Return to the Trees Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
stopping rot

Posted by bill999 z6 Pa (My Page) on
Fri, May 30, 08 at 21:57

A 70 ft. white oak is missing 1 ft. X 6 ft. section of bark at the very bottom. A lightning strike knocked it off 5 years ago. The tree is recovering nicely and new growth is starting to cover the bare wood where the bark is gone. A portion of the bare wood is rotting so badly you can pull rot out with your fingers. The majority is good, hard, weathered oak. If I pull out all the rot now is there a chemical to treat the area so it will not rot anymore? I'm thinking of a spray.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: stopping rot

Bill:

I have posted several times in the past about liquid copper fungicide as a rot PREVENTATIVE. I will create a new topic soon explaining its uses and limitations so my recommendations will be easier to search.

In this case, however, I know of no remedy. First, the rot is already in the tree and may have gone quite a way already and be hard to reach with any kind of fungicide.

Second, these lightning strites usually go down the trunk to a point below the ground and very likely into the roots. This makes the use of any fungicide very, very difficult. I won't say impossible, but I have never attempted digging down and finding just how far the effects of any specific lightning strike has gone.

But there is good news. White oak trees sometimes suffer these kinds of strikes, become rotten and hollow inside, but after the rot has progressed quite far, perhaps leaving a large hollow in the tree, manage to wall off the rot for some considerable period of time so that it does not fatally weaken the tree. I have a tree on my timberland that might be as old as 300 years (about 5 feet in diameter). It has a large hollow area in the trunk and the injury--probably from lightning, must have happened more than 100 years ago. The tree is magnificent, and new wood is growing from outside the opening and curling inside, creating quite a strong buttress around the opening on that side of the tree. On the other side the rot seems to have stopped or slowed down dramatically because of the tree's natural defenses against this rot. It seems clear to me that for now the tree is growing faster than any rot is progressing. The tree could well live for more than 100 more years.

Now I haven't seen your tree, but my guess is that it will survive much like mine. I would avoid trying to do anything--the potential for harm is greater than any benefit you might be able to give the tree.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

We have a similar issue with a sentimental Southern Red Oak at our relatives house. We would all hate to lose this giant. It 80 or 90 feet tall, spread of about 150 feet, and a trunk circumference of like 225 inches (6 ft in diameter). I estimate it to be 200 to 300 years old.

I've seen a couple of your posts about liquid copper fungicide Spruce and how good it is. The Oak has been hit by lighting once about 4 or 5 years ago, but it still leaves out healthy every year. It has a missing strip of bark from the tip top to about 2/3 the way down (I guess the rest of the electricity went down the middle of the trunk or went down near the opposite side. (there was a large area of bark that we all notice that was slightly bulging out, (can't remember if it was after or before the lighting strike). It's about 10 or 20 feet up and it about 2 to 3 feet wide by 4 to 5 feet long (it's trying to heal back but it's very slow). My relatives were worried about that large area of bark starting to come off, so they called the extensions office or somebody and they told them to remove the bark coming off, and paint it with whitewash. So they did, it's all washed off and gone now. I'm very worried about boring bugs (if they haven't gotten in already) and also afraid fungus will start to rot it out.
So I'm think of buying some liquid copper fungicide for them, and tell them to apply it to the tree on that large bare area. I've read a little about liquid copper fungicide from what you've posted Spruce, and sounds like what I need to get.


 o
RE: stopping rot

You have a difficult situation here, but I cant say, without seeing the tree, whether liquid copper fungicide applications can help or not.

First, there has been enough time since the lightning damage for wood rotting fungi to have entered the tree already. If so, it is too late.

Of course this damaged area is high upcan you get to it with a ladder without risking your life? If so, get up there and see what is going on. If there is evidence of wood boring insects, that is not goodthey can be vectors for wood rotting fungi. But if you dont see evidence of wood boring insects, and the wood is still hard and "fresh," you may be in good shape. Also, if the evidence suggests that the wood boring insects are quite recentin the past couple of months or so, you may also be OK.

