Staghorn Sumacs are dying

MommaSunshineJuly 27, 2011

Hello all,

I have a large grove of staghorn sumacs on the border of my backyard. There must be about 20-30 treees, most of which are mature and about 20 feet tall. For some reason, they are all dying. It started with just one, the leaves turned yellow and red, the branches wilted, then it died. And now all the others are slowly dying. Even a sumac tree about 30 feet from the main grove is starting to show the yellowing leaves and wilt.

I am heartbroken and very worried that all the sumac trees are going to die. No more songbirds in the winter! No more beautiful palm effect in summer! I have searched the web extensively and cannot find any reason why this is happening.

The only thing to note is that I did plant a perennial garden right in front of the grove this spring. I tilled the area and removed a large number of staghorn roots and suckers. Did I cause some sort of root rot or disease by cutting the roots? I hope someone can help me. Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

we need a picture ...

is your lawn sprayed professionally???

they grow wild on the roadsides in MI .... i doubt they are so foo foo.. that you could harm them with a little digging ...

the link might give you some leads with problems ....

you might want to talk with your county extension office ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 9:17AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Probably drought dormancy from a combination of very hot/dry weather and fewer roots to move water. I haven't seen it here, but my sumacs are in the swamp.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:29AM
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They do get some kind of borer as well, I've had that happen to mine, a couple of times they actually snapped off where borers had weakened the trunks.

But, this species is really hard to kill. Unless it is something like herbicide drift (unlikely), they should sprout right back up from the roots.

Now, it is possible that you disturbed enough of the root area that it left them susceptible to heat and drought, especially the intense heat we've had this past week. But, even at that, you won't kill the entire plant, just the weaker above ground growth.

The best thing I can suggest is to water them, remove anything that is definitely dead, and fertilize well in the spring. I'm sure it will bounce back with vigor -- it's sumac, after all.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 3:15PM
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They are weed trees here too. I guess they do look nice with the seeds on. I've seen them in plant catalogs and was shocked, I've probably payed good money for plants that were someone elses weeds too. I'm no expert but the pruning may be the thing to do.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 8:04PM
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While weeds to many gardeners, we found the perfect places for a number of sumacs this spring. Some came from the bush and I actually purchased two. One Staghorn from the bush and one Staghorn that I purchased have both been afflicted with the same issue. Branches dried, shriveled and in one case the tree lost all boughs. Attached is the second tree (they are not in close proximity to each other) which was a purchased tree. It is withering and while it looks healthy elsewhere I am afraid it is the beginning of the end. Both trees had lots of growth early in the season. The trees are on a drip water system. I am at a loss: do I feed them? and if so with what? HELP would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 3:24PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

next time start you own post...

they are trees.. not children.. it is NEVER a feeding issue ...

i would wonder more.. what the neighbor threw on it ..


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 5:13PM
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What Ken said. These "weed" trees are very hardy and my zone 6 area I do not see any of these trees stressed in the parks or the "weedy" areas. I suspect foul play because it takes so much to kill these trees. BTW- I caught my neighbor spraying weed killer on our property line. He has been doing it for years and did not think I would mind. So my question is- do you have a neighbor who might do such a thing?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 5:21PM
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Virtually nothing affects these shrubs (yes, technically they are considered a suckering shrub) - no serious insect or disease issues. About the only thing they won't tolerant is excessively wet soils and wet soils/poor drainage can lead to root rots. The only way you will know for sure is to dig up one of the shrubs that is on its way out and examine the roots. You should also know that sometimes these symptoms of wilting/failing do not show up immediately. So earlier periods of very heavy rains or excessive water levels in the soil could be the culprit for what is happening now.

btw, your "grove" is really just a single plant consisting of multiple stems connected by a common root system. Even the one 30' away is likely part of the same clan. That's why all the shrubs are showing the same signs.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 5:44PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

When I read garden I think farmers and when I think farm I have images of Roundup. Roundup sprayed on them pesky sumac root suckers in this case. Never use Roundup nead suckering plants.

Great, now I am thinking about Monsanto/Solutia and then I must spray this pesky grape vine a few more tines.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:52PM
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I would guess that grabbing a couple of the red seed heads, and sowing the seeds on the ground would be the easiest way to start your "grove" again. They always were the epitome of "invasive weed" around here, in full sun, that is. Birds eat the seeds, so they have been of some use.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:56PM
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