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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Thursday - May 07, 2015

From: san Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Stressed Ashe juniper is dropping needles
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have a large Ashe juniper tree in our backyard, at least 20 ft tall. This past winter/spring, several limbs have died and it's dropped a ton of leaves (clumps of "needles" really). Is it slowly dying? Is it under stress from something? A lot of its lower limbs were trimmed off when we first bought the house 2 years ago. This winter/spring has been pretty rainy for here so I wouldn't think it's drought related. Thx for any insight.

ANSWER:

 

Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper) is a pretty tough tree.  It withstands drought, high temperatures and many other environmental stresses.  But it does not tolerate extended periods of soil saturation.  Normally the tree would have enough foliage to transpire water from around the roots, but removal of a significant amount of foliage from your tree may have compromised that function.  I wonder if your juniper is in a spot that does become waterlogged in our rare wet spells.  You should check the soil just after and for a day or so after a good rain to see.  Adding material such as decomposed granite that loosens the soil near the tree or constructing a berm to divert rainwater from the tree would help prevent waterlogging if that seems to be the problem.

 

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