What is damaging my Dogwood?

JonCraig(6b)February 6, 2013

Have noticed this damage getting progressively worse over the last 4-6 months. The tree was planted about 18 months ago. Is a Cherokee Princess white flowering Dogwood.

Is this Dogwood Borer? The leaves did not (to my inexperienced eye, anyway) turn a strange color, nor are there dead branches in the canopy. In fact, there seems to be no damage above ~3ft up the trunk.

Also... the black stuff you see is that tree-seal stuff. I know, I know... I should have asked here first before painting that stuff on. Noobie mistake.

I'm thoroughly confused as to the source of the damage, hence why I have come here to ask the experts. Thanks in advance! :-)

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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

Wow, it really does look like a goner...even if the top half looks good right now.
Any chance you could take a full pic of the tree as well? From top to bottom?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 1:03AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

transplant shock.. if in fact it it wasnt damaged when it was dug up prior to sale ...

that entire side of the tree is dead [the center is always dead, encased in the live material].. you can see that it is trying to heal itself.. it might.. it might not ...

apply proper and thorough DEEP watering with full drainage and near drying in between.. and HOPE FOR THE BEST ...

i dont believe that fert will do anything to speed the process ...

if you have a warranty.. excercize it ...

if not.. decide what makes your brain hurt less.. watching it either recover or die for 5 years..

or just abandoning ship.. and starting over ... sometimes that helps .. if you are a worrying type ... as compared to the science type.. who wants to 'watch' what happens ...

personally.. i would be done with it.. and start over.. with a much smaller tree.. its easier [and cheaper].. all around ... and if i had a warranty.. i would offer to take a smaller replacement to seal the deal ....

the ultimate decision might be made.. when it leafs out.. and you can see what if any further damage has been done to the canopy ...


    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:38AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Nice tree choice. Sucks what happened.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:57AM
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What Ken said, transplant shock. Too much sun and not enough water after it was planted. I had this happen to a kousa dogwood cultivar the past year as well (mine looks worse if you can believe it!). Mine has sprouted from the trunk and base well below the dead bark with some above the graft line which will be the cultivar I bought and some below the graft line which will be the kousa rootstock. I will see if any of those grow well this year and maybe keep it. It still made a ton of flower buds up top (species preservation cue?) but I don't expect that half to survive the summer.

I watered it deeply fairly often (at least once a week without rain and all the other species I watered the same did very well) but it was in 8 hours full sun and fast draining soil and was NOT happy. Dogwoods seem to take their sweet time establishing around here and don't seem to expand their roots very fast.

I also lost the first Cherokee Princess I planted when we received 2 feet of rain in 1.5 months and to make matters worse, I heavily amended the soil at planting with manure which further suffocated the tree with all the rain. After I learned my lesson, that fall I purchased a clearance Cherokee Princess. I waited until it went dormant, then I completely washed off/removed every bit of that potting soil and planted it bareroot in my native soil... in full all day sun. It survived last year and made a lot of flower buds so I hope it is in good shape for now. I mulched and watered the heck out of it, too but it was a much smaller tree than the kousa was.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:11AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Your tree is also improperly planted. There is ZERO indication of root flare in the second pic. In my experience, dogwoods are tricky to get started. One of the local nursery operators tells me "plant 3 to get 1". So you have to be extra diligent, extra careful, for an extra long time. We have a 'Milky Way' C. kousa planted for about five years now. I don't have to baby it like we did at the start, has not grown to speak of, and obviously has not fully recovered. It does flower each year however, and so it is still worth having.

IMHO, you will eventually lose this tree. If you still want a dogwood, then you need to better educate yourself on root flare, watering, site selection etc., and start with a smaller tree.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:34AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

Perhaps you can harvest some root suckers for starting a new tree? I had extensive damage to my Cornelian Cherry trees, Cornus mas, from the Halloween Northeaster in 2011. Large branches broke off from the heavy snowfall. I removed some root suckers and have started new trees.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:44AM
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I bet if some undergrad in horticulture wanted a good research project, they can come here and count the incidences of improper planting killing new trees, and develop a new protocol for nursery tags.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Yes, the tree was planted too deep which may be the biggest player in the tree's demise, but Dano is piling on with that comment, Jon.

I like Ark's advice: learn more about correct planting techniques and start with a smaller tree. Starting with small enough stock can even help the tree overcome less than perfect planting methods. Like Ken said, just about every gardener starts uninformed. There are a lot of helpful EXPERIENCED people here that will help you learn from their experiences (and most are not as snarky as Dano).


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:27AM
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and most are not as snarky as Dano

You are right: this forum would not be useful to glean useful information about the effects of improper planting to make useful new nursery tags.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:40AM
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It looks like this dogwood has multiple problems. While transplant shock is possible (large diameter-small root-ball), the bark shows sunscald damage and dogwood borer damage.