But first, you need to understand that this tree will never grow fresh wood to close such a large area, so the application of Liquid copper fungicide will have to be repeated annually or bi-annually for as long as the tree is alive. Also, there is no guarantee that some wood rotting fungi are not already in the tree, so you will have to carefully monitor the condition of this wood. One good way is to take a large bowie knife or some other strong sharp tool and jab very hard into the wood all over the area at least once a year to see if there is any softening of the wood. If there is, the tree will be weakened and that weakening will progress, and the tree will need to be taken down. Red oaks are not as good at walling off or otherwise resisting wood rotting fungi as are white oaks. If rot begins in a red oak tree, it is best to remove the tree if it is in a place where its falling can harm life or property.

OK, if it seems the tree is in good shapeno evidence that rot has already gotten into the tree, mix and apply the liquid copper fungicide following my prior instructionsyou know what they are, right? Use one part fungicide to three or four parts water, paint on with a brushliberally, but not excessively. Apply about like you would apply wood stain or something like that. Make sure you remove any dead and lose bark and treat areas underneath..

Now, if there are recent and only recent boring insect holes, you can get some small syringe or use some other method, and try to get some of the fungicide into the holes. Make sure some gets in, but you dont need to keep pouring it in as long as the wood absorbs ityou can do too much.

Good luckif you have any questions, get back to me.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Spruce; Where can I buy the liquid copper? If I buy online it could be over a week to get delivery. I have a Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart and Sears nearby, all with garden centers. The rot is all at low level. I sprayed some large ants that were present when I pulled out the rotted wood and I keep watching for others. It is a white oak.


 o
RE: stopping rot

Bill:

As I said in my original post under this topic, I think it is too late to help your tree, but your tree should do OK on its own anyway.

But, and I say this with all caution that you are probably wasting your time and may do more harm than good, if you want to try something, here are my ideas.

Some kinds of trees have distinctly different kinds of wood for heartwood and sapwood. By that I mean that if a section of the trunk of a tree dies, the sapwood will rot very quickly, but the heartwood, which was already dead when the sap wood died, is much more rot resistant. I see a very strong difference in rot resistance between sapwood and heartwood in wild black cherry trees. White oak is somewhat similar in this regard.

I once tried to cut away all the rotten sapwood in the trunk of a black cherry tree to get to the undamaged heartwood. And I cut away the rotten sapwood under the sides of the dead area until I got to living sapwood. I then treated with the liquid copper fungicide. This tree surgery took me about two hours for an area about six inches wide and 30 inches long. I used a small chainsaw--I am an expert chainsaw operater (If you can't really, really control it, use other tools)--knives, chisels and I can't remember what else.

But I can't report any long-term results because about three years later in a selective logging/thinning operation, I cut that tree. I have tried similar tree surgery to try to stop white pine blister rust, which is, however, significantly different from rot fungi, and was not successful.

Anyway, if you think you can get out all the rot and have the patience and skill to do the kind of surgery I did, I can't say there is no hope.

Where to get liquid copper fungicide--it is hard. Really, really good complete garden centers usually carry it. The brand I use most, one by Dragon, may not be produced any more. Another I used is by Bonide.

But in any case, I don't think one week will make any difference--you will need some time for the surgery, and after you do that--get all the rotten wood cleaned out, you should wait until the area has dried in the air for at least a week anyway. Maybe after after letting the area dry out, you can examine it again and maybe get it a bit more clean of rotten or partially rotten wood. I think this would be a good idea.

Make sure what you buy is true liquid copper fungicide--some other products will have copper in them, like Bordeaux mixture, but the copper in these may be some other kind of copper compound and may not be truly water soluable. This product should be a greenish blue in color and be a pure liquid with no grit in it.

Good luck--I don't mean to be too negative, but you will need it.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Thanks very much Spruce for all the advise.
The wood from a distance still looks pretty hard and fresh, (that's why I wanted to buy liquid copper fungicide very soon).
Here about is what it looks like from what I remember (the branches extend on out like normal though :-)
When I was a kid there was a lower branch that extended 50 to 70 feet out and at the end of it was just 2 or 3 feet off the ground. As kids we would get on the large branch and jump up and down, and the branch would bounce up and down (we pretended it was a horse). But my grandfather thought we would get hurt and it was a mowing challenge so he cut it off as well as a few other branches (it made us kind of sad).

That lowest first branch is about 7 feet up and has a chain porch swing hanging from it.
You can see over the last 4 or 5 years the tree has formed rounded bulges on the edges around the open area, like it's trying to close up. I was thinking if no rot ever gets in, it might possibly close up in 10 to 20 more years (probably wishful thinking though).

