small clutch Is It Worth Our Time and Action

Discount mulberry charlie bag Outlet Is It Worth Our Time and Action

I had the opportunity recently to visit an elderly Mulberry tree in a home landscape in Montgomery and to commiserate with the aging (I may be in trouble if she reads this) daughter of a man who spent his life doing the right things to continue the life of this heritage tree. It was a beautiful, grand tree to see but sad to see the decline of a once vigorous sapling. With the massive girth of the limbs, I wondered how nature and physics worked to support these massive, knobby, knurly historic marvels. Branches undulated far from the trunk and you could see evidence of historic care and treatment over the years with cabling, bracing, pruning cuts, cavity fills and other arborists /tree surgeons skilled work.

A support brace for an old, heavy limb

Looking at this ancient tree was like visiting a home for the aged and getting to know the great stories of the people, looking back on their lives and the people they touched along the way. Like grand and great grandparents and pets, you can form a deep relationship or bond as you grow up playing in, under and around trees or as you grow older reflecting and enjoying the seasons as you progress together. Like pets to people, there may be several generations of pets that we enjoy through our lifetime. With trees, there are hopefully many generations of people that enjoy the seasonal and life development of these ancient trees. What can you do to extend the quality of life of these special heritage trees?

People inherit a genetically determined life span: youth, juvenility, maturity, and death. In maturity, trees slow down, recovery time is longer and they become more susceptible to extremes in nature and less combative to pests and pathogens. They just grow old with extra bruises, defective parts, swollen and sagging areas and a tired appearance. Sound familiar? Unlike current trends for the aged in our culture, trees reaching this majestic stage in their life are highly prized and cherished. You can t help but think that when this tree was planted, most people were still riding around in horse drawn buggies. Just as medicine has advanced for people, our understanding of trees and their care has advanced and actually reverted to simpler, often less expensive treatments for problems that arise. As I walked around the tree with the owner and discussed the tree s history, I assessed visually the health and opportunities for some remediation treatments for such an old tree.

My first thought was of the expected lifespan of the tree. A mulberry has a potential lifespan of 100 years whereas a white oak may live 400 years or longer. This tree had to be approaching its potential age. It is interesting to note that some have declared the active lifespan or productivity of Rubus (Mulberry) to be 25 years. I do not want to dwell on that too long.

In the assessment, I look first to the overall health of the tree. What does the foliage look like (yellow, diseased, rich, healthy green)? Is there dieback in the canopy? Has there been any new construction that may have damaged the roots? How much grass or other competitive plants are beneath the tree? Is there mulch? I look at the base of the tree. Is there a good flare or has the soil or mulch been piled against the trunk? Is the soil compacted? How is the drainage around the tree or is there water movement or pooling? What is the sun exposure or aspect (N,S,E,
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W)? Is there any damage to the trunk? I pull away the mulch or soil. Are there any wrapping roots that may be girdling the tree?

What is the branch structure (angles of attachment, competing or rubbing branches, bark inclusions) and density of the branches on the tree? Has there been excessive pruning causing rapidly growing, upward water sprouts? Have the pruning cuts been done correctly? In other words, did they leave the collar or did they cut back to the trunk of the tree, called flush cuts? Please don t let me see topping! You ask the owner for a history of fertilizer and any possible herbicide applications.

After going through this checklist, you come up with a plan. The best thing you can do is to improve the environment in the root system area. Take a soil test and apply the recommended fertilizer and adjustment for pH. Mulch 2 to 3 inches in the root zone at least to the edge of the canopy or further. Remove competing grasses in this area. Provide irrigation to reduce stress. If the soil is compacted, there is some evidence that digging some radial, shallow, 6 inch narrow ditches beginning 4 to 5 feet from the tree (avoiding cutting large roots) and filling with a compost/soil mix will encourage root growth. Do this in the dormant season or prior to spring growth so the tree will have time to send out roots into the aerated areas. Is the tree getting enough light or have the surrounding trees cut off the sun over the years? In this case, which trees are more important to you? If you just correct some of these problems, many times other problems will take care of themselves. A healthy tree with good root growth will fend off many opportunistic pathogens.

Next, take a look at the structure of the tree. The Big 3 D s (dead, dying and diseased branches) can be acted upon at any time. Remove from the tree and the site. If you have girdling roots, you will need to carefully remove them as well as pull back the soil if it is covering your buttress roots or flare of the trunk. You cannot be too drastic in your pruning as you don t want to remove too much of the photosynthetic engine that feeds the tree. This results in excessive growth of unwanted water sprouts. Creatively, technically, and judiciously remove unwanted crossing branches and competing leaders over a three year period. Ask your potential professional arborist what they suggest for pruning procedures. If the first, second or third responding words are top the tree, get another professional . There are possible injections of pesticides for scale and other insects but this can be expensive. See if good care will clear up the pest problems.

Be prepared that abuses of the past and age may have pushed the tree past any reasonable remediation measures. The safety or aesthetic value of the tree or the cost of current and continuing care may not be worth your investment. As long as safety is not an issue, sometimes the best remedy is to provide mulch, irrigation and low fertilization allowing you and the tree to enjoy the remaining years. It was interesting to evaluate the work that was done on this mulberry over the years.

The two orange areas are cavities that were filled with foam insulation and the light gray area

above is cement that was used to fill a cavity in the trunk.

There were concrete cavity fills which are no longer recommended; bark tracing or shaping the wounds, cleaning out the cavities, and evidence of wound or pruning paints, also practices no longer recommended. A tree has its own wound response called compartmentalization that walls off further damage by decay or pests. None of these procedures help and can sometimes hurt the recovery process. How well the tree responds depends on the health, age, and environmental conditions. Some tree species are genetically better than others at compartmentalization. Silver Maples are known for having poor genes for this process. Just like our own health care, the best options we have for healthy trees are prevention and best management practices. Nurseries should grow the trees well at the nursery; put them on a proper, adaptive site; prepare a good and spacious root zone area;
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and prune at a young age for proper structure. The optimum health care prescription is to maintain that environment over time. Roots are the area we often overlook. The basic message of horticulture is provide a good environment for the roots and the top will take care of itself.

I am a tree hugger and know the psychological and economic value of trees in our lives. We don t see many of these heritage trees anymore due to the lack of allocated space for roots and our construction methods that do not consider the preservation of these trees or the consequences of damaging them during construction. It was nice to see and appreciate one of these champion trees and see the joy it had given to three generations of this family. It is worth our effort and planning to preserve these trees and plant for the next generation.