. to excavate a saucer.. perhaps with some bricks lining the circle .. to get down to the roots .... take pics and we can discuss that if need be ...

ken

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 9:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I dug down pretty far (Probably close to ground level) and here is what I found:

It seems like there is a major root starting to go off in one direction but the rest of the trunk base isn't really flaring. i did find some string sized roots as I got down aways. Did I dig too far? Not far enough? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 8:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Not quite far enough. You really need to find the top of the first large root coming off of the trunk. It does look like you may be close though. If there is soil very deep over the level of that first root, it should be removed. The tree has been planted too deeply, but how much too deep is hard to tell from the picture (and without finding how much further down the roots start).

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 8:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks! i will keep digging. I'm assuming then that the entire area around the tree should then be level with the top of the first big root once I find it?

Below are some more pictures (hopefully better) of the branch structure of the oak:

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 9:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Ideally, yes, or at least close. Does it appear that that will necessitate a level below that of the surrounding area or is soil built up around the base of the tree?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 9:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Once you get the root flare straightened out prune those vigorous growing vertical shoots all the way back to the horizontal lateral branches. That is not normal growth.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 9:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

good excavating ... it does NOT have to be done all at once ...

over the summer.. you should shave down the hole mound ... since there will be some superficial surface root damage.. i hesitate to do it all at once ... but do understand.. 99.9% of the roots are a foot or more down.. if those few stragglers on the surface are all there are.. the tree will die anyway ...

go back up to my pic as to how i would prune that tree .. and have no fear ...

removing everything less than 8 inches .. on the main trunk.. will open up the canopy .. and focus the energy into good branches.. they will all die as the tree grows anyway.. as they get shaded out ..

and anything that was previously broken needs a clean proper cut [usually at the trunk] .. and those ones straight up need to go.. and any that are rubbing together.. one of them has to go ...

for example.. pic directly above.. center bottom ... that branch was improperly cut at distance.. and it is causing scrubby improper branching at the tip.. and IT WILL POKE YOU EYE OUT..

TAKE IT OFF >>>properlynear the top center.. do you see that one branch making almost a full circle.. whats that all about .. take it out ...

dead center slightly left.. see that one branch that 'looks like' it makes a 90 degree turn [i understand its probably an optical delusion.. but close enough] ... take it out .. its unnatural ... and a prior improper prune or break ...

its all startling for a neophyte.. but trust me.. you are cleaning up prior problems.. and preventing future trouble ...

if when you are done shaving away the soil.. you can add some brick at the grass line.. should you end up a few inches too deep

ken

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 9:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
krnuttle

NP: Would the comments on the mulch apply to a Cleavland Pear that has been in the ground slightly less than three years?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 12:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I don't know what the "NP:" means, but yes I think everything we've said would apply.

One thing to consider is that trees that have been planted incorrectly for a long time (multiple years) will try to compensate by growing new roots and possibly sprouting adventitious roots. Also, roots buried too deeply will die off. If the tree survives and adapts, there will eventually be a time when the payoff from correcting the situation will not be worth the costs (new root loss, etc). A few small roots on the surface of the soil are of little to no consequence, but larger roots (even if adventitious) are best left intact when possible.

The ability for a tree to survive and thrive, when planted too deeply, and the time it will take for the tree to adapt to the new depth will vary widely with species, soil type, how much too deep it's planted, etc.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 7:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

To elaborate a bit on Brandon's latest post, trees adapted to floodplain conditions-in my neck of the woods such species as green ash, silver maple, elm, etc. are the ones most able to tolerate soil fill over the root system. The opposite would be such things as sugar maple, American beech, hemlock. They won't handle that at all.

Brandon is also correct in stating that for trees that were planted too deeply but some years ago, there is probably little value in trying to correct. Adventitious roots will have formed, the overall plant-energy balance will have been at least somewhat reset, and yet another disturbance might just push it over the edge.

+oM

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I pruned the lower branches on our oak this weekend:

Now I just need to trim some of the vertical branches/oddly shaped branches higher up. In cases where brances have been trimmed in the past but not all the way to a branch "joint", what should I do?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

PM, I'd recommend you only prune out those few branchlets that are growing upwards and then back into the tree crown. You've already taken a fair percentage of this trees foliage potential away for now. Just get at the most egregious offenders, again, those that grow straight up and back inward.

+oM

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 5:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to post a few pictures of the oak I asked about last year and see if anyone had suggestions on what I should do in the way of pruning this spring. By the way, I think the tree looks much better and seems healthier...thanks for all the help last year.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you did so well with last years trim.. you motivated me to Photoshop one of your pix.. download it.. i wont leave it there forever ...

