Dogwood Blight & Why Dogwoods Have Been Dying in the South

When you’ve worked hard to maintain your landscape, few sights are as sad to see as a failing tree. The death of a dogwood can be especially heartbreaking. Native to the eastern U.S., these ornamental trees produce beautiful springtime blooms when they’re healthy. But the species is also susceptible to a common condition known as dogwood blight.

If your tree is suffering, don’t lose hope. There’s a chance the plight of dogwood blight can be reversed — here’s what you need to know.

What Is Dogwood Blight?

Officially known as anthracnose, dogwood blight is a fungal disease that was first discovered in the late 1970s in the Northeast. While the exact origins are unknown, researchers suspected climate-related factors like droughts made the earliest affected dogwoods susceptible to the infection. The condition spread rapidly, taking hold all throughout Appalachia and killing a significant portion of the dogwood population in its path. Today, it remains especially prevalent in the South.

Anthracnose attacks leaves, including those that have fallen, but it can also infect the branches and trunk of a dogwood. While some species appear to be more resistant to the fungus, they can still incur damage when infected. One of the most notorious signs of the condition is leaf damage, including yellowing, curling leaves, and brown spots. Left untreated, dogwood blight can also affect the long-term health of the entire tree.

Unfortunately, anthracnose spreads easily since the fungi’s spores can be carried by the wind to new leaves. Because it may be impossible to avoid the infection altogether, the best approaches are to strengthen your dogwood’s resistance and to treat them quickly if signs of an issue do emerge.

How to Protect Your Trees Against Dogwood Blight

Avoid Overwatering.

Most established dogwoods don’t need to be watered regularly unless there’s a severe drought. Though newly-planted dogwoods will need extra water to thrive, overwatering could create a breeding ground for the fungus that causes anthracnose. In general, watering to a depth of about six inches once per week should promote healthy growth.

Prevent Damage.

Dogwoods that are in good health are better able to fight off infection. Avoid stressing your tree by keeping a safe distance when mowing and using other yard tools. Consider mulching around the tree’s base to prevent weed growth and to help keep the surrounding soil nourished.

Remove Affected Leaves.

If you begin to notice discolored or curling leaves on your dogwood, remove them promptly to contain the spread. Similarly, rake up any leaves soon after they’ve fallen, since the fungus can continue to live and migrate from the ground.

Apply a Fungicide.

Leaves affected by anthracnose can’t be remedied, but you can apply a fungicide in attempt to salvage the rest of the tree. Unfortunately, a fungicide will only work for the next growth cycle. That means if the infection takes hold in summer, you’ll still have to wait until the following spring to apply a treatment. Typically, fungicide treatments should be initiated starting at bud break and may need to be administered at routine intervals.

Speak With a Certified Arborist at Premier Tree Solutions

Whether it’s dogwood blight or another condition that’s keeping your trees from looking their best, our arborists can diagnose the issue and present the best options for your property. For a free estimate, send us a message or call (404) 252-6448.

How to Manage Tree Heat Stress in Summer

Excessive heat can be stress-inducing for anyone. And while they may not have the level of consciousness we do, your trees can feel the effects of scorching summer in their own ways (though some argue that they’re sentient beings, too).

Most mature trees will survive high temperatures, but if you have young plants or the weather is especially brutal, here’s what you can do to help them handle heat stress.

What Are the Signs of Heat Stress on Trees?

In excessively high temperatures, periods of drought, or both, vulnerable trees may begin to exhibit signs of heat stress. In some cases, they’ll enter an unusual phase of summer dormancy to protect themselves by dropping their leaves. Rarely, trees may grow weak and become susceptible to pest infestations or diseases. Before that happens, however, there are usually signs that they could use a little extra help, including:

  • Reduced growth
  • Wilting or dead leaves
  • Premature blooming or fruit drop

Should you notice these signs of heat stress on trees in your yard, you’ll want to act quickly to prevent further damage.

How to Beat Tree Heat Stress

Pause the Pruning

While summertime pruning might be safe under some circumstances, you’ll want to avoid making any cuts on a tree experiencing heat stress. The last thing a vulnerable tree needs is additional trauma from any new cuts. We therefore advise against any trimming unless your tree is posing a hazard to your property — in which case you’ll want to call us for prompt tree removal.

Soak the Soil

Extreme heat will pose the greatest risk for both the oldest and youngest trees on your property, so focus your watering efforts on these in particular. Because water loss doubles for every 18-degree increase starting at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, your trees will lose moisture rapidly in high temperatures. Even the mid-90s can impede photosynthesis, but the greatest risks of damage emerge at 115 degrees.

Lend your trees a helping hand by replenishing the moisture they’re losing through accelerated transpiration. Water deeply at their roots about once a week, to the point that you’d be able to easily insert a screwdriver into the soil. Allow full drainage before you water again since soggy soil can introduce issues like fungi.

Embrace Shade

While sunlight is essential to tree health, too much direct sun can be damaging for young saplings. Ideally, your landscape will be laid out to strategically offer some shade for newly planted trees or shrubs. But if that isn’t the case, you can still set up temporary protection for cooling relief. Try a beach umbrella, bedsheets, or even cardboard in a pinch. Situate your shade so there’s still plenty of space for airflow.

Mind Your Mulch

Spring is ideal for mulching since it supports plants during their growth phase. If you haven’t gotten around to it this year (or if your mulch has eroded from high winds or rains), it’s a good idea to protect your tree’s base with a fresh layer now. Aim for a depth of three inches, which will help to lock in hydration at the roots, but leave a small space around the bark to keep pests and fungus at bay.

Schedule an Assessment With Premier Tree Solutions

From heat stress to pests and disease, there are lots of issues that can affect your trees’ health. If you have a tree that’s looking worse for wear, allow our specialists to assess its condition and offer a solution. Contact us for a free estimate by calling (404) 252-6448 or by sending us a message.