How Can I Tell If My Denver Trees Are Stressed?

Summer is coming to a close and fall is just around the corner, this is the trees time to shine! There is no better time to be outdoors and take in the beauty of the Denver front range. But subtle clues may be telling you that these lush and colorful trees are in need of help, they are stressed! Learn how to identify different signs of tree stress and how to help your trees recover.

What is Tree Stress and What Causes it?

You probably know that trees can get sick with a disease, but did you know that they can be stressed? Yes! Have you ever been so stressed out that you caught a cold, developed a migraine, or even came down with the flu? Just like us, trees can feel stress and that stress can weaken the immune system of a tree. Tress stress is simply any negative environmental factor that is hampering the healthy development of the tree. 

It is commonly believed that disease and infestation are causes of stress, but in fact these are actually the end results of a tree that is stressed out and weak. Human activity accounts for most causes of tree stress. Improper planting or transplanting, incorrect watering, lack of fertilizing, exposure to pollution and road salt are all man-made causes of tree stress. 

Ironically, well-intentioned homeowners sometimes unwittingly increase tree stress by attempting tree care incorrectly. Overwatering, for example, is a major problem for some local tree varieties in Denver. Learn more about the signs of tree stress and how you can help your trees recover. Spotting the symptoms of a stressed tree early can effectively save the tree from major problems with disease or infestation down the road. 

Signs and Symptoms of Stressed Trees

There are a whole host of native trees scattered along the front range, but no matter the species, all trees display common signs of stress. Keep a watchful eye on your fledging trees and catch the symptoms early on before they have a chance to develop. This is your tree’s way of crying out for help!

Changing Foliage

  • Wilting or curling leaves: this is typically a sign seen in newly planted trees, and it is signaling transplant shock. Your new tree is not adjusting well, but don’t worry! Lots of watering and some mulch to help lock in the moisture will help.
  • Early Fall Colors: Are you seeing a spectacular color show in early August? Don’t get too excited, this is actually a bad sign. The early change in color most likely is pointing to a problem with soil compaction or stress over a nutrient deficiency. The high alkaline Denver soil can be tough on many different tree species, but with the right fertilizer application, you can help revive your tree. It’s like giving your tree vitamins!
  • Brown or Spotted Leaves: You don´t want your tree to be thirsty, but too much water is also a problem. If you are seeing brown or spotted leaves after a rainy spell, your tree is feeling swampy and has developed a fungus of some sort. The fungus requires treatment and you should consult a trained arborist for next steps.  
  • Leaf Drop: The air hasn’t even turned brisk yet, but your tree’s leaves have already dropped! This is one of the most common signs of tree stress, it can mean your tree experienced extreme heat, too little or too much water, or could be suffering from a disease. Schedule a consultation with a tree care expert to diagnose the problem.
  • Scorched Leaves: Do the leaves of your tree look as if they have been burned? This is a classic sign of leaf scorch. Caused by drought and extreme heat, leaf scorch can be treated and prevented with ongoing proper watering. 
  • Canopy Dieback: Stand back and look at the entire crown of your tree. Is it looking patchy, sparse, brittle, or thin in places? This is typically one of the very first signs that your tree is stressed. Appropriate watering and fertilization are key to restoring your tree to health and helping the canopy grow full and healthy again!

Stress on the Tree Trunk and Limbs

  • Splits and Cracks: It is not natural for a tree trunk to split or crack as a result of time or weathering. Healthy trees have the ability to heal and recover minor cracks or splits, much like our bodies can heal cuts. Large cracks or splits in the trunk can be a symptom of tree decay. 
  • Co-dominant Trunk: If your newly planted tree has developed a trunk that is shaped like a V, this is a sign of on-going stress. Contact an arborist for a diagnosis and treatment plan. 
  • Mushrooms: Many homeowners that spot mushrooms at the base or lower trunk of a tree do not see this a cause for alarm. In fact, many people find them to be an interesting addition to the landscape. However, mushrooms can be a sign of tree decay because they only grow on rotting or dead wood. 
  • Leaning Trunk: Plenty of trees lean slightly, especially with height and age. However, if you see a noticeable change in the lean of the trunk of your tree, it can be a sign of instability. Often caused by storm damage, extreme leaning can mean that your tree is a risk to your property. 