BTW.. those are acorns.. not disease nodules???

green:.. i dont like downward danglies... get rid of them ... and a couple uprights ... that i dont like..

red.. i cant figure out that stub.. so remove it all.. problems solved.. lol ...

so red plus green.. is probably the next to lowest branches.. in your raising of the canopy.. yes????

yellow.. down-turning potential ... and looks like some prior bad stubbing ... and its one of your next in line anyway .. take it off at the trunk????

pinks.. and further greens i just dont like them.. to upright.. try to picture that branch at 6 inches thick.. and all those little branches would probably be shaded out and dead anyway ... so why not guide it now ...

white: i usually remove all the stublets off the trunks.. real easy snip at that size.. most are self-culled anyway ...

it seems like a lot.. but not really all that much .... so i would PROBABLY do it all this time ...

and the branch above the bottom green.. i would snip off all downward growing branchlets ...

dont forget DEEP PROPER WATERING for another year or two .... and you will have a gorgeous tree for the future ... [and that has nothing to do with automated grass sprinklers ...]

good luck

ken

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks Ken. I am concerned about the nodules too. They are definitely not acorns. I was told they are galls (see second post in this thread) but they seem to me multiplying. I know a couple of years ago I knocked them all off and they just came back. There seems to be a lot of wasps around the tree so not sure if they are related.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

pmsith,
Some galls are caused by wasps (yes I said some galls are caused by wasps), but I don't know if that is the case with these. It's entirely possible that the tree will have fewer of them over time as it recovers from transplanting. Still agree with not getting too excited about them just yet. They can become a real problem on occasion, but from the link below, will usually "outgrow" them.

Arktrees

Here is a link that might be useful: Oak Galls

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

My suggestion as to what pruning you should do this spring is none, or as near to it as you can manage. The tiny, insignificant branchlets on this oak that are turning inward or upward are just not an issue. Learn to differentiate between the growth habits of different genera of trees and I'm sure you will come to realize this oak doesn't really need your help....at all.

+oM

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 9:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i do NOT disagree with tom.. but for those bottom danglies.. IF THEY ARE IN EYEBALL RANGE ... if so.. just get rid of them ...

there is really nothing that HAS TO BE DONE...

i was just suggesting what COULD be done ...

with tree pruning ... there is always next year ... but it is so much easier.. when the branches are smaller ...

ken

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
poaky1

I know it's hard to stop preening our trees but your permanent branches have yet to be formed or are at the top of the tree now. Or haven't grown yet. This was already said, I know. Leaving the small branches are said to help the trunk thicken up when the tree is small. If you were able to let the tree grow as in a Savana, with no limit to it's spread low and high then I would try to nit-pick more about the low branches. I'm just adding my 2 cents here, whether it's wanted or not. My Bicolors are going to eventually need some shaping too.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I figured I'd post an updated picture of the oak I started this thread about. Anything I need to do to it this Spring? Thanks!


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Anything I need to do to it this Spring?

==>>> i didnt reread all the above ...

how have your goals for this tree changed.. in the interim????

still looks to me... that there are branches that can poke you in the eye ...???

once you have achieved the height that is within your goal ... then simply forget about it.. and let it do its own thing...

ken

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
poaky1

Ken likely has more experience than me but, I would wait a couple years before limbing the tree up more, unless those bottom branches are encroaching on you while mowing (and/or) walking near the tree. The tree has impressive bark for such a skinny trunk. My Swamp whites have thin peeling bark, they are really young too though.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Looks to me that you need to do ONE thing. Leave it alone. Your tree looks to be doing well. Will probable really burst in growth this year. Congratulate yourself, and then post summer pics here so that we can enjoy it with you. :-)

Arktrees

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Sounds good. Thanks for all the help/advice! I'll post pictures if/when this terrible winter ever ends and summer comes!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beng(z6 western MD)

Looks fine to me -- keeping a central leader.

There's a kind of oak gall that looks like a bunch of squished green grapes -- my SW oak had a few. Looks like that's what's on yours (dried up now). But don't worry about them.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 8:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
krnuttle

One of the things that many people get caught up in is loving our wild life, plants and trees to death.

I thing you have spent enough time on trimming in the last couple of years. Now is the time to let the tree do what it wants for a couple of years. While trimming is good, it cuts back on the trees ability to feed it self, so let it alone and get "fat"

...........Barring car or storm damage.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:39AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
2015 Midatlantic/SE/New England winter damage thread
I don't mean to exclude the midwest but I think for...
davidrt28 (zone 7)
Destructive trimming of trees. HELP!!!!
Our neighborhood association board has been going crazy...
beachem
Ilex x 'Scepter' -- anyone growing this?
Is anyone growing Ilex x 'Scepter'? It just looks like...
Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA
where to prune these maples?
ugh what happened to GW?? anywho - need some advice...
skyjumper
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™