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Read Our Changing ­Climate in the Trees

Some are fighting for survival; other have given up the ghost

photo by Ken Shumaker, University of Maryland Extension A defoliated white oak.

      This is a tough year on trees.

         “We are seeing a lot of health issues in our trees, particularly since this is the first really dry spell in about three years,” says Anne Hairston-Strang, associate director at the Maryland Forest Service.

         The wet years created ideal conditions for root rot and other moisture-loving diseases. “Some of the damage from the disease is only being felt now that it is really dry and the damaged root systems can’t function as well,” Hairston-Strang says.

         Now the lack of rain compounds problems. “We’re in a drought, and that means trees are more susceptible to disease,” says Steven Graham, owner of Independent Tree Care and a certified arborist.

         Some trees are suffering temporary problems, such as bacterial leaf scorch, Hairston-Strang says.

         Leaves dropping can also be a temporary problem, as “trees defoliate due to the drought, which is normal,” Graham says.

         Other trees are facing death. “University of Maryland Extension specialists have received many reports of dying trees, and many are oaks, particularly white oaks,” Hairston-Strang says.

         Age is part of the problem. “Many of our oaks are older and are losing vigor, making them more susceptible to the wet and dry extremes we have been seeing,” Hairston-Strang adds.

         For many oaks, their strengths become weaknesses in times like this.

         “Oaks host a lot of biodiversity, which also translates into damage from a lot of different kinds of organisms,” Hairston-Strang explains.

         Watering can help your trees. Graham recommends rain barrels as “a great way to water your trees.”