Physiological Problems


Most of the problems trees and shrubs suffer from are the direct result of mans’ intervention.  Recognizing these problems takes a trained tree expert with years of experience.

Trees that have been affected by physiological problems are often mis-diagnosed as insect or disease decline.  The true source usually comes from more man made issues.

Insect and disease are most often the result of poor plant selection, insufficient drainage, water logged soils, compacted soils, poor planting practices, such as planting too high or too low.  Other physiological problems can include drought damage, construction damage, frost damage and clay soils and includes adverse weather conditions such as Polar Vortex vs. extreme temperature fluctuations.  Reactions to cool and cold temperatures are referred to as Cold Tolerance.  The tolerance of living tree cells to dehydration and ice crystal formation is termed Hardened.  Cold Tolerance and Hardening are greatly decreased when warm days are interspersed with cold days.

Temperature extremes that fluctuate from cold to warm can destroy hardening in the middle of winter, making trees vulnerable to cold damage.  Extreme cold temps affect different parts of the tree.  A good example would be by observing the damage caused by trees that have had their roots frozen in soil, while the tops are in non-frozen temperatures above ground.  Those tree tops will be damaged by excessive water loss, known as winter burn or drying.

The Polar Vortex pattern that occurred over the past winter will be revealing its damage this coming spring.  You can help your trees and shrubs to recover by feeding and invigorating at the proper times.

Pest and disease pathogens recognize weakness and attack.  Many landscapes are re-planted over and over again, making the same mistakes that caused the decline of the previous plants that failed.

Knowing what goes where and how to properly prepare and adjust a specific landscape site takes a Certified Arborist.  Arbortech can put your landscape dream off on the correct path.


tree burls

Burls are interesting wart like growths that can grow on trunks of trees both above and below ground. The causal factors of Burls in not well known, but is considered by most to be the result of an infection caused by insect, disease or environmental stresses. Many feel this hyper-stimulated cambial growth is a trees method to isolate or contain injury.

tree burls1

Can my tree be harmed by a Burl?

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Many trees with Burls can live for many many years while others may find Burls that interfere with structural concerns and cause trees to break apart.

What can I do if my tree has a Burl?

If you have a Burl on your tree it should be examined by a professional to determine if removal is necessary. Proper tree maintenance can make Burls less of a problem. Burls can be removed if located on prune-able branches or limbs using proper pruning methods.

Usually Burls of size on main trunks would leave too large a wound if removed.

Burl wood is interesting wood to work with and sought after my artists, sculptors, furniture makers, etc. Popular Burl wood can come from Walnut, Buckeye, Redwood, Maple, Bald Cypress and other species.

Burls are somewhat “blinded by the light!”

Burls are among the most interesting, different, mysterious and misunderstood livings things in nature that one may find. Some arborists believe Burls may serve the purpose of isolating or containing an injury, possible a type of compartmentalization.

burl wood slab

Whenever I see a Burl, I always think of the song lyrics from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Blinded by the Light.” The lyrics “Little Earl E Burley” or a Little Hurly Burly, are also mysterious and misunderstood verbalizations used in the song known as “Mondegreens.” (mangled song lyrics misunderstood, misheard, and mispronounced) Interestingly Burls fall into a homogenous category such as a ‘Mondegreen.”

tree burl

I’m sure you have heard the aphorisms, “don’t judge a book by its cover” or beauty is only skin deep.” These saying truly apply to tree Burls. When one first encounters a Burl, their first impression may be one of grossness or blight. When the reality is, hidden under a superficial layer lays a unique and diverse elegance which may only be seen in the complexity of natural living things. The underlying wood that reveals extravagant color and marbling is sought after by many an artist or craftsman.

Although some may interpret Burls as a blemish on life, I see them as one of those truly beautiful treasures that unfortunately may only be seen by those with open minds, that are willing to look past the superficial, and have the ability to recognize diversity as a gift to human kind.

Burls should be a symbol of how our human diversity parallels that of nature and can be so misunderstood and yet so consequential when bringing clarity and harmony to the world. As one views the world today, it becomes obvious that disharmony and unrest come from those who cannot embrace diversity or individuality as it reveals itself as bias towards race, religion, gender, sexual preference or political position.

I say to all of you, “BE AS THE BURL” let beauty be seen by those who have the capacity to recognize it. Sooner than later the true beauty of this world will be seen as one which comes from unity, compassion, understanding and love.


transplant shock

Transplant Shock is a term used to describe a number of stresses that can occur on newly transplanted trees and shrubs.  It pertains to the plant being unable to adapt to or accept its new environment.  It usually involves a plants failure to root well.  

Transplant Shock can cover a wide variety of negative factors that may cause the plants decline.  These factors can start in the nursery and may occur at anytime, for as long as five years or more.  If the wrong tree is planted in the wrong place it will almost eventually suffer from Transplant Shock.

