En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Death of mature tulip tree in Raymond IL

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
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
2 ratings

Sunday - June 06, 2010

From: Raymond, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Death of mature tulip tree in Raymond IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a mature tulip tree that leafed out and looked very healthy then all of the leaves turned brown and fell off. I think the tree is now dead. We live in the country and have a corn field behind us, could herbicide applied to this crop have done this? It happened very quickly. Thanks.

ANSWER:

We can't think of anything else that would have caused such a quick death of a large tree like that. However, it is still surprising that it would happen so fast. The scary thing is that much poison is being applied to a crop right next to you; there are other things that herbicide can kill. Still, if there were that much herbicide sprayed in the area, other things should have died. Herbicides do not pick and choose what they kill.

We did, however, find one other clue, on our webpage on Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree):

"Conditions Comments: Tulip tree is insect and disease free. It is intolerant of compacted soil and should not be placed in confined beds or planters near pavement. It grows very rapidly in deep, rich well-drained soils with uniform rainfall. Dry summer weather causes physiological problems. Tulip tree drops its foliage in response to drought and is somewhat weak-wooded." 

Have you been in a drought situation in your area? If so, perhaps the tree was only reacting to the environment, in which case it may still be alive, just in dormancy until the water situation improves. Try our thumbnail test, scratching a thin layer of bark off various places on the tree. If you find a thin green layer underneath, the tree is still alive, but probably needs help. Try pushing a hose down in the soil around the tree and letting water drip slowly, then move it to other locations around the tree, depending on how large the tree is. We don't know what "mature" is in this case, because this tree can grow to be 150 ft. tall. If you do find some green under the bark, and can reach the upper part of the tree, you might also trim up to 1/3 of third of that upper part, to make less of a load on the roots trying to get water up to its leaves.  And don't fertilize-the last thing a tree in trouble needs is fertilizer stimulating it to put on new growth, when the roots are just trying to stay alive.

Still hunting for clues to this mystery, we looked at the USDA Plant Profile for tuliptre and learned that it does grow natively around Montgomery County, IL, so severe weather should not have caused the sudden leaf drop. Just in case there is some other problem not obvious to us, we suggest you contact the University of Illinois Extension Office for Montgomery County. They are closer to the situation and may have heard of other examples of this problem in your area.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Cupressaceae dying in Suffolk Co.NY
October 20, 2012 - I have noticed that all of my Cupressaceae (& others I see in my area) are dying. They turn yellow, then rust & brown til they are everbrowns. what is going on?
view the full question and answer

Death of lantana in Bryan TX
March 28, 2013 - I would like to know what killed several new gold lantana in a single bed that died over the winter. They looked quite healthy last fall. I have several other new gold lantana that survived the wint...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native artichoke from El Paso, TX
May 25, 2014 - I have a five year old artichoke plant in the ground that gets sun and some shade, has plenty of fertilizer and compost. Gets enough water. It has been beautiful in years past and last year had 10 a...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing of St. Augustine grass in south Texas
June 04, 2009 - We live in deep south Texas, Roma, Texas to be precise and we have a problem with our San Augustine grass. In the spring its quite nice and green after a few weeks and one rain it is turning yellow.
view the full question and answer

Blossom end rot on non-native tomatoes from Newport RI
April 25, 2014 - Can epsom salt or eggshells end blossom end rot on tomatoes?
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center