I or they they could apply it with a tractor lift or a ladder I believe with not much problem, like they did before.

The tree is out in the open away from any house so if it did fall in a storm it would not harm life or property (cars parked 40 to 50 feet near it at gatherings maybe, but not houses) but that maybe 30 to 50+ years from now if rot did get in.


 o
RE: stopping rot

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Sat, May 31, 08 at 14:12

If you try to clean out the rot, you will damage the chemical barrier which the tree has set up between the damaged wood and the healthy wood.

By doing so, you will make a direct path for the rot to extend into new parts of the tree.

For the continued welfare of the tree, leave it be.


 o
RE: stopping rot

Treeguy:

As you picture it, this is really the ideal kind of situation where the use of liquid copper fungicide can prevent the entrance of wood rotting fungi and very much extend the life of a tree. But, and this is a real caution, if any of the fungi are already in the tree, the liquid copper fungicide will do absolutely no good.

Also, I strongly advise repeat applications. For the first three or four years, every year, after that I think every other year is good.

But you should not apply too much--one "painting on" each time. For the first application, maybe two coats a few minutes apart are good, but after that just one. I have to admit, I have not done experiments to determine exactly how frequently repeat applications should be made. Every kind of wound is different to some degree, and different kinds of woods absorb and retain this fungicide differently. It would take an elaborate set of experiments to determine exactly what is needed for each case. That said, the repeat applications I judge, and partly guess, are absolutely necessary.

One other caution: if the new growth (callus) creates a bulge and a little "well" at the base of the area where any runoff from your "paintings" can collect (you shouldn't put on so much it runs down anyway), be careful not to let that happen. If some does collect, mop it out. Too much could soak into the tree at that point and could, possibly, kill the sapwood underneath. This is not a great danger, but it should be avoided. I have only seen it happen two times when I used massive applications to white pine trees. I have used this fungicide on something close to 100 trees over the years.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Jean:

Possibly you are right--certainly, I would think, if the infection were older and the tree had begun to set up this barrier. I would never consent to trying to clean out a tree where the tree had become hollow or the rot had progressed very far. I think there may be some hope if the rot has only partially affected the sapwood of a tree that has heartwood that has considerable rot resistance.

I like to rely on these natural barriers that trees set up against the progress of wood rotting fungi, but although these natural barriers can be effective for a time, they do almost always eventually break down--unless the tree can close the wound fairly quickly--and the rot progresses to destroy the tree. The fate of the famous Wye oak in MD is a good case in point. If that tree had not had the injury many, many years ago it would still be alive today. There was a much larger white oak that was cut down many years ago near Leadmine, WV that had no rot in it and which would have lived for several centuries more if loggers were not so eager to beccome famous for cutting it down.

Anyway, I think I have made it clear that I have never stopped any rot with any kind of surgery and application of liquid copper fungicide. I have no evidence that it can be done--I only guess that it might be possible in bill's situation.

But as for the effectiveness of this liquid copper fungicide in preventing wood rotting fungi from entering trees, I have 22 years of experience with, as I said, something near 100 trees of several different species, and have yet to see any rot enter a tree--or for that matter, I have never seen even any softening of exposed wood where I have used this fungicide.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot+

bill:

One more thought--if the wound in your tree goes down to the ground or under the ground, you will not be able to stop the rot unless you can find the lower end of the affected area and clean it all the way down to sound wood, even if on a root, and apply the fungicide. Treating the above ground areas will do no good--the rot will simply start from the lower area below the ground and progress upward. If you can't stop that, you will be completely wasting your time.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Thanks again Spruce for the advise, I will probably get some liquid copper fungicide soon. At least I have 3 seedlings growing from acorns I got last fall off this great tree.


 o
RE: stopping rot

This is my 60 ft. white oak showing lightning damage from 5 years ago. I have pulled out all the rot and sprayed with a strong solution of lime sulfur. White powdered insecticide is clearly visible. My question now is should I pay to have the tree removed? It leans slightly toward my neighbor's house 30 ft. away. He is well aware of the problem. Anyone know what it might cost? It will have to be climbed and cut, not dropped in one piece. http://i298.photobucket.com/albums/mm274/billj6/mysterytreesepia014.jpg


 o
RE: stopping rot

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 2, 08 at 11:29

I saw liquid copper fungicide at Home Depot yesterday. It kind of surprised me. May Spruceman is changing the world. LOL


 o
RE: stopping rot

Bill:

I would hate to see you lose the tree--maybe you could hire an arborist and have it evaluated. But if you feel there is any risk, I would have it removed--no tree, no matter how beautiful, is worth any human injury or worse.