Sunscald is not uncommon with thin barked trees such as dogwoods and some maples planted in full sun. The borer shows up after the tree has been weakened, to kind of finish it off. I say the tree is a goner and should be replaced.

Buy a smaller caliper tree (smaller ones like at box stores typically have flower buds) with a more proportional root-ball. Identify the root flare zone (as has been previously mentioned in this thread), set the root flare above the soil line(you can plant dogwoods shallow and mound the fill up around the root-ball) to assist in proper drainage. If you plant a dogwood too deep, you will lose it!

Create a mulch ring around the drip zone of the tree consisting of pine bark (acidic)about 3" in depth. Do not let the mulch touch the tree as this will keep moisture on the bark providing avenues for bugs and fungi to destroy the tree. Leave a 2"-3" mulchless zone around the base of the tree. Keep it watered well the first growing season (about 1" per week) and it should be fine.

Dogwoods are fairly easy to grow and maintain when the right growing conditions are provided on the front end.

Here is a link that might be helpful regarding growing your dogwood tree.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dogwoods

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:49PM
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live. learn. you don't learn to ride a bike without skinning a knee. you shouldn't need to apologize for learning something.

first. transplant shock. Nope. No way, no how. should not even be mentioned. unless you can demonstrate how sloughing bark and borer tracks imprinted in wood relate to shock, which usually exhibits with undersized leaves (also symptomatic of digging too late in the season), wilting, yellowing leaves, occasionally loss of foliage.

ken, don't take it wrong. I love your enthusiasm. you usually don't miss things too far.

this plant never had a chance. sorry. it happens. no matter how you planted it, no matter if everything about weather and care was perfect in all ways.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:00PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

How the heck did you guys miss all those borer holes!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Improper planting leads to weakness and susceptibility to pathogens. And I did miss the sunscald, which surely attracted pathogens as well.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:39PM
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Let's see...

Transplant shock - a catch all phrase used to when a plant suffers/declines/dies after planting due to experiencing different growing conditions than those provided prior to out planting.

Planted deeper in the earth than in the pot - a source oftransplant shock

Planted with more soil over the root zone than in the pot/field soil level - a source of transplant shock

Planted in a location that lacks protection from other plants (like in a nursery where there are many plants grouped together) thus allowing more sunlight to reach the trunk thereby causing sun scald - transplant shock - the borers were most likely after the fact when the tree became stressed, it became a pest magnet but this is not known definitively

Planted in greater sun exposure than the root system can accommodate - a source of transplant shock

To say the tree had no chance when we have no knowledge of the tree's condition prior to out planting is ignorantly presumptuous and insinuates the tree should have been culled before sale when the tree could have been perfectly healthy at the time of sale. 18 months is plenty of time for many things to go wrong, especially with a dogwood.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:42PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Based on the healing progress looks like the borers where present before planting time. The above factors exacerbated the borer activity and didn't allow proper healing. Just my theory though.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:18PM
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Believe it or not, I was actually aware of proper planting technique (re: root flare) when I put this one in. There's just a touch of root flare in that 2nd pic that's obscured by the shadow, as well as a less obvious bit on the opposite side that's being covered by the loose bark. There's about a 1/8" dusting of compost (with a couple pieces of mulch that neighborhood cats have stirred up) for about 2" up to the trunk. But I appreciate everyone looking from all angles.

Thank you to those who confirmed that those holes are, in fact, borers. I'm now off to search this forum on how to lessen sunscald and treat for borers. The tree was a gift, so I feel constrained to at least make a good effort towards saving the tree. Here are a couple more pics, one as it is today, and two as it was in bloom this year:

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Well once borer damage is done you can't do much else about it. But it looked so good, is that picture (1st one) this year currently? Looks great from the crown, but looks can be deceiving, anyway the tree is a good thing to experiment on, you should buy another one and try not to make any obvious mistakes you did with the 1st dogwood you got.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 2:40PM
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so I feel constrained to at least make a good effort towards saving the tree.

Portion out your effort sparingly. If you are lucky, it will make it but I wouldn't place a wager. Nice flowers tho!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:13PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Not sure where in 6b you are but Cornus florida, with the exception of its hybrids, is not recommended for central and midwest plantings so with a plant this badly damaged it may never recover and be subject to future attacks.

Get a hybrid or C. kousa if you stick with dogwood and try a new plant.

If its not in a prime location I guess it doesn't hurt to let it be.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:22PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I'm definitely not holding my breath. It is in a prime location, so if things don't look promising this season, I'll be looking to replace it. I'm sure I'll be asking for opinions when the time comes. Thanks for all the feedback!


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:55PM
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