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What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

Posted by berryfoot 8b (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 12:53

Two oak trees in my front yard have twigs that are dying back throughout the trees. Both seem to have more at the top of the trees, especially in the center. This is a picture of one at the bottom. Overall the tree looks fine, and most people would probably not notice the dead portions dispersed throughout the tree. I want to make sure this isn't the start of something serious, though. The trees have been in the ground for about 12 years and are about 15-20 feet tall. Also, these two are in the middle of a group of four live oaks. The two trees on the ends of the group don't seem to have these dead twigs, or at least not nearly as many.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

can we have a pic of the whole ...

up here in snow country... MI is not uncommon ... on evergreens such as non-deciduous trees and conifers .... for minor winter damage... to finally show.. when the heat of summer hits in july/august ... my theory ... that it was barely functioning properly.. and when the stress of heat hits .. it simply cant process the requisite water it needs for the affected part to survive ...

and once impacted.. they can show stuff that looks like disease ... but treating the disease.. does not really tell us what the CAUSE is ...

BTW.. i see no disease process.. just desiccated leaves ...

i know hindsight is hard.. but did you have an extreme cold snap this winter???.. how cold.. and how long???

pic of the whole will help us ... help you


RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

  • Posted by dbarron Z6/7 (Oklahoma) (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 10:44

I saw that when I lived in Houston and had reason to wonder if it was because I wasn't watering it enough.

Darn HOAs where I lived made it a responsibility of homeowners to water their lawns and trees...and I really could care less, I was only there for 8 months, and knew I wasn't staying.

Bad attitude? Maybe...but if you have a shared community feature like a tree on the other side of the sidewalks, hire someone to water them all, and don't bother the tenants.

This post was edited by dbarron on Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 10:46

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

They've gotten plenty of water, as we've had a good amount of rain this summer (for central TX compared to last few years) and we have a sprinkler system to water the trees/grass two days/week in the summer.

Yes, we actually did have a colder than usual winter. I can't remember how low it actually got, but we had more ice days than I ever remember since living in this area my whole life.

Here is a picture of the entire tree - I can take more pictures if this one isn't helpful enough. You can't really see the brown spots from that distance - many are at the top center of the tree.

Just to make it clear, there are 4 trees in the group on the front lawn - almost in a line. The two in the middle are the ones that seem to have the most dieback. They have also always been smaller than the two on the ends. I do notice on this particular tree that when standing under it you can see several limbs with no growth on it (that you can't really see when NOT standing under it). It has been this way for a few years at least. Maybe since we first moved in.

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

  • Posted by dbarron Z6/7 (Oklahoma) (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 12:42

Correct me if I'm wrong..but that's new growth (this year's), so is the most tender and susceptible part of the tree? (not sure what I'm getting at..but thought I'd ask)

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

Yes, you're correct - the new growth is what is dying back.

Also, I should say - I THINK they're getting plenty of water, but I could be wrong about that.

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

  • Posted by dbarron Z6/7 (Oklahoma) (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 12:55

Well let's do Ken's test (lol), dig (carefully) about a foot from the trunk of one of the trees, dig down about eight inches....see how dry or wet it is. Don't count mulch as inches...bare ground.

That's a good way to assess, though even a bit deeper like a foot might be good...I just didn't want you to break too many roots.

RE: What is causing leaves to die back on live oak?

This foliage should'nt be affected by last winter, they put out new foliage in the spring anyways. This is August 19 now, those leaves have toughened up already. If you can't tell there is a problem without really looking hard, and it is the last couple leaves on the end, I wouldn't be too worried. But if the problem spreads, that's another story. I am not knowledgeable enough to say it won't spread, but it could be an insect problem that will not get any worse. Bugs eat leaves. I would'nt worry yet. If things get worse you may see the insect (if that IS the problem) I admit I can't grow the LIVE OAK TREE here, without die-back, but they put out new leaves in spring and they toughen up in late summer, only bugs eating them or some serious wilt problem should be able to make them wilt. I would bet that in the unfortunate event that a bug would defoliate a tree. They just may come back strong next spring. I hope you can ID the pest, if it does defoliate your tree enough to notice without having to look for it very hard. I don't think you would have a bad problem with the damage you see now, though.

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