Yellow and brown leaves on my aspen tree

valleymagpieAugust 28, 2011

Hi all,

I'm hoping someone can help me.

This spring we planted a 'Prairie Gold' aspen. I was hoping that it would do better in our climate because we do have hot summers but this summer has been relatively mild.

For the last couple of months or so, the leaves look like this!

From a distance the tree looks fine. The leaves are not drooping, they aren't falling off, but EVERY leaf is affected except one strange little cluster of three leaves which is okay. I have sprayed with iron chelate and some boric acid but these seem to have no effect. I can find no insects. Our soil is generally decomposed granite with a few small patches of clay, but in general has very good drainage. The entire bed surrounding the tree was amended with some compost.

Does anyone have an answer!


- Magpie

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

This will in fact be a minerals problem such as too many salts in the water and/or a trace element deficiency/toxicity.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 12:33PM
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You have confirmed my suspicion. But is there a way to figure out how to treat it? None of the surrounding plants have any problems so I doubt it's toxicity or salts in the water. The ONLY thing I ever found that looked like my aspen's leaves was an old article with drawings of deficiencies in rose leaves. The picture labeled "boron deficiency" looked just like my leaves. So I sprayed with a boric acid solution. Should I spray every two weeks or so?

- Magpie

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 6:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

have a soil and water test done ..

contact your county extension office about the soil test ...

are you on city water.. or well??? .. city water probably doesnt need to be tested ...

all that said.. on a recent transplant ...suffering through root disturbance and its first summer.. frankly.. i think it looks fine ..

was it ball and burlap.. or potted.. and how do we know the problem didnt come with the potting media .. how did you plant it.. amendments ?? .... etc .. if potted.. did you bare root??? etc.. more facts please


    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 6:28PM
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I read a lot of the posts in the Trees forum and appreciate your knowledge. Our aspen is a three-tree cluster we planted in mid-April. We bought it potted from a local nursery, and I think I recall the time-release Miracle-Gro beads in the pot.

We're on city water. The bed we planted it in was amended, my husband says the soil is probably about 1/3 compost and 2/3 decomposed granite. We haven't fed it since planting, but I did spray the leaves as mentioned.

I can't think of anything else I know about it, seems like getting a thorough soil test is a good idea. If we did that, is there a way to tell a deficiency that would affect our aspen?

Thanks for your advice,
- Magpie

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 7:11PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I don't think I've ever seen a poplar not look that by this time of year. Quite possible the transplant stress started the process quite early.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Dan Staley

I wonder if the soil is too acidic and the compost in the bed makes it too rich. I can also go with salts in the water. If that's glacial till there might be an overabundance of something locally making that mottled yellow. Maybe the soil will keep it from suckering all over the place...


    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 9:02PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I see from your byline you must be in western OR, you do not have the hot climate referred to in descriptions of the cultivar. They are talking about much more marginal (for this tree) climates elsewhere. Hence 'Prairie'. Lots of aspen grow natively and naturalized in the coastal Northwest, and across much of the northern US.

Although the spotting (and chlorotic appearance) of your tree seem different...

Here is a link that might be useful: Poplar -- Leaf Rust

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Dan Staley

Along bboy's lines, I was surprised to see a nursery trying to get people to consume that product there. But you never know what nurseries will try and peddle. It is important to understand that aspen are often pioneer species, which usually means nutrient-poor soils. The more rich soils in home gardens around here mean much, much, much suckering (which is what they do) and much consternation when this happens.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 12:23PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Those brown edges are due to water stress because the tree still hasn't developed a sturdy root system. Trees can only do that after several years of regular supplemental irrigation, this because Oregon's summers are dry.

Then, too, aspens have problems hereabouts because the weather is MUCH more moist/humid, plus abundant spring rainfall, than the tree needs, leading to leaf disease and a ratty-looking tree by fall.

Further, our winters aren't near cold enough.

And still another point: Aspens form their own groves (clusters) because they send out roots that then sprout more trees.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 12:40AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Portland is in USDA 8.

Leaf diseases of this nature are not connected to how much the root system has grown since transplanting. And healthy stock recovers a normal rate of top growth the second spring after planting, because most root elongation occurs in fall. If the root system took years to recover the ability to supply the leaves with water - a fundamental activity - the shoots would not be reaching their full annual length well before then.

Stock planted without root loss or disturbance should be able to grow away normally almost immediately.

Apart from the abundant planted or naturalized aspen in this climate there are what really appear to be authentic native stands in local wetlands, including peat bogs.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:47AM
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Dan Staley

I agree that the natural distribution of Populus tremuloides includes some parts of OR.

However, provenance is important for success of many trees. I suspect this variety is the same, and around here we use that var for better success in the lower elevations of the Front Range, as the trees from the mountains can be depended on to die quickly down here because they are not adapted to this elevation or climate.

IIRC that var is selected for alkaline soil and grassland-steppe environments, having come from a relict stand in western NE. The leaf edges and mottling look to me to be maladaptation to something in the water and a deficiency-toxicity in the soil, where bboy and I agree. I'd expect better success on the other side of the Cascades, esp out on the WA Palouse, up near the Blues, or some of the Basin and Range.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 12:34PM
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You guys really have a lot of knowledge. We are not in the Portland area but in inland Southern Oregon where our summers are hot and dry. We do get rain by mid-October, through winter, and in spring. We also have occasional snowfall. I guess we may not get cold enough for optimal aspen growth but temperatures in the 'teens are fairly common. Our soil tests out at around pH 6.5, and our altitude is 1100' (not the mountains!).

I appreciate all your help. I'll look into all your suggestions.

- Magpie

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 6:22PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If you are in say, the Medford area (or drier) that is much more severe than Portland (and Seattle). Again, winter cold will not be an issue as plenty of aspen grow in the region already.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 12:11AM
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Hi Folks,

It looks like "leaf scorch"

I am having the same problem with some newer aspen trees that I planted, but a mature one on the other side of the house is fine.

I live in Colorado. There is a great resource at Colorado State University
They explain leaf scorch and possible remedies
quite well


    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 12:43PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

What do you mean by "inland southern Oregon"? Are you west of the Cascades or east? I imagine that makes a BIG difference... the climate east of the Cascades is not much different from here in northern Nevada.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 12:49PM
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