August 2018

You may have seen large bumps on the trunks of trees and wondered what they were.  They’re called burls and to some people, they are worth a lot of money! Burls are knotty growths on the outside of trees that when cut open, have beautiful designs.  These growths usually occur when the tree has been under some kind of stress, such as a sickness, an injury, or a fungal infection. The tree’s natural growth patterns are disrupted and they create burls.  This growth is called cambial growth, and burls are formed to protect the rest of the tree from infection.

Burls can form on any kind of tree, but some trees are more susceptible to fungal infections.  High quality burl generally comes from redwood, walnut, cypress, teak, and maple. Burls look ugly, but they don’t hurt the tree.  Burls are covered in protective bark, even when they are underground. While burls aren’t harmful to the tree, some can grow so large and cause further stress to the tree by breaking the tree in half.  

Burls can take up to 30 or 40 years to reach maturity, that is to say, reach the age where the whorls and swirls on the inside of the burl are fully formed.  Burls can be removed from a healthy tree, but it must be done carefully and by a professional. Removing a burl from a tree without care can open a large wound on the tree and expose it to infection and disease.  

Because of their unusual patterns, burls are sought after by artists, car manufacturers, furniture makers, sculptors, and many other fine craftsmen.  The car company, Jaguar, uses walnut burl for the interior of their cars, and they even sponsor a 175 acre planting within the National Forest of the UK.  Walnut burls are extremely rare and grow underground, so you don’t know their worth until you dig up the entire burl.

If you’re interested in selling a burl on your property, measure the burl and take pictures of it from several angles.  A quality burl is covered in good bark with no signs of rot. To get the best deal for your find, contact a local woodturner who will be able to assess the burl and find a seller.  The American Association of Woodturners is a good place to start to find a reputable woodturner.


It’s a scorching summer’s day and out of nowhere a large, heavy branch comes crashing down from one of your trees.  The winds weren’t strong and there wasn’t a storm, so what made this branch fall?

Sudden Branch Drop Syndrome, or Summer Limb Failure, can happen to any tree, but it’s most common in oak, sycamore, elm, ash, beech, and eucalyptus.  The first time a limb falls from your tree can be alarming, but it’s not typically a one and done thing. Other branches can break off as well.

The cause of Sudden Branch Drop Syndrome is not quite clear, but there are some theories as to why this may happen.  One theory is that the tree soaks up too much water during hot summer days and the branches become too heavy for the tree and break off.  Another theory is that it’s caused by bacterial wetwood. Unfortunately, because there is no definitive answer, there is no way to prevent it.  With that being said, there are certain steps you can take to prevent further damage to your trees.

If you happen to see a large branch that has fallen from one of your trees, call an arborist to come out and inspect the tree.  They can safely take care of any dangerous limbs and treat the rest of the tree should there be any infections or pests. A professional arborist can set up a schedule for inspection for the future to make sure the tree is in good health.

Your arborist may suggest you trim the upper canopy of your tree to cut down on humidity, which may cause added moisture on your tree.  You’ll also want to trim any additional branches that may be a hazard should they fall. Be on the lookout for any “bleeding”, or a darker spot on your tree, as this could mean your tree has an excess of water in its branch and could be prone to breakage.

When landscaping under older trees, always use caution.  Don’t place benches or chairs beneath large branches in case of breakage.  The best way to prevent Sudden Branch Drop Syndrome is by properly pruning, watering and mulching your trees, and when anything abnormal appears with your tree, contacting your local arborist to investigate.


If you’ve just removed a tree from your yard, or just have an unsightly stump in your yard, you probably want to remove the stump, but are not sure how.  There are several ways you can get rid of that tree stump once and for all, depending on the type of root system you’re working with.

  1. Digging up the stump.  Start this method by digging around the tree to expose the roots underneath.  You’ll want to dig deep to expose as much of the root system as possible. If it seems like the roots are too deep or too large, another method may work out better.  Expose the roots almost to their tips. Use a root saw to cut up the roots and pull them up out of the ground. Avoid using an axe, as it could shatter. ONce the majority of the roots are pulled up, you should be able to pry up the stump.  Cut any additional roots that may cause the stump to get caught. Don’t forget to fill the hole will sawdust to keep your yard level.
  2. Grinding the stump.  Another method for removing the stump is grinding.  You can rent a stump grinder from your local hardware store, or hire a professional to take care of it for you.  Be sure to wear protective gear if you decide to use the grinder yourself. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and work the machine around the tree to grind up the stump and roots.  Remove the grindings from the area and fill the hole with sawdust.
  3. Burning the stump.  Before you decide to go this route, make sure that it’s legal where you are to burn a stump.  Surround the stump with wood so as the stump is in the center. The stump will take several hours to burn.  It’s important to keep the fire burning large and hot. Once the stump is burnt, remove the ash from the area, and fill the hole with sawdust.
  4. Chemically removing the stump.  Drill several holes in the top of the stump with a large drill bit.  The holes should be spaced evenly apart. Fill the holes with the stump remover.  The powder will make the wood softer and more susceptible to rot. Keep children and pets away from the stump.  Ingesting the powder can be harmful. The stump should be ready to remove in a few weeks. Once it’s ready, use an axe to chop up the stump, and remove pieces as you go.  Once the majority of the stump is removed, burn the remainder of the stump. Remove the ash and fill the hole with sawdust.


However you decide to remove the stump, please practice caution, and when in doubt, hire a professional to get the job done.


Tree root rot is a devastating disease that can kill your trees and plants in a matter of two weeks.  It attacks trees that are growing in very wet or damp soil. The symptoms of root rot are poor growth, wilted leaves, early leave drop, and then death.

Texas root rot, also known as cotton root rot, or Phymatotrichum root rot, is a disease that is common in Mexico and the southern United States. Apple, pecan, and most ornamental trees can be affected by Texas root rot.  

The main cause of root rot is an oversaturation of the roots, either because there is poor drainage or the tree is overwatered.  This prevents the roots from getting enough oxygen, and they begin to decay and rot. Even if the water problem has been taken care of, the rot can still spread to healthy roots.  

If the tree’s root system is already weak, soggy soil can make the tree more susceptible to root rot.  Soil fungus can be living dormant in the soil, and over watering the tree could wake the fungus up. The fungus can then attack the tree roots, causing them to decay and die.  There are several different types of fungi that can cause this rot, such as Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium.

Obviously, it’s hard to diagnose root rot since roots live underground, but there are ways to look for symptoms above ground.  These symptoms include:

  • Wilted, yellow, or small leaves
  • Decline in growth for no apparent reason
  • Thinning of the canopy
  • Cankers or sunken dead areas

It’s better to try to prevent root rot than to try to control rot once it has taken hold of the tree.  Avoid over watering your tree, and make sure the soil drains well. If you catch rot early enough, you can prune the roots that have already been infected.  If it’s too late for one tree, you may have to remove the entire tree to avoid infecting multiple trees in the area. Be sure to disinfect any tools that have been used in the treatment or removal of any infected trees.

If you suspect that one or more of you trees has been infected with root rot, contact your local arborist as soon as possible.