Having large trees removed piece-by-piece is expensive. You should get at least two, maybe three estimates. I have had experience with this and the estimates can very hugely. But you are talking about a lot of money--perhaps two thousand or more. You may be able to negotiate some reduction if you can agree to their dropping large chunks that could damage your lawn.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot++

Brandon:

Happy to hear that Home Depot has liquid copper fungicide. But the use to prevent fungal rot in trees is definitely "off label." I once called Dragon to suggest that they get it approved for that use, but they had no interest.

I have done all I can to promote this liquid copper fungicide for the prevention of fungal rot in trees, but progress has been very, very slow. Perhaps in these tree forums I can do the most good--making converts one-by-one. A grass roots approach.

I have been interested in preventing fungal rot in trees since I was a little boy. I could tell some stories about that, including one about an old apple tree that was in the center of our backyard. I must have been no more than 7 at the time. Anyway, I tell too many stories, often too long. Maybe another time.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Just got a quote of $650. to completely remove my 60 - 70 ft. white oak and carry everything away. I was floored by the low price. These two guys work full time for a tree service and I would be spare money for them on the weekend. He said the tree was very healthy in spite of the small patch of rot. He also recommended closing holes in a tree with spray-in insulation foam to keep out bugs, moisture and fungus. Now I don't want to lose a healthy tree so I'll probably have him top it in the late fall so it doesn't seem to threaten my neighbor. I would feel terrible if a freak wind knocked it on his house.


 o
RE: stopping rot

I have the same problem with an old pecan tree in my yard. I let a fire get too close to it (in my younger stupid days) and about 1/4 of the trunk got killed back around the bottom. I just saw the first "conk" on it a few days ago but I'm hoping it will be okay for at least another couple of years.


 o
RE: stopping rot

To cover a wound on a tree can slow the healing down also can trap insects and disease. I would read a label on the copper fungicide and see if it's recommended for this use. I would leave it alone, one poster had the right idea. If a person with a pesticide license used a particular product wrong by not using that product according to label they could loose that license so always read label first.


 o
RE: stopping rot

tmore:

Interesting about a person losing their licence if they use a pesticide product off label--seems harsh. I believe medical doctors prescribe medications for "off label" uses often--for example, my doctor recently said it was a good idea to take an asprin a day for a variety of reasons that health research has uncovered recently, but this use is not "officially approved," and certasinly not on the label.

Well, anyway, I don't have any pesticide licence, and few of us do, so....

Maybe you have a licence and if you assent to my use of liquid coppper fungicide to prevent fungal rot in trees here in this forum, you could be sanctioned (some "thought police" watching you)?

Bill: I don't know about this foam insulation. It may trap in moisture and if fungus is already in the tree, it could promote its growth. And if fungus is in the tree, it will have free reign throughout the heartwood of the tree. At this point the tree cannot set up any barriers to stop that. Once the heartwood of the tree is rotted out, the tree can then begin to set up some barriers to slow its progress through any new heartwood that is formed from the present and newly growing sapwood. But the tree will be weakened substantially because of the loss of its present heartwood to rot.

If you can't clean out the softened and rotted sapwood and then treat with the liquid copper fungicide--and then monitor the possible progress of any fungal rot after that treatment, topping the tree--something I hate to see--and then monitoring the progress of any possible rot, is maybe the best you can do to reduce the risk to your neighbor. But topping the tree will provide more entry points for fungus and the new growth that sprouts from the cut tops will be weak and present a new hazard of their own.

This tree cannot be replaced by anything similar in any reasonable period of time, but if the situation is fatal (the dead area goes down to below ground level and/or fungus is already in the tree), maybe some kind of replacement would be best.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

How about having the tree guys just cable the two trees together? They're less than 20 feet apart. That would please my neighbor and buy me years to watch for weakening in the tree.


 o
RE: stopping rot

Bill:

Cable two trees together? I have never seen that, but that doesn't mean it may not be a good idea. I just don't know--I am out of my depth on this one. But I can imagine that if the tree is really weakened, any cabling to another tree would not eliminate the risk. The tree could fall in some other direction, or, if a wind is bad enough, both trees could come down.

