Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - May 31, 2009

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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. 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Need suggestion for a replacement tree in Dallas, TX.
January 23, 2013 - We are going to have a 25' tall tree removed and ground out because every year squirrels chew the branches and make huge piles on the deck and into the pool. This continues for a good month 1.5. Hen...
view the full question and answer

Texas Ash
January 03, 2007 - Where can I purchase a Texas Ash? One native tree nursery advertised Texas Ash but the trees turned out to be Fan-Tex, which I believe is an Arizona Ash cultivar.
view the full question and answer

PVC pipes for irrigation in ground in Austin
August 19, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants,What are your thoughts on installing PVC pipes into the ground around trees and shrubby trees? A classmate's grandmother had a pipe pushed or pounded into the ground near her speci...
view the full question and answer

Distance apart to plant Arizona ash trees in El Paso, TX
July 01, 2010 - How far apart can I plant two Arizona ash trees?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen Privacy Hedge for Long Island
June 29, 2012 - I live on Long Island and want a privacy evergreen hedge partial sun.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.