What’s happening to the local dogwood trees?

Published 9:34 pm Friday, October 16, 2015

A local person recently posed the question as to why so many of the dogwood trees around town appear to be dying from the top down. 

On further inspection, it does seem as if their leaves are turning and dropping more quickly than those of other varieties. Some are practically barren of leaves, and do appear dead.

A call to local horticulturist Dan Bryant, owner of Superior Landscape Management, confirmed that many of the dogwoods are demonstrating signs of extreme stress. This makes them that much more susceptible to a fungal disease called anthracnose, which he said has been particularly prevalent across the entire Southeastern U.S. for a number of years.

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He recalls that for a time the Department of Agriculture would not allow shipments of dogwoods from Georgia to Florida without a special permit in an attempt to hold the disease in check. He is not sure if that is still the case.

Bryant said dogwoods fare best when grown in the shade rather than in full sun, and long periods of drought puts them under stress, making them more susceptible to diseases.

Treatment is available, according to Bryant, using a combination of cultural and chemical treatments. Applying fungicides in the spring, if caught early enough when the black blotches are first noticed on the leaves and before the tree reaches a stage where the branches are dying back. This is said to be effective, but also expensive.

It is recommended that in addition to spraying the trees early in the spring, air flow around the tree be improved by removing crowded ground vegetation and raking and removing dead and fallen leaves and dead branches from the ground.

Trees that are fertilized and that receive adequate and regular water are more likely to resist disease. Care should also be given to avoid cutting or bruising the lower base of the trunk with trimmers or lawn mowers. Such cuts allow a variety of diseases and damaging insects to enter.