ISSUE 6 June 7, 2001
FALLING PROPELLERS, UNDERSIZED LEAVES, A "TON" OF FRUIT!
Several calls have come in this past week addressing the above subjects. As different and possibly confusing as those terms may seem, they are all related to the same problem: the tree is signaling its imminent death.
Those falling propellers are from maples, which are actually the seeds, that have developed either a vascular disease, a root rot, or something has girdled the trunk, completely removing the cambial tissue. This traumatic stress kicks the tree into a reproductive cycle in an attempt to "save" the species, a little insurance trick that Mother nature uses to try and keep a plant species from becoming extinct. The undersized leaves have emerged on just the energy stored in the branches and buds from the previous season, and will wilt shortly, if they havenít already done so. The same is true for the "ton" fruit that some plum and apple trees are bearing - bear the fruit to save the species.
Generally, trees exhibiting these symptoms are dead for all intents. In some cases where the leaves are just undersized and they remain green and on the tree for the season, it is just a matter of time - like the following season - before they are eligible to become firewood.
Attempts to "save" trees in this final state are unsuccessful in every instance that I have ever been aware of. Hence it is a good idea to practice "preventive medicine" in tree care: prune carefully any diseased or broken branches, avoid compaction, excessive fertilization, and too much water in the root zone. Take care when using herbicides around trees, and certainly, in selecting trees for a setting, try to match the tree to the site. The more compatible the tree is to the intended site, the better the chances of it providing service for many years, even decades.