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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.