Sassafras Trees
Q.

sassafras tree loosing bark at the base

Zone 72560 | Anonymous added on June 13, 2019 | Answered

this sassafras tree has been here since the mid 70's with lilies planted around it, in a small flower bed. We noticed it is losing bark around the base and the top, which is taller than we thought, and is showing signs of possible death. What is the best thing to do to repair or stave off any further damage? I have no way to show you pictures as I don't know how to do that on this computer....Sorry

A.
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Downtoearthdigs
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on June 14, 2019

I suspect that the die-back in the top and loss of bark is related to water management, too much or too little. Too much water, which could be the result of irrigating the other plantings, could cause root and crown rot (fungal disease of the roots and root crown at the base of the tree). Therefore the roots cannot take up water and nutrients and the tree declines.

The other water management scenario would be water deficit and drought stress causing the dieback. Water deficit alone can cause decline, but it can also predispose the tree to beetle-borer infestation.

Sassafras trees are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a soil borne fungus disease. But if that were the case you would have noticed a slow decline and dieback, one branch at a time over a period of at least two or three years.

If bark is peeling off extensively and there is no green or minimal green foliage, the tree may be dead or dying. If that is the case you need to consider the risk of structural failure, property damage or personal injury.

Without photos or more information on the growing conditions, your soil and water management program, it's hard to give a definitive diagnosis. I hope this general information on possibilities helps. It may be wise to request a consultation from a university agricultural extension advisor if available, or an independent consulting arborist, or a tree service certified arborist. Especially if the tree is large and a potential risk for property and persons if it were to break up and fall.

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