River Birch are under stress

mamasalvo(Z6 Centr Mass)July 6, 2010

My 4 year old River Birch leaves are turning yellow and falling off. 60% of the trees are affected either- yellow or dropping.

We went away for 4 days for July 4th and came home today to

see our beauiful 20 ft trees in trouble. It has been steadily in the 90s for several days so I know the heat has affected them. We are watering but hoping tree experts here will reassure us that our trees will come back in time. Any Suggestions beyond watering are much appreciated. Thanx

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That's pretty normal for river birches planted in a home yard. They drop leaves when they don't have an ideal amount of water. So unless you went and did something silly like transplant it recently or apply miracle gro or dig around in the root zone, then it's probably nothing to worry about. Photos could confirm

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 9:10PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Take it from someone with a bunch of 'river birches. Musicalperson is correct. Spring cometh - plentiful rain cometh, birches leaf out in EXCESS. Heat cometh - too much leaf surface has been produced and - birches defoliate. If the green leaves are on the tips of the branches and the yellowing leaves are nearest to the trunk or lower on other branches, not to worry. Jus' doin' their thing.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 9:15PM
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What cultivar is your specific River Birch? If it is the Dura Heat River Birch, it should more easily survive your extreme temperatures, this year. If your cultivar of River Birch is one of the more cold hardy cultivars, then the stress to your tree will subject it to pest invasions. Also, the dry conditions caused by the heat could cause such a tree to die.

If your tree is one of those more cold hardy cultivars, than the following efforts will be very important for you to put into practice.

1) Be on the altert, and quickly become prepared to treat the tree immediately whenever you begin to see any of your birch's known pests start to invade. And then retreat for as long as that pest's life cycle requires.

2) Consider how dry your upper few inches of your soil become during your current summer temps. Keep in mind that most birch tree cultivars' roots run only a few inches below the virgin soil surface, and extreme summer heat will dry that soil and will motivate Birch trees to send their roots out for far distances to find enough moisture that the tree needs.

To avoid potential damage to your cement or paved walkways, patios, or other landscape beds that normally would not have been affected by your birch tree's roots, it is best to now start watering your tree after dark at a time during your coolest temps of the day. Do this watering over a large area, stretching as far as at least double the distance out from your tree's normal canopy spread. Do this watering every other night until your excessive heat summer pattern has broken, and only stop that kind of frequent watering, after you have confirmed that your high times have moderated enough for your soil to begin showing signs that it has stopped losing moisture so fast.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:07AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Unless you where in a period of drought (lets say min 3 weeks without rain) and this excessive heat wave pushed your tree to the edge, 60% of the canopy turning yellow is not normal.

Did you really mean 60%? That is quite severe for a 20' tree.

My 3 year old River Birch (also about 20' tall) exhibits what Hortster mentioned, but that is only 5%-10% of the canopy at most.

No rain for 10 days and on day 4 of 90 degrees and excessive humidity.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:37PM
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I also came back from the 4th to find over half the leaves on my 2 river birch brown or on the ground. Last good rain was 2 to 3 weeks ago. I did water both for about an hour 10 days ago. Have I lost them? If not what can be done to help them besides water, water, water? It happened so quick. They looked fine when I left.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:39PM
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hefer, keep watering your trees in the coolest part of the day, and also like I advised above, pay special attention to pests that attempt to take advantage of your stressed trees; just be ready to immediately treat them and repeat the treatment depending on the particular pest's life cycles.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 12:30AM
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Looks like everyone came back to a yard that looks like fall! Although mine started before I left, I was kinda shocked when I got home after just a few days.

Yeah, it's normal, in a subdivision, for a River Birch to shed it's leaves. It's been worse this year because of the excessive heat and drought. I watered the entire lawn, and then some, with a sprinkler for 4 hours before I left, doing another 4 hours today, just in case. It's probably not needed, but it can't hurt anything except for my water bill. The remaining leaves still look healthy enough.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:06AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Folks, if your established River Birches are shedding more than 50% of the canopy you either have other issues or you instilled improper watering techniques during the establishment period.

Many River Birches leaves will yellow and fall due to chlorosis. Some think this is due to lack of water and contrary to belief River Birches are moderately drought tolerant...especially in their native range.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 11:11AM
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I picked up a 10" river birch from our local nursery and followed their instructions for planting and watering. It shows signs of new growth, but after watering it this weekend with a trickle it is showing yellowing on the leaves. I have checked for pest and see none. I also have a in ground sprinkler system that waters the zones for 20 min each once a day in the morning. Do you think it is getting too much water? The soil top layer is the red sand soil about 10" deep and below that was a layer of brown sand mix soil. Per the nursery recommendation I used the water crystals that expand and hold the water and a special soil mixed with my soil to allow for the roots to take. I have planted plenty of trees in the past but never a river birch, so my gut feeling is there is too much water. Should I turn the water off of that zone for several days till it dries out? The temp here right now is in thew high 80 to low 90. Thanks

