Monday, November 11, 2013

Tree Killer


After completing the autopsy on two of my dead oak trees, i.e. cutting and splitting them up for firewood, I really couldn't find anything that I thought might of killed the tree. In the upper branches where there were some hollows created by old limbs that blew off in storms, I found some ants and other critters in sections of the tree but in the main trunk, they were solid throughout.

Solid except for some areas like what you see in the above picture. The wood as a round would look solid throughout but when I was splitting it, sometimes it would split through areas like above where you see the yellow honeycombed stuff that was hard to the touch. I'm not sure what I am looking at and perhaps someone out there might know. In the entire tree, I came across maybe a dozen sections of wood with this stuff in it and the picture above was the worst of the lot. It is almost like a layer of wood inside the trunk formed differently.

So as of now, the cause of death is yet undetermined but not in vain. I have enjoyed many good fires already with wood from last year's tree deaths and when this wood gets seasoned more, I will enjoy it too.

9 comments:

Vince said...

I was thinking after on the number of trees you lost and there was something a bit odd about it.
One, with drought trees die in ones or in groups. Where the entire water table lowers suddenly and for a prolonged period. Or when a single tree is growing in a syncline. Trees can shift literally tons of water over a week.
But what would kill trees during a dry weather would be a fungus. Where both would happily coexist in the usual conditions. This is the one I'm thinking is your culprit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armillaria

Ed said...

Vince - What is killing the trees in a general sense has a name and it is called Oak Decline. When healthy trees are stressed for prolonged periods of time such as we have had with five very wet years followed by two very dry years, the trees immune systems become vulnerable to a whole host of things that wouldn't phase a healthy tree. I had thought that perhaps what I had was oak wilt disease since mostly it is just my black and red oaks dying and none of my other oaks or various trees. It is spread through insects in close proximity and also through grafted roots. All these trees have been close to other infected trees and thus I suspect the grafted roots as a carrier. I have searched for oak wilt but the only external symptom I have seen in any of these trees is a gradual die back in foliage from the outer branches in the crown down the main trunk. There have been no molds or fungus on the bark or under it and it has always looked fairly healthy. Internally the wood has been solid with lots of sap flow except for the rare layers seen in the picture above. It may or may not be related. I just don't have the knowledge base to know.

Leigh said...

That is the same thing that happened to the big old oak we took down recently. I wasn't familiar with Oak Decline, but it makes sense considering this area was under a severe drought not too long ago.

Ed said...

Leigh - Our area has been hammered by oak decline and it is a shame. The woods are full of dead oak trees which is why you have to almost give firewood away these days. With Dutch Elm disease in place for half a century and the emerald ash borer already killing trees in two of the neighboring counties along with some disease killing the non-native pines, the trees here are really thinning out. I need to do some research and find some more hardy native trees to plant before they are all gone.

Vince said...

I'm curious, was the landscape wooded prior to the settlement of the whites.

Vince said...

I hope your connections are far from the track of that typhoon. And therefore safe.

sage said...

Enjoy your fires, but sorry about losing the trees! I got more than enough firewood for a season or two when the power crews came through last Spring.

sage said...

I also meant to ask (as I see Vince did) about your wife's family in the Philippines. I hope they are all safe.

Ed said...

Vince - In this part of Iowa, it was heavily forested especially near the river where I currently live. Up away from the rivers there were prairie grass plains.

My wife and her family are from the northern Luzon province well north of the destruction caused by typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan as the international community refers to it. The closest her family came to it was when my brother-in-law, who works for a television station, was asked if he wanted to volunteer to cover the typhoon before it made landfall. Having a family, he declined. The people who did volunteer were temporarily out of communication and caused some anxious moments but they all made it through the storm safely.

Sage - I finally got all my new firewood stacked and covered with a tarp so I'm set for a few years. Unfortunately I have three more trees that may not leaf out at all next spring. I'm not sure what I will do with those since I don't need the wood and there are so many dead oak trees around along with a quarantine due to the ash borer, you can't hardly give firewood away around here.