Help - Dying Atlas Cedars

FlyGardenMay 20, 2014

I have 4 blue atlas cedars in my yard - watered but well drained. One has suddenly dropped all its needles and died. Two others (not the weeping variety, as far as I know) are suddenly drooping, with their bark beginning to peel away on the trunks. One healthy cedar remains.

On one of the two dying cedars, I found a half dozen beetles (pic of one attached) underneath a piece of the shedding bark.

I am a complete tree novice, and could use any ideas:
(1) Is this beetle a form of pine bark beetle? Or does it look like a benign insect not likely to harm the trees?

(2) If this beetle is the cause of the demise of my first cedar, is there anything I can do to save the two dying and one healthy tree.

(3) If this beetle is not likely the cause of the cedar's demise, any other suggestions for what might have killed the cedar so suddenly? I will post a pic of the dead tree in a follow up.

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If it is pine bark beetle, they usually die fast from the top down.
My neighbor lost a gorgeous white pine that was at least 40 years old last year, so sad, and it died fast, from the top down.
You have to get rid of the trees that are starting to die, have them removed and carted away,
Burn anything remaining.
So sad. Nothing you can do but get rid of the trees ASAP if they are being killed by the pine bark beetle.
They spread, so the sooner you get the other infested trees cut down and hauled away, the better for the one remaning healty one.
You might want to watch the dying trees carefuly, are they dying fast from the top down?
Mabey a tree service who has an arborist can give you his opinion.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 9:22PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how bad was your winter ... ???

if you read any of the many posts.. here.. the shrub forum or the conifer forum... you will see dozens of damage complaints from winter ... to jump to bug damage.. this early in the year ... seems a bit far fetched to me ... have those bugs.. which just recently emerged.. had enough time to decimate a large tree .. i am thinking not ...

especially in making bark peel ... that takes months.. if not years ...

if you cant get a bug ID here.. try the garden clinic forum ... pest forum...

are you sure on the plant ID ??? .. i suggest a pic of your plants.. and we start by naming these.. luckily.. most of the conifer peeps also hang in this forum.. so no need to duplicate the post at this time...

if you read the above answer close.. butter does not name your bug.. or actually say.. it is the cause of your problem ... she may be right.. but first.. she is talking pine.. and you claim your plants are cedar ... and second.. googling her bug.. at the link.. it looks nothing like the bug in your baggie .. ...

lets not start by burning all your plants.. at least before we insure the tree.. and the bug ID ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Thank you for the responses. Yes, butterfly, two of the trees have begun wilting from the top during the past two weeks (see pic).

Ken, yes, we had a long, hard winter. Do you think that is the more likely culprit? The tree ID was given to me by a neighbor who has a hobby tree farm and has the same variety in his yard. Based on the pic, do you think the ID is accurate?

I checked with 1 of only 2 local ISA arborists. He was not sure what was happening. The second one has yet to return my phone calls :/

I am perplexed and sorry to be losing the centerpiece of our front yard. They look(ed) really nice.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 7:57PM
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For illustrative purposesâ¦. here is a pic of the tree that has died.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 7:59PM
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And here is what the trunk of the dead tree looks likeâ¦

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 8:04PM
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They are really somewhat out of their range, climate-wise, where you live, OP. Where they are native, it's something like 4-7000 feet above sea level, and likely, drier, cooler summers.

The stress of the summers in Okalahoma, particularly of late, may have had a great deal to do with their demise. A weakened tree is susceptible to attack (weakened immune system).

So, it was probably a gamble whenever they were planted in a front yard in Okalahoma. If it were me, I'd hope for the best, not spend too much money trying to save the rest, and chose something more suitable and move on. Sorry about your trees.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 9:59PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I will take a shot. I live over in Northwest Arkansas, and there are allot of Atlas Cedar that made it through winter just fine (including my own). So while it's not certain that winter wasn't the problem, I tend to think that it was not. What I do think is most like the problem is girdling roots.I see many Atlas Cedar locally, and almost without exception, they are in a container much much too small for the size of tree. Most of these will eventually die due to being pot bound and developing girdling roots. So Joe Q Public comes along and buys the tree and doesn't know any better, plants the tree, and then it suddenly dies a few years later. Frank Contractor also buys the one that has been there the longest (therefore most pot bound) which is the cheapest because the seller is trying to get rid of it before it dies. Frank Contractor likes it because it increases their profit, and helps sell the house. Again, the tree dies at most a few years later.

Dig up one of the dead ones and lets have some pictures of the roots. We should be able to confirm is refute my hypothesis.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Great replies! Got some more info⦠I finally reached the 2nd of 2 arborists in town. He identified the beetle as a click beetle and said it was not likely responsible for the damage. Instead, after looking at the roots and noting that the tree seems to wobble more than it should for an established cedar, it seems most likely the roots were not properly scored when the tree was planted.

It seems that arktree's theory in the post above is most likely to be the case -- potted tree with girdling roots that have not expanded well enough to support the tree. I think the trees were not properly planted by the landscaper who did the work (and apparently who has a poor reputation).

The arborist suggested I take a spade and make a series of deep cuts around the base of the tree and perpendicular to the trunk to attempt to free up the roots and allow the tree to expand its root system. I'll give that a try and see what happens!

Ultimately, if they die, it won't be a loss in the long run. The previous owner did not make a great choice in planting 4 atlas cedars close together within a small 20 ft run. If they survive, I'll eventually have to remove a couple so they have room enough to grow.

Thanks again for the help!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 8:34PM
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