When Disease Comes Calling: How Healthy Trees Get Sick

Arborists have tried for years to show how trees live, as a mirror of human life. Trees need nourishment, care, and a healthy diet to survive. They can also become sick from a variety of viruses and bacteria that can be vectored (winds, birds, insects, and tools).

It is important to know the history of your trees and which diseases they can contract.

Let me tell you a story about a tree that was once healthy but became ill with a serious bacterial infection.

Good intentions

Mac noticed his Palm Tree’s branches hanging near his roofline over the spring weekend. This caused concern for him as well as his insurance company. Mac decided to ask his landscaping company to trim the branches from his roofline when they came to his house Monday to mow the lawn and hedge the shrubs.

Monday arrived, and the landscapers were there to unload their equipment for the weekly service. Mac reached out to Bobby, the foreman with the request. He received a “no problem” response.

Within a matter of minutes, an extension ladder, rusty pole pruners, and a pair of dull loppers were all visible. After several cuts, the roof was cleared. Mac was satisfied and gave an additional $40.00 to the crew for their work.

Problem solved by Mac.

Or, was it?

Spring became summer, and summer turned into fall. Mac began planning his annual Halloween outdoor display as Halloween approached. A feature that allowed a ghost to fly down from Mac’s chimney to the same pear tree his landscapers had trimmed in spring was included. Mac reached for his cable and attached it to the tree using an A-frame ladder. He noticed that there were burned segments of branches on the tree’s pruned side. He was able to see that the branch segments looked as if they were scorched by a blow torch.

Mac shrugged his shoulders and didn’t even give it a second thought. Mac climbed down the ladder and attached the cable. He looked around at the other branches but couldn’t find any similar foliage anywhere else. He noticed the same burnt appearance at the ends of the branches when he looked over at the pyracantha hedge around his front yard. He was confused.

Transmission of a Disease

So what happened?

Mac’s hired landscaping company arrived at his home that spring after they had just finished trimming pyracantha, crab apple and other properties infected by a bacterium called fireblight.

They had to keep the bacteria on their pruning tools. They became infected when the same tools were used to trim Mac’s trees and shrubs.

These stories are common every day.

How to reduce risks

How can we avoid such cases?

We need to be aware of the types of trees and shrubs that we have. Also, what diseases they might contract. It’s easy to find this information online.

The second is to ensure that your tree and shrub care professionals are knowledgeable about diseases. It would shock you to learn how few supposedly ‘professionals’ know anything about diseases.

We know that it is impossible to protect your property against diseases vectored by birds, insects or wind. These are some things that you, or your professional can do to reduce the chance of your trees and shrubs being infected.

  • Disinfect your tools if you suspect it to be a virus.
  • Disinfect your tools if the infection is vascular, bacterial, or if there are oozing cankers.
  • Do not cut active, oozing cankers. Wait until they dry.
  • If you are trimming irreplaceable plants, make sure to disinfect your tools
  • Choose a disinfectant treatment that has been proven effective in published research

You wouldn’t let a doctor treat you or your family members with an unsterilized instrument – so why should you treat your trees and property differently?

This post was written by a professional arborist at   www.arborwisetreeservices.com. Robert Miller is the owner of Arbor Wise Professional Tree Care, a locally owned and operated tree service company that offers superb lawn care by the most experienced Arborists. Arborwise Tree Services is a tree removal company that offers stump removal, tree pruning, stump grinding, fertilization, and tree restoration. We have an extraordinary lawn care industry notoriety covering the Pinellas county area.

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