Thread: problem with sweet gum tree

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  1. #1

    problem with sweet gum tree

    Here in northern NJ, we have an enormous sweet gum. Over 10 years ago, it developed an indentation at the base of the trunk. My parents had someone look at it, and he applied tar and said the tree should heal and the indentation would close up. That didn't happen. When I noticed how bad the indentation looked a few weeks ago, I thought the tree might be in danger of falling, so I called an arborist. If you look at the picture, the trunk is about 3 feet in diameter. The indentation is about 20 inches high and 10 inches wide at the bottom. At the back of the indentation, there is a hole that seems to go pretty deeply into the trunk.

    I'd like to get an opinion about what the arborist recommended. First, he didn't think the tree was going to fall down he thought it was structurally sound and that was a great relief. He said he could make a resistance graph, but he didn't think it was necessary. Second, he said that the tree had been wounded somehow and that allowed fungi and carpenter ants to move in, but the fungi and ants typically feed on dead wood. The only thing that can be done now is to strengthen the tree. His top recommendation was to surround the tree with wood chips, which would retain moisture, replenish the soil, and prevent grass from competing with the tree's roots. He also said we could get deep root feeding with fertilizer blended specifically for the sweet gum (I think he called it arbor kelp). What do you think?

    The wood chip idea sounds easy to do, and our lawn isn't very good anyway because of all the trees. The arborist recommended a 2-inch layer of chips extending 2-3 feet out from the trunk (but not against the trunk or on the root flares). Is that right?

    As for the feeding, I'm not sure if we want to do that. If we did, he said it could be done at any time except when the ground is frozen. Is that something we could do ourselves?

    Thanks for any help. We really like this tree.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Lincoln, Nebraska - Lancaster County (Zone 5)

    RE: problem with sweet gum tree

    Speaking as a certified arborist, this seems like sound advice. The recommendations on mulching are good, and you may want to consider having the local arborist inspect the tree using a Resistograph.

    Here is some information about this tool, and how it is used in the field.

    Finally, it doesn't hurt to get a second opinion from another arborist in your area. Always remember to put safety first.
    Sincerely, Robert
    Lincoln, NE (Zone 5)

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
    - Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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