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 12:17PM
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I've lived in my house for 7 years and have 3 river or paper bark (not sure which) birches that drop yellow leaves in the summer year after year. Wet spring, dry spring, hot days, cool days, it doesn't matter. Is that just what these trees do? It frustrates me to no end. I hate the crunch of dried up leaves under my feet on July 1!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 9:24PM
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Heritage Birch Tree Stressed. Leaves are turning yellow and dropping. Lack of Water? Have irrigation system. Water 3 times a week 12 Minutes. Just cut down to 6 Minutes.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 12:34PM
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patseekelly....I just saw your photo and wanted to stress to you that while the landscaping looks nice now....a birch tree gets up to 40 feet tall and wide....that tree planted several feet from the birch is too close and in 5 years it is going to be awfully crowded in that corner

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:29PM
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I have a 20 yr okd river birch, which has 3 branches, from a trunk that is about 8 in dia. i had it trimmed in feb this yr, and during early spring, could see a lot of sap rising all the way to the end of the trimmed sections, and drop off. in fact when there was frost on a few mornings, the sap wld ice over. but now, with spring in full season, no leaves have sprouted any where on the tree. I am wondering if I messed up trimming it too much, and causing it to stress. Any suggestions on what I should do, will be welcome

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 8:23PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


next time start a new post ... with a title that is searchable for the next person ...

what is done is done.. wait and see ...

as i tell peeps.. you cant staple the branches back on ..

do NOT seal or do anything..

sap flows in spring.. so be it.. its part of the healing process .....

only time will tell.. how it reacts this summer...

and it isnt worth worrying about it ...

think of it this way.. if deer had come thru and did the same as you .. there would be no guilt...

and it doesnt matter .. if there was some other better time .... whats done.. is done ....


    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 8:03AM
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After researching several sites to find out why the leaves on my River Birch are falling like the snow, with no real answer. I just decided to groom it a little. This is a seven year old tree that is already huge. I had only pruned it once and some of the branches were drooping over so far they were touching the ground. Well, much to my surprise, after pruning the row of bottom branches, it gave the tree new life! It's only been three weeks but the tree is standing tall and proud, the shedding of the leaves has almost stopped completely and the remaining branches have become thick with new leaves. My yard looks clean and I don't have to hunch over to mow under the tree anymore.The tree actually looks heathier and happier.I then decided to trim my Willow Oak, same thing happened, it is visably less stressed and looks grand.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:32AM
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i have two 2 yr old river birch trees. I sprayed my lawn with 2,4d to kill weeds. I made sure not to spay directly on any trees or shrubs. Now it is 3 weeks later and the leaves on one tree is curling, dying, and falling off. I see just a couple of branches with growing leaves. I am wondering if this tree has a chance to survive. I have been watering and watering. I don;t know what to do. I really hate to lose this tree. It was growing so fast and looked so great. Can anyone give me any ideals. I love river birch trees especially the 3 chumps. Since the attached pic the birch looks worst. I see no signs of insects. I believe it is the 2,4d. I applied 2 oz/4gals of water. HELP

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:49PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

have you had a cold snap since it leafed out.. a frost or a FREEZE???

did you apply the 24d according to the label

have you contacted the maker of such

where are you

you probably should have started your own post. ...


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:32AM
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I am in eastern NC. I mixed 2oz/4gal and sprayed. I sprayed a total of 4oz/8gal to 3/4 acres. According to the manufacturer of the 2,4d Amine I sprayed a very mild dose and it should have not affected my trees. I spoke with the local nursery that I purchased the trees from and he said 2,4d could be my problem. I have a total of 6 birch trees, 3 trees including the one in the pic is showing the signs of curling and drying leaves. A few branches are showing a little life. The one that is under serious stress is my concern. After aplying the 2,4d it rained for a solid week. 2 weeks after application the signs begin. I did not notice any signs on the tree under serious stress until I decided to make a 4x4 base (4' sq) around the tree. In order to level the base I scraped approx 1" of soil approx 2.5 ' in a square where the 4x4s are placed from the trunk of the tree. I did this on Mon 21 Apr. When I returned on Wed 23 Apr to observe the tree it was under serious stress. I mean it went from pretty green and full to leaves curling, wilting, drying, and falling off. I could not believe what was happening. At first I thought I had cut a main root. I believe when I scraped around the tree it allowed more exposure to the herbicide. What do you think? Does this tree have a chance to survive the 2,4d attack. I plan the never use it again where I desire anything to live. I been watering but I don't want to water too much. Is there any fertilizer that I can use to promote life? Today the tree is looking bad. The leave are really falling and looking brown. I don't see any signs of insect.
Concern is very concerned.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:21PM
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Concern, you used the amine formulation, which is generally less volatile than the ester. That's good, and should indicate a lesser likelihood that the herbicide did this damage. And yet, there it is. You also did the box-building and this caused, from what I read, a minimal disturbance to the root systems. If all is as you write, it is quite hard to believe this disturbance caused the problem.

So what's left? Oftentimes, phenoxy herbicide (2.4D) damage causes twisting, distorted growth. In extreme cases, stems of plants can flatten out weirdly. But even then, death is by no means certain. You've got me stumped here. All that rain should not have impacted things in this manner. And river birch, like all birch species, love moisture. What is missing in this picture?


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 2:19PM
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