October 16

4 Common Signs and Symptoms of Tree Stress



When you think about your yard, the last thing we think about as being weak is a tree – however, you have to worry about them as much as you worry about delicate flowers. Trees react to stressors much more than we see – we always blame the results of that stress on something else.

Still, you have to be on the lookout for some common signs of tree stress, especially if you aren’t the type of person to notice stress in other people – it’s even harder to spot on trees. However, here are a few signs your trees are stressed out more than a college student during midterms week:

4. You have too much ivy on your trees

Ivy growing on a tree.
Credit: A_Peach
  • This is especially problematic on decorative barks
  • Trees aren’t able to gain nutrients
  • Airflow is necessary to remove toxins and fungi

Most people who have ivy on their trees probably don’t realize it, but ivy is one of the most stressful plants that you can have growing near a tree. At some point, the tree becomes overwhelmed by the ivy, which takes advantage of that and continues to grow.

The Tree Steward Program states, “Ivy can strangle trees, and once it is in the tree canopy, it can block sunlight from the trees’ leaves. Dense ivy cover deprives the tree’s bark of normal contact with air and microorganisms and competes with the tree for nutrients and water. Ivy is a threat. But we can beat it with simple landscaping work.”

If your tree doesn’t seem to be growing properly, it could be stressed out because of the ivy. All trees suffer from this problem, but those with decorative bark suffer the most because of a lack of airflow, water, and sunlight. Make sure your trees are healthy under all of those leaves.

3. There are splotches all over your tree

Red splotches on tree leaves.
Credit: WineCountry
  • Not always a bad sign, but can be a problematic
  • Check the stems for spots first
  • Symbolic of Foliar and Shoot Diseases

Splotches naturally form on trees and leaves all the time, so that isn’t something to be too worried about. However, you could have a tree fungi problem if there are many, many splotches everywhere. The splotches are either a) the fungi or b) your tree’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right.

You might found black bubbles on the leaves or a powdery white substance growing along the leaves. These are completely different problems but are both signs of stress, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

If you look at your trees regularly, which is one of the most important things you can do to keep your tree free from stress, you will be able to identify which splotches are a normal part of the tree and which ones are your tree trying to tell you something.

2. Pests are making themselves at home on your tree

Ant crawling on a tree leaf.
Credit: Brian Gratwicke
  • Pests steal nutrients, making it difficult to grow
  • Pests can also cause the tree to look sick
  • Weakened trees succumb to stress more easily

Pests are never a good sign because they prey on the weakest trees they can find. Of course, pests can also make your tree stressed out as well. Still, if you see pests rapidly moving onto the tree, there is a chance that it was already stressed from a lack of water, nutrients, or something else.

Per the website Gardening Know How, “Weakened plants and trees are more susceptible to problems like pests or disease. It is best to always remove the ivy from the tree and keep it away from the trunk of the tree, at least 3 to 4 feet, to prevent it from climbing up the tree again.” So in order to really solve the problem, you want to figure out why the pests were attracted to the tree in the first place.

1. You spot cankers on your trees

Large cankers on a tree.
Credit: James Gates
  • You need professional help as soon as possible
  • Blank cankers appear on the knots of the tree
  • Tunnels start to appear through the wood

Cankers are absolutely never a good sign, especially if they are the types of cankers related to Thousand Cankers disease. This is a tree disease that has killed millions of trees each year. If you believe that your trees are stressed and you see cankers, you may want to do some reading on ThousandCankers.com, which explains the lifecycle of it.

Know that this can be treated, but you want to catch it as soon as possible.

If your tree does not have Thousand Cankers Disease, there is almost always some other reason for the cankers to form, and it would be in your best interests to find out why they started to appear.

If you see any of the signs listed above or you see something that just doesn’t look quite right to you, give Above Ground Tree Service a call right away. Our team of trained professionals can inspect your trees to see if your suspicions are correct. If they all, we will immediately launch to action and try to rectify the problem. Sometimes we will be able to do this through pruning; Sometimes it will take chemicals; Sometimes we can’t do anything.

At Menchhofer Tree Care, we can help you to ensure that your tree isn’t too stressed out.  The same signs that point to either problem could point to infestations, diseases, and problems with the environment as well, so it is best to have a professional take a look at them. You cannot be too careful with trees, especially those that are young and those that are extremely large – both pose different dangers to your yard.

Give us a call at (317) 661-4240 to get started today.

Header Photo Courtesy of Iqbal Osman on Flickr!

Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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