Problems with your trees usually have a clear explanation
Many people in Okaloosa County are concerned about trees in their landscape. I’m reminded of this each day at the Okaloosa County Extension Office with each person who brings in a branch from their tree or with each phone caller repeating the familiar question, “Can you tell me what’s wrong with my tree?”
To help answer some of the more common questions about current tree concerns, a generalized statement will be followed by a summarized explanation for each concern.
Statement: There is a fine, white webbing all over the trunk and branches of my oak tree.
Explanation: This webbing is caused by insects called psocids (pronounced socids). Psocids are commonly called bark lice or tree cattle. These tiny insects can be seen underneath the silken webbing that they form. Adult psocids are about one-fourth inch in length and brownish-black in color with some white markings on their wings. No control is necessary because psocids do no harm to trees. They are “bark cleaners,” feeding on mosses, lichens and other organic material found on the bark surface. Psocids are found on may different species of trees and are usually noticed only because of the webbing they make. The webbing usually goes away in a few weeks.
Statement: Small branches and twigs are dying throughout the canopy of my tree.
Explanation: This is the result of twig beetles. These beetles attack small branches and twigs on a wide range of trees. The adult beetles are very small, approximately one-sixteenth inch in length. Usually the first signs of attack are the browning of some smaller twigs and branches. This attack gives a flagging appearance in the tree canopy. Close examination of these dead shoots may reveal tiny entrance holes, boring dust and occasionally pitch. There is no practical control for these small beetles because their attack is so random (they may not be a problem in your yard next year). Timing an insecticide spray is another problem. It would be 100 percent luck to spray a tree when these tiny insects first come into the area. Also, it is difficult if not impossible to spray a larger tree from top to bottom to ensure control. The good news is that the twig beetles do little damage to a tree, attacking only the outermost twigs and branches.
Statement: My trees start dropping their leaves early this year and some trees are already defoliated.
Explanation: Many trees are losing their leaves earlier than normal this year. This is mainly due to an increase in foliage diseases . Most of these foliage diseases are caused by fungi. These fungi reproduce by tiny spores (most are microscopic). These spores are in the air by the millions in spring and summer, blowing around and randomly landing on leaves like tiny dust particles. Once on the leaf, they require moisture in order for infection to occur. The spores are out there each year and during wet years many trees become infected. The good news is that these foliage diseases only infect a temporary part of the plant- the leaves. No control is needed this late in the year. There are other stress-related causes for early leaf drop; however, most trees that have been gradually dropping their leaves earlier than normal this year will leaf out next spring like they always have.
Statement: All the leaves on my tree suddenly turned brown but are still hanging on the tree and are firmly attached.
Explanation: This is an indication of severe root injury. Usually a combination of factors over a long period of time caused extensive root injury. The tree had been functioning with a weakened, smaller root system. The extended hot weather ends up being the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for these already stressed/ weakened trees. Some common causes for lethal root injury in trees include construction damage, floods, drought, hurricanes and herbicide injury (many trees are damaged by “weed and feed” products). The bad news is there is nothing that can be done to correct this kind of injury. These types of problems are prevented, not cured. The initial damage could have been caused years prior to the tree’s leaves suddenly turning brown. Based on my experience, trees in this category usually do not recover.