Best way to handle only partly dead river birch

katrina1(OK)May 28, 2009

Heritage River birch trees seem to sprout fairly easily in my area.

I have a single trunked Heritage birch planted early last fall. At the time it had been stressed enough for the top canopy to be leafless with one long lower branch about 5 feet up the trunk that did have some leaves.

I planted the tree in an area where it can access moisture and soil saturation from runoff of my nextdoor neighbor's lot.

This spring the tree has produced water suckers that are full of leaves and which are growing all up and down the previously clean trunk. Above, all this green up, there are no leaves at all that have grown on the branches of the canopy which starts above all that new growth I just described.

The top branches in the canopy are definately dead, dry, and brittle the lowest branch which was the only one to leaf last year is still a little flexibe and definately not brittle yet.

I planted the tree hoping to get its roots established enough for them to send up some root srouts that would take on the roll of becoming the tree's main trunks.

Question: When should I cut of the dead canopy and upper trunk from which, previously, those dead branches had grown? Also, am I correct in my expectation of this tree's potential to survive and confidence in its ability to overcome its challanges enough to develop into a healthy and well structured tree?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Remove what you are sure is dead immediately.

A little selective pruning on your part will help the tree grow into the specimen you want.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 2:08PM
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Thanks for the response, Since days went by with no response to my question, I was beginning to wonder if I had asked a pointless question.

Thanks again, I'll go do that right now, and will try to remember to submit a new post next spring to keep others updated on how my tree responds.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 7:16PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Yeah, sometimes it's odd which questions get answered and which get ignored. I think some people just respond to threads that are specifically interesting to them. Also, sometimes it's hard to know how much info to include in a response. Sometimes it's just easier to see how the conversation will develop, than to form an answer to a possibly complex question. I have done that myself (avoided a topic until someone else does the hard work of typing out a long answer). I do hate to see a question go unanswered.

Good luck with your tree!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 11:15PM
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I did cut of the trunk down to the highest water sucker growing out of it. First did a scratch test and the trunk showed no green, but when I cut it off I could see the slightest bit of green beneath the bark.

Maybe I should have waited until that part of the trunk turned brittle, but now at least the tree can at least put its effort toward making food and feeding its roots with those lower water sucker branches that are growing out of the trunk. Then maybe next year the roots will be established well enough to send up some shoots from the roots and I could then cut the old trunk down and allow the tree to focus its efforts on developing new multiple main leader trunks that should have better balance between them in trunk diameter.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 2:33AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I think you did the right thing. A trunk with only a slight bit of green is probably not much better than one with no green at all.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 9:04AM
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Hope so. At least the tree still seems to be surviving nicely, even though it looks pretty awkward. But hey, it's a Heritage River Birch.

I had three of this same cultivar of tree, on a vacant residential lot I recently sold, and those trees amazed me at how much drought, die back and other problems they overcame. It took about 4 years, but those birches finally pulled through and began looking like beautiful well established, tall enough, and better trunked birches.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:42AM
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