canker (or something) on Maple and 2 Oaks

ajgroeAugust 20, 2014

We have beautiful 150+ year old trees on our property (2 oaks, 1 maple, 1 poplar and 1 green ash) all of which are greater than 3 feet across the trunk. All except the ash have nearly no rot and are in excellent condition considering their age.

We have been here 3 years and just noticed some canker like lesions on our two oaks and the maple for the first time this month. We are positive they just showed up and are wondering what they might be caused by?

We haven't done any work around any of them. Weather has been cool and wet in the spring and warm/cool all summer, mostly dry since July.

We cherish all of these tree because they are so old and beautiful and if we can do something to help them heal, would anyone recommend anything? We have seen essential orange oil recommended before, any thoughts on that?

This post was edited by ajgroe on Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 21:03

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At the lower part of the tree (Oak).

This post was edited by ajgroe on Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 21:05

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:02PM
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Dark streaks all over the maple tree.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:07PM
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The thing on the Oak looks like damage from Long-horned boring beetles.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 1:08AM
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Some canker, some slime flux-type thing possibly (A bacterial canker disease), some structural anomalies, as in last pic, displaying the knot of branching where either the tree (maple) was storm-damaged in the past or somebody made some weird pruning cuts-hard to say. Speaking of which, how do you happen to know there's no rot pockets in these trees and also, their age? Just curious. Many, if not most large old trees have some degree of heartwood rot going on, and can go on living for a long time with this condition, since it does not impact live wood.

What's the orange oil for? Never heard that one. Mostly, you can avoid doing things to impact the trees negatively. At this age and size class, the trees are more or less set as to what they're going to be. If as you've said, no construction damage has occurred around these trees, then I guess I don't know.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:57AM
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You can estimate the age of a tree based on its circumference at an average part of the trunk. Its not precise but gives you a good idea within a few decades.

Orange oil is supposed to have anti-bacterial properties and can help prevent rot on newly pruned branches. I have not had long to assess how it works though.

The maple is most likely to have rot, like you say, based on all the branches that look to have been pruned. Judging from the amount of healing over the cut, its been a long time and there are small cavities in a few of them, but not many.

I guess I judge them to be pretty healthy trees based on the uniform bark texture and lack of rot holes (particularly on the oaks). Also they set leaf and seed very well each year, have very good form and not many dead branches.

I will have to look into the long horned boring beetle. There was a small whitish worm in the hole when I cleaned it out a little and a few small black beetles.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:06AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

"You can estimate the age of a tree based on its circumference at an average part of the trunk. Its not precise but gives you a good idea within a few decades."

I am curious, what is the formula you use?

After removing 5 big trees from my property I decided they were all nearly as old as my house by counting rings. My remaining white ash is essentially the same size as the removed three of those so I ASSUME it is the same age. The big oak, who knows. However I can't help but noticing at all four houses the old timers here had/have there are large oaks planted right in front of. Makes me suspect they reached their 80 feet tall sometime between 1930 and now.

But I have no better way of estimating the age of a live tree since I cant take a core sample.

You have some neat old growth type trees there. Nice to see you are intent on taking care of them.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:03AM
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That's the thing about rot in trees-it does not indicate a lack of health at all. Trees could be thought of as cones, a new cone growing over the top of the old one each growing season (under the bark). As such, what happens on the inside, the old heartwood, is of little consequence to tree health. I'm sure we've all seen hollow trees that leaf out beautifully, year after year.

I'm not going to blast the suggestion of such items as orange oil for use a s a wound dressing in trees, simply because there always exists the possibility that a new technique will come along that holds promise. But I will say, if trees evolved in such a manner that, when a branch was shed, whether by wind, mechanical injury, normal senescence, herbivory by some critter, they needed human intervention......well, to put it very simply, they would NOT have evolved.

I think that limbs on that maple were removed by previous owners who had no knowledge of proper technique. The branch collar was cut into/removed entirely, or so it looks to my eyes, and at each point where this occurred is now a pocket of decay right down through the center of where that branch used to be. It happens all the time. That's one type of injury for which the tree cannot do much, the spread of decay though the vertical dimension being the most difficult for it to wall off, which BTW is precisely why so many hollow trees exist.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:12PM
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Toronado, I hope you hadn't had to cut down the Shingle oak. It kinda sounds like you DID have to though. The oak trunk, is that a Pin oak? I would hope you could smother the bugs with Vaseline. I saw a small hole in one of my Pin oaks. I just thought the bark was from a Pin, it could however be a Red oak Q. Rubra, though. The thing about Shingle and Pin oaks, the limbs aren't heavy, so if overhanging a house, if a limb falls there is no danger. The whole upper crown in a lightening storm is a whole other issue.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:44PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Estimating tree age from size can be problematic. My brother & I counted the rings of a stump of an apparent black oak in a park near Cumberland, Md. Looked about the size of a 70-90 yr old tree. We were rather astonished that we counted 150 rings.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:50AM
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Yes, that size/age estimation system described above makes no allowances for the very different growth rates of different tree species. I've taken down lightening-killed Schuette's oaks in our city's parks that were huge, and were in excess of 300 yrs. old. I've taken down silver maples of comparable size which were not half as old as those oaks.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 12:21PM
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