As for the tree and the rot. I believe there is no way that this rot can be stopped--at least I know of no way. If this tree were not where it could pose a hazard, I would say, as I said early in this discussion, that the tree could have a long life. Eventually the tree would grow new wood over the rotten area and set up some barriers to the progress of the rot into new wood. The tree could live a long time and be relatively strong.

But my rule is that if any tree that is in a place where it could pose a hazard and has its structure compromised, it should be removed. What is the chance that this tree will break and fall on your neighbor's house, or cause some other kind of damage and loss of life? What is an acceptable risk?

I would guess this tree is not a hazard now, but how soon will the rot begin to weaken the tree? I don't really know, but I am sure that at some point the tree will be weakened. I would not want to encourage you to take any risk with this tree.

--Spruce


 o
RE: stopping rot

Re: "But topping the tree will provide more entry points for fungus and the new growth that sprouts from the cut tops will be weak and present a new hazard of their own."

Yup, I have never heard any arborist say anything good about topping a tree. I'm surprised this practice is still done.


 o
RE: stopping rot

I see topped trees quite often in Pittsburgh, especially in the spring. Many are done by the power company, others by homeowners who see they planted a tree too close to the house many years ago. Maybe I can't tell but it doesn't look like they're rotting from the top down. Some tree services would no doubt close up if all people did was have trees removed and hauled off. A thought: how is pollarding any different?


 o
RE: stopping rot

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 12, 08 at 11:46

In a way, pollarding is a special case of topping. Some of the differences are evident in the article attached below. Probably the biggest differences, related to this discussion, is that a pollard is usually started before the tree reaches maturity, is routinely maintained, and is not allowed to re-grow to the point that the limbs, above the pruned level, are easily broken off. While the large hatrack frequently seen in the less civilized tree owner's yard dies an early death because of the abuse, the well-maintained pollard often outlives non-pollards.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia Article


 o
RE: stopping rot

Spruceman, what about pear trees? I have one that is rotting where a big branch has been removed. The wound faces upwards - should I protect it from rain? I really don't want to lose that tree.


 o
RE: stopping rot

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 17, 08 at 9:44

It sounds like the tree might not have been pruned correctly. The link below has some good information about how to prune properly. At this point, you might be able to prune below the effected area to remove the rot and get a fresh start at preventing further rot. Other options are replacement of the tree or just sitting back and letting the tree try to partition off the area itself. If the tree is successful in sealing over the rot, failure will eventually occur, but you might still be able to get many many years out of the tree. Can you post a link to a picture of the tree and the effected area?

Protecting the area with rot from water is not going to stop the rot. As a mater of fact, most things you would do to protect if from rain would probably just trap water like a terrarium and make things worse.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Prune Trees


 o
Rotten Cedar Post Tops

The center top of cedar fence posts are rotted. Want to add cedar cap but how should the rotted part be treated?


 o
RE: stopping rot

timbu:

I am sorry I did not see your post earlier--I always try to get back to topics I have contributed to and follow up. I don't know why I didn't see this before. Of course now with the new contribution it was moved back up.

If you have an old pruning cut that has been infected by rot, I don't think there is much you can do. I would never pour any liquid copper fungicide into any rotting hole in a tree--there is some danger it could do some harm, and little chance it could really kill all the fungus causing the rot, which in all probability has moved far into the wood where the fungicide can't reach it. Surface applicatiions of liquid copper fungicide are effective for preventing rot, but not for stopping it once it has gotten into a tree. Also, I think any kind of tree "surgery" to remove the rot would be very, very difficult.

But I agree with Brandon--your tree may "wall-off" this rot so it will progress slowly and the tree could have many, many years of good life ahead of it.

Wallice: I would treat the rotted tops of the posts with some kind of wood preservative. There are several brands and types. Maybe you can find someone who is familiar enough with them to give you some specific recommendation. But I think any of these would probably be good. Rot on posts is often more likely if the posts are pounded in instead of dug in. The mashing of the surface of the wood at the top of the posts seems to enable rot to get a fast start.

--spruce


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Trees Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here