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Sunday - May 31, 2009

From: Uhland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Split trunk in Bald Cypress in Uhland, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live just south of Austin, and near the pond (stock tank) is a bald cypress, young, about 12-15 yrs., and after this past year, drought and all, I was dismayed to find it not leafing out. When I investigated I found that there was a split in its trunk, running up the southwest side. It is not split to the heart wood but it is a deep wound. The tree is about 25-30 ft. tall. It is planted on the bank, low. The tank is real low, hasn't dried up yet because it is deep and is normally fed by a seeping spring which appears to have dried up. Could the drought have caused this wound, lightning, fire ants, disease, or what? I searched the net for answers on disease and could not find anything similar.I am at a loss.


We are so sorry to hear about your Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). It is one of our favorite trees, with its neat little cones and attractive foliage. On our webpage on the tree it is referred to as an "aquatic" plant, and the soil description for it is:  "Wet, acidic mucks, sands & loams. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay."  You are probably correct in suspecting drought damage as the previously damp soil the tree was enjoying has disappeared. 

However, in this Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council website Trunk Cracks by Marianne C. Ophardt, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, we learned that the crack is probably not the disease but a symptom. "Cracks apparently start from a wound that happened much earlier in the tree's life. The real causes of the cracks are death of major roots at planting time; physical injury to roots from construction or soil compaction; wounds created by flush cut pruning; dead limbs resulting from topping cuts; physical injury to the tree" and, of course, drought. We suggest you read the whole article to see if you can get any more clues on what happened. 

It may be that you are going to lose your tree. It needs to leaf out in order to manufacture food by photosynthesis; it can't go on sick leave. Don't fertilize it, that would only make it worse, never fertilize a tree under stress. If it can be done, you might try getting some water on its roots, deep down, if possible, and see if there is a chance it can be resuscitated. Before you waste the time and water, though, you should give the bark the "thumbnail test," scratching bark off in a few places to see if there is a layer of green tissue beneath it. If there isn't, the tree should probably be removed before it becomes a candidate for falling in a windstorm. 

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum



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