Diagnosing Tree Problems

Here is the expert's plan for the best way to diagnose tricky tree problems.

November 26, 2010

1. Be sure the problem have been diagnosed correctly. "As with human health, it's a good idea to get a second opinion," says Michael Matheron, Ph.D., extension plant pathologist at the University of Arizona. Call your local county extension agent for advice or go to the Web site of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), www.treesaregood.com, to find an ISA-certified arborist in your area.

2. For an accurate diagnosis, ask your local extension agent or arborist to inspect your tree in person. If that's not possible, show them several samples and/or photos of the problem and give a very specific description, says Dr. Matheron. Prepare yourself for these questions:

  • How old is the tree?
  • When did you first notice the problem?
  • Was the tree physically injured by animal or human activity (e.g., with a shovel)?
  • Did any construction occur near the tree and its root system?
  • Do the roots look healthy or diseased?
  • Where are the problems occurring on the tree (on the trunk, stems, leaves, roots)?
  • Did you or a neighbor recently apply a pesticide, herbicide, or fertilizer near the tree?

Your arborist or extension agent will probably ask many more questions.

3. Remember after they have diagnosed the tree to ask for an organic solution!