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

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Monday - July 18, 2011

From: Bayfield, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Trees
Title: Cedar trees dying in CO
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We have mature cedar trees at the home we bought in SW Colorado. The large ones have begun to die. Can too much water kill a cedar tree and is there anything I can do to keep them alive?

ANSWER:

The use of the common name "cedar" in North America refers to either Red cedar (which is actually a Juniper),  Northern White cedar (which is also known as arborvitae) or Atlantic White cedar (which is a cypress). None of our native cedars are actually of the genus Cedrus but were commonly called that by European settlers because their aromatic wood is like the cedars of the Old World.

The cedars which are native to Colorado (and yours would be one of these) are:

Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky mountain juniper) and

Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar)

If you click on these links to the detailed plant information pages, you will see that both plants thrive in dry, sandy or rocky, caliche type soils.

So yes, too much water can kill a cedar tree, if it is actually a juniper (the eastern cedars actually thrive in wet conditions; some are commonly called swamp cedars).  According to our Native Plant database, Rocky Mountain cedar "does not adapt to high humidity or high night temperatures. It is susceptible to juniper blight and serves as an alternate host for cedar apple rust."

So you could be dealing with one of these problems.  We recommend you contact your local agricultural extension service or an arborist for an accurate diagnosis and a recommendation for treatment.

 

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