“Sometimes trees just die.”
Okay, that wasn’t really the line. It’s actually “Sometimes people just die,” from a scene in Groundhog Day (one of Bill Murray’s finer works, IMHO). But trees can seem like that too. When trees die suddenly and without obvious cause, it’s almost always from a disease. Sometimes other pests (like borers) can do it, but usually the decline takes a couple or more years. And sometimes some severe environmental factor is at play — prolonged drought, flooding, or construction damage, for example. But you usually have no trouble seeing what happened. A fungal disease that infects a tree’s vascular system, however, can kill a seemingly healthy, happy specimen overnight. It seems as if it comes out of nowhere and unless you do a little investigating and know what you’re looking for, the cause can remain quite mysterious.
And here is the latest victim in my yard. It was my cherished wisteria standard and it refused to emerge from dormancy this year. It’s been there 6 or 7 years, growing vigorously, apparently unaffected by our Iowa winters. Early this spring, I noticed the buds seemed dried out. Never a good sign. And sure enough, here it is, a bunch of sticks when it should be budding out. What a heartbreaker.
Why did it die? Don’t know. It had some trunk wounds, and I have found that such wounds, combined with the very wet weather we’ve had in the Midwest the last few years has been a deadly combination for a few of my trees. Maybe that’s what it was. Regardless, I’ve got a tree to replace. There are lots of lessons here, all of which can be summed up as “Treat your trees nicely.” Don’t run into them with the lawnmower, make sure they aren’t standing in water, prune in winter not summer. We often take trees for granted, assuming that the nails we pound into them, the bark we strip off them, the roots we sever, won’t harm them. It’s not always so. Sometimes they die.
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