Even Trees Get Sick: How To Be A Tree M.D. To Keep Your Trees Healthy

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Disease, for many, is a scary topic to think about, but few people associate infection with plant life. Surprisingly, trees get sick just like humans and animals do. While tree disease and death is a normal aspect of a forest ecosystem and contributes to the regeneration of plant life, some tree diseases can take epidemic proportions and cause great harm.

Common Causes of Tree Disease

Tree diseases are often specific to a particular region and can have different causes, such as bacteria or fungi, but geographical location, weather, soil condition, and the health of surrounding plants also play a important role. A disease doesn’t have to kill the tree if it is caught early enough.

The Worst Tree Diseases

There are many varieties of tree infection, but four are particularly threatening. Canker disease in pine, poplar, spruce, and willow trees closely resembles canker sores in humans and results from an infection in an open wound on the tree. Another disease caused by open wounds is heart rot disease, which affects deciduous trees such as beech, birch, cedar, dogwood, and maple trees. In root and butt rot disease, a black, leathery fungus grows on the roots and base of a tree’s trunk. Verticillium wilt disease is an especially dangerous tree infection common to catalpa, elm, maple, and stone fruit trees. This disease attacks the tree at the root and is highly contagious.

Benefits of Tree Death

While it is possible to prevent these diseases from killing a tree, some tree death is vital in a healthy ecosystem. When a tree dies, it creates a gap in the canopy, allowing more sunlight to shine to the ground and revitalize other species. Tree death also allows for increased species diversity, which helps to limit the damage done by a single type of infection. Trees are an integral part of the earth’s ecosystem and face many threats, including epidemics of disease and deforestation.

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