Thread: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Catskills NY

    Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    I have noticed that alot of the trees on our property appear to be unhealthy (to my completely untrained eye). They have alot of moss/algrea looking growth on them and several are clearly dead.

    I am a complete newb in regards to tree care, any suggestions are appreciated. I am hopefully attaching a few photos I snapped of a couple of the trees, can someone tell me what this appears to be and if it is in fact a disease. If so, how would I go about caring for the trees to "cure" them of this. Many of the trees on the property have this appearance

    thanks in advance
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Central Oklahoma - Zone 7 for now

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    That's lichen on the trunks, IMO. And lichen on trunks does not necessarily mean 'diseased'. It may be coincidental, or thicker than usual from tree being weakend by something else (?). I find lichen on thick older bark frequently, like on Oaks and elms around *here*. But not often on young/thin bark such as pic'd. Is that a beech maybe?? Most Maples I see have linear striations, not circumferential - however, OK is not noted for a wide variety of Maples, LOL

    I don't think what you are seeing is actually all that worrisome in and of itself. I am not highly familiar with that species of tree myself, and am not familiar with that area at all. That's about all I can offer myself right now - sorry

    I am sure others can help more here shortly...


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    What type of tree are those? It looks like lichens. Did they leaf out this past summer? If they did I wouldn't worry about it. My climate down here is not that disimmalar to yours and many trees here are covered in lichens.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Catskills NY

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    Thanks for your responses. I 'think' the white tree is a white birch but I am honestly just repeating what someone else told me.

    Yes the trees did have leaves this season, to me they don't appear to be all that healthy and I am judging that by the number of branches which appear dead or dying. Is this just a matter of maintenance then? Going thru and pruning the tree. Some of the tree tops look completely dead.

    Is there any recommended reading which could get me started in understanding how to care for trees? I always thought they just got water/sun and grew, no maintenance required.

    So if the lichen is OK to be on the tree, why is it there? Is it not a disease that can kill the tree?

    thanks again

  5. #5

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    Yep, those are Lichens on the tree. They are harmless to a tree. All they use the tree for is a place to live for some sun. And when you have many Lichens growing it is usually a sign that the air is clean because I don't think they can tolerate polluted air.

    If there are tons of Lichens on a tree it usually means the tree is old and has built up lichens over the years as the canopy has thinned and opened up and growth has slowed from old age OR the tree has a thin canopy from some kind of disease or bugs (NOT caused by the Lichens) which allows more light which equals more lichens.

    Lichens do not have roots and do not need to tap continuous reservoirs of water like most higher plants, thus they can grow in locations impossible for most plants, such as bare rock, sterile soil or sand, and various artificial structures such as walls, roofs and monuments. Many lichens also grow on other plants, particularly on the trunks and branches of trees. When growing on other plants, lichens are NOT parasites; they do NOT consume or harm a plant in any way.

    Read more about the neat Lichen here:

    Your trees are pretty old looking which means they have slowed down in growth and the ones that have died might have died from old age problems with some kind of stress from bugs, disease, or weather etc. There are tons of ways they could have died. But Birches are not a usually long lived tree anyway, most live no longer than 70 to 150 years but if they are stressed by anything (especially at a sensitive old age) like bad soil conditions, bugs, disease, lack of rain, you name it. Any of those problems can shorten their life even more.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Central Oklahoma - Zone 7 for now

    Re: RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    Quote Originally Posted by rodnex
    Is there any recommended reading which could get me started in understanding how to care for trees? I always thought they just got water/sun and grew, no maintenance required.

    thanks again
    Recommended reading? Wow - there's a LOT of stuff out there, probably some here on ADF site, too. The trees with no stressors, such as perfect soil and perfect 'weather environs', *can* simply grow, but there's all kinds of things that affect a tree above, and below, the soil. Are you wondering about in-ground trees? (probably, I assume) -> Check encyclopedias or google 'growing trees'. Not to sound simplistic in my saying such...and there's some major differences between species, such as 'pines' and 'willows', per se.

    If you have any more-specific questions, be happy to answer them at any time And like treeman said - lichens *are* kinda neat, their opwn unique life-form pretty much


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Upstate New York, Zone 5

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    I seem to remember hearing that lichens on rocks create soil. I guess they break down the rock, which is actually a huge particle of soil.

  8. #8

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    When growing on mineral surfaces, some lichens slowly decompose their substrate by chemically degrading and physically disrupting the minerals, contributing to the process of weathering by which rocks are gradually turned into soil. While this contribution to weathering is usually benign, it can cause problems for artificial stone structures. For example, there is an ongoing lichen growth problem on Mount Rushmore National Memorial that requires the employment of mountain-climbing conservators to clean the monument.

    But on a tree they cause no problem at all, they just live on the bark surface. The bark on a tree surface is dead, and most trees shed some bark yearly, from tiny grains to large pieces throughout a trees life as they grow thicker and expand.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Catskills NY

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    Thanks so much for your replies. For the recommended reading, of course I can (and will) just search google, but I was curious if there was a book or group of books that is highly regarded within this topic. I know you can't believe 'everything' you read/hear which is why I was asking for suggested reading.

    Case in point - I actually spoke to someone who told me the growths on the tree were bad for the tree and would eventually kill them if I didn't remove them, which is what prompted me to seek out this forum and post my question. So thanks for your replies, it is good to hear from several sources on this.

    I am really wondering about two things, tree identification, and maintenance. Is it standard practice to spray for bugs, diseases, etc? If so, is there common materials. times of the year, etc.. Care and Feeding of a Tree 101.. thanks so much for your replies.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Eastern PA

    RE: Newbie Tree Disease? Question

    The absolute best care and feeeding for established trees is step away from them, for the most part.

    If there's broken branches, pruning them correctly is really all you need to do. There's a guide here on, and mentions of other guides in numerous threads on this forum to help out with that, if needed.

    If you can, let fallen leaves lie. This natural mulch - along with understory shrubs and other plants of the forest floor, fallen twigs, limbs, and trees - is the healthiest environment for trees.

    If you absolutely have to clear out these debris - on account of your own sensibilities or a spouse's scornful opinion that ignoring them is just showing your laziness - its second best to replace them with a naturally mulched area. Again, the materials that fell there are the best: if you can shred, chop, and/or compost them, they will be the best suited for the job. I'd go with a hardwood mulch as the next option, and only if the appearance is critical - I prefer this kind of treatment around house foundations and new trees planted in lawn areas.

    If you think you need more - fertilizer (usually more harmful to trees than not), insect treatment, and so on - have an ISA certified arborist come and take a look at it.

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC

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