Care And Treatment Options for Stressed Trees

Strong and healthy Denver trees can fight off cankers, disease, and pest infestation. Keeping up with tree care is an important investment in your tree’s longevity. Here are our top recommendations for annual care that will help your trees avoid undue stress:

  • Watering: Proper watering is an overlooked but very important tree care practice. Native Denver tree species prefer well-drained soil and can become compromised if their soil becomes too saturated with water. We can provide expert consultation on how much water you should be giving your pine trees, and how often.
  • Fertilization: Denver front range trees are known for adapting to different soil types, but even the ones native to the area can struggle in the high-alkaline soil. The best way to neutralize this threat is with the right fertilizer application. Balancing the soil and getting your trees the nutrients they crave will keep them strong and healthy.
  • Tree trimming: annual pruning and trimming help all tree varieties keep their beautiful shape and color. It’s also a good opportunity to check and trim away any parts of the tree suffering from infection or pests. 
  • Insecticides: Denver trees can be proactively protected from borers and mites with the correct chemical spray application. Spraying can also help an infected tree if the infestation is recognized early on. Pest control helps your ornamental trees maintain their vibrant colorful flowers and lengthens their life-span.
  • Bactistat: trunk injections are an effective proactive measure to prevent and treat fungus, rot, and infection. Trained arborists can administer this application in spring before the spread and onset of the disease during the summer months.

If you are concerned that your any of your trees are showing signs of stress, contact one of our certified arborists immediately! At Fielding Tree & Shrub Care we take a four-step approach for caring for stressed trees:

  • Step 1: A complimentary on-site disease diagnosis of your trees and/or shrubs. Sending a picture in advance helps speed things up!
  • Step 2: We work to cure the disease or at least slow it down with the most viable treatment option available for your tree or shrub’s unique situation.
  • Step 3: A proactive approach is implemented to protect your existing trees from disease or infestation.
  • Step 4: Unfortunately, sometimes trees and shrubs die, even with our best, safest, and most proven treatment solutions. If your tree or shrub dies, we try to remove the dead plant as soon as reasonably possible. This keeps your property safe from unnecessary infestations and unsightly rotting trees or shrubs.

Untreated Trees: Disease and Infestation

Denver trees face many real dangers including the EAB and Fireblight. Infestation and disease always strike trees that are already in a state of stress, because they cannot defend themselves. Know what your trees are up against and help them fight back.

The Emerald Ash Borer Beetle is a non-native wood-boring insect, arguably the most destructive pest in the United States, killing all types of North American ash species such as green, white, black and blue ash, and their cultivars (including autumn purple ash, a popular white ash varietal in Colorado).

It’s important to understand EAB infestation is almost always fatal to infested ash trees. You need to take stock of your trees and make a plan to treat them before the EAB arrives, or they will be dead within approximately four years. EAB is the most destructive forest pest in recorded U.S. history! 

Fire blight is a destructive bacterial disease. The bacteria attacks leaves, turning them black, causes branches to develop dark cankers, and makes twigs ooze white puss. It gives the affected tree the appearance of being burned, hence the name. Left untreated, fire blight will kill branches and then the entire tree.

Fire blight attacks many members of the rose family, including non-fruiting apple, pear, quince, crab apple, hawthorn, and mountain ash trees. Do you have any of these tree species on your property? If so, it is vitally important that you act quickly. 

Untreated stress trees are at great risk. When our immune system is compromised, disease can take hold easily and wreak havoc on our bodies. The same is true for trees! 

Help your trees recover from stress so that they can fight off disease and infection. Ask our certified arborists about building a custom care plan for your trees. Schedule your complimentary on-site diagnosis today!