Improper planting practices, improper watering, and improper plant material can all be contributing factors that all cause trees and shrubs to suffer from this.  Simple things such as not removing twine or rope or wire from the root ball or trunk can cause trees to fail.  Dropping trees off trucks and fracturing root balls can cause tree failure.  These types of injuries can take a year to reveal themselves and in most cases takes an experienced Arborist to detect.  Trees planted too high or too low, transporting plants and planting them on days with hot temperatures takes its toll.  Trees and shrubs planted in areas of poor drainage (too wet or too dry) are all contributing factors that may fall under the umbrella of Transplant Shock.

How do I know if my new trees have Transplant Shock?

Wilting, browning, yellowing foliage will be your first observation.  Do not wait too long as many plants can be saved by a simple fix.

What can I do to prevent Transplant Shock?

Call Arbortech before you start your tree and shrub planting for advice on what, where, when and how to make your landscape plan a successful one.



Leaf Scorch can be attributed to both biotic (living) and abiotic (environmental) agents.  Scorch, pollution and excessive moisture may all reveal the same type of damage.

It takes a professional to determine what is happening.  Trees that are not appropriate for their location are more susceptible than others to the damage caused by scorch, heat stress, reflective heat from black-top, exhaust fumes, limited root mass among other factors.

The picture shown can be the result of wrong tree, wrong place, reflective heat from roadway, exhaust fumes and not enough available water to accommodate root mass.

In this case it was the victim of a road construction procedure while paving with equipment that vented hot toxic fumes.

Consult an Arborist that can advise of what tree would work the best in a specific location and what precautions can be taken to protect trees growing in areas that can be subject to stress.

What can be done if my tree suffers from Leaf Scorch?

(1) Don’t panic and start over watering.

(2) Don’t over fertilize.

(3) Call Arbortech for the most appropriate treatment.  Each tree may require a different approach.

(4) Aeration.

Some of the major air pollutants and their primary sources are:

Carbon dioxide:  Burning coal, oil, natural gas

Ozone:  Chemical reactions of sunlight on auto exhaust gasses.

Methane:  Burning fossil fuels.

Chlorofluorocarbons:  Air conditioners, refrigerators.



Tree survival of floods depends on many attributes of the tree, site and flood.  Damage caused by flooding is affected by flood duration, time of year, water quality and water oxygen content, water depth, air and water temperature and the trees stage of life, health and structure.

Oxygen is critical to aerobic life forms, especially trees.  Trees have no circulatory system to carry oxygen to every cell.  Every tree cell must be able to capture oxygen on its own.  The sooner oxygen can be restored to trees that have experienced flood damage the better.  

Flooding changes natural functions of a tree as well as its natural environment.  It takes a professional to determine what and how to deal with trees that have been involved with flooding.  A professional arborist will first access the trees’ survival, structural risks and health conditions.  Decisions will be made regarding how to draw off water, prevent compaction, cover exposed roots, remove sediments, prevent further erosion, begin aeration, test soil, invigorate using proper elements and timing, safety prune, add structural support system and other considerations.

If your trees need help after a flood or if you are planning a landscape that is prone to flooding conditions, you will need the advice and help from Arbortech.

Lightning Damage

lightening tree

Contrary to the old saying, “lightning never strikes twice,” I have seen many trees that have been struck on several occasions.  Usually the tallest of trees are the most vulnerable to lightning strike.  Trees in open groves, on hill tops, close to buildings where wiring and plumbing may enhance ground conductivity are always at the top of the susceptible list.

The most commonly struck trees include Elm, Maple, Oak, Pine, Fir, Tulip, Poplar and Ash.  Interestingly enough trees such as Beech, Birch and Chestnut are less apt to be struck because they have smooth bark which allows them to become thoroughly wet.  Trees that become thoroughly wet are less susceptible because they have a better electricity-conducting surface.

Lightning damage is described as most arborists as being a “direct hit” or “under the influence of,” meaning within the electrical force field.

Damage to any one or group of trees should be determined by a professional arborist as root systems need to be evaluated.  If more than 50 % of the root system appears to be healthy, then proper maintenance procedures should help the tree to recover.  Broken stubs and branches should be removed, bark tracing may be needed and fertilization and hydration may work well.

lightening tree

We have seen many a tree hit with lightning and have an experienced perspective on which trees will survive and which ones won’t.

The picture depicts both trunk branches and root system that can be affected by a lightning strike.  It is a photo created by “light painter”, Darren Pearson (aka Darius Twin).  Very cool. No?

Soil Compaction


Soil Compaction can be one of the most damaging factors in maintaining good healthy trees.  Soil Compaction constrains root growth by acting as a physical barrier to root growth and oxygen movement.  

Heavily traveled areas such as roadways, walking paths, sidewalks, driveways, etc. are all avenues of decline for tree roots to grow and sustain themselves.  Many construction sites can easily have 50 percent greater bulk density than native soils.  Increasing bulk density by one third can cause a tree to lose one half of its root and shoot growth.

In many cases compaction will occur slowly over many years as long as traffic is consistent.

Some helpful tips to lessen compaction damage may include: mulching, soil amendments, deep tillage or subsoiling, core aeration, air spading, vertical mulching and installing aeration stations are just some that help to eliminate the many problems that come from compaction.

Arbortech can help restore your mature trees that are suffering from compaction problems as well as helping create a more desirable environment for your newly planted trees,


© Chris Graham 2013