River Birch Trees Dying!


Old 06-04-12, 10:23 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4
River Birch Trees Dying!

Hi all,

I signed up to this site with hopes for some enlightenment on a situation with my river birch trees. I live in the Shreveport, Louisiana area, and I have 3 river birch trees in my backyard that range in age from 12-14 years. Up until this spring, they have all been healthy and continuously growing. However, at the beginning of this spring season, the two oldest trees did not fully bud out and about 1/3 to 1/2 of each tree is dead. Whole limbs on each tree seem to have died. The youngest tree seems to be fine.

Last summer (2011) was extremely dry and many trees in this area have died. However, these trees received water from our sprinkler system throughout that summer and did not seem to be dying during this period.

Also of note is that many other river birches in the area have either wholly died or large sections of them have died. A picture of how these trees now look is attached.

Do you think these trees have been affected by the drought and branches have died off, or perhaps have they acquired some sort of disease or parasite? And what should I do to make sure they don't completely die?

Any insight is very appreciated!!


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Old 06-04-12, 11:26 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 18,591
I can't see the leaves in your pictures. Can you describe how the leaves look or provide a picture?

Have you researched leaf blight?
Old 06-08-12, 09:26 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4
Thanks for your reply! I have read into leaf blight, and to me it seemed that this wasn't the cause because, from what I've read, leaf blight doesn't cause the leaves to drop until late in the summer. These trees simply didn't fully bud out in the spring and as it stands now, leaves don't seem to be excessively dropping. Large limbs of trees just seem to have died. A positive note is that no other limbs seem to have died recently.

I have attached a picture of the leaves on one of the trees and another picture showing a large dead limb looking up from the base of the tree. From the picture of the leaves, they don't seem to show an apparent signs of leaf blight as it was described from what I've read.

Thanks for your interest in this thread!

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Old 06-11-12, 02:54 AM
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: France
Posts: 16
Hi there

I will boldly suggest that you are over-watering if anything, unless your soil is *really* dry, river birches really don't need that much water. During droughts, once per week, a slow trickle from your garden hose for 30-40 minutes is generally as often as you need to water.

I have a clump River Birch in my yard also, it's fairly young (about 7' tall and 6' spread), and it has leafed out, but that does not mean yours should be leafed out 100% yet. Give it some time, add a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of the tree (underneath the mulch), as that might help push some new growth, but don't over-do it because too much fertilizer is not good.
Old 06-11-12, 01:14 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4
Hi, thanks four your reply. I really don't think its watered too much, as we only set the sprinkler once or twice a week back there. Also, A LOT (probably the majority) of river birch trees in my area are either partially dying or completely dead...young and old alike. That's why I am concerned that the extreme drought in the area last year contributed in some way, or there is some strange disease in the area.

Once again, thanks for your reply.
Old 06-11-12, 01:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 2,542
We've lost a large number of birch in my area (Sudbury Ontario Canada). We had a bug in the area that was killing them off. Only lasted a couple years. The ones that survived, are still around and growing again.
My parents lost almost every birch on their property.

I'm not sure what the bug was called, but I can say they where little green monsters (same color as the leaves).

Looked like this guy.
Old 06-15-12, 03:48 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4
I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for something like those. I really hope these trees don't die! Here's hoping for the best...
Old 05-28-13, 01:28 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 1
River Birches

There is a lag, normally, between when a tree is "shorted" on water and when the damage for that shows. Roots die due to lack of water and the larger above-ground part of the tree becomes a liability come spring. If it is not an insect gall or virus, it is probably either root damage from last year manifesting as insufficient water-gathering ability for the leaves this spring OR it can indicate contamination of below-grade water sources. If someone flushed Roud-up into a storm drain and the storm water system leaches into surrounding soil due to age or if there is ground-water contamination as a result of aquifer depletion or fracking for fuel in the area, the river birch can be sensitive to this. They are also big on feeding on any septic systems in the area, so if a company came through and added a "cleaner" to people's septic tanks after pumping them, it may have worked by burning off tree roots that were blocking the septic systems - these roots and the moisture from the septic field could have been a major water source for the trees and their loss would result in an equivalent loss from the canopy of the tree. River birches are not the longest-lived trees, either, and many of them do fail after as little as 14-15 years. They could have root girdling caused by the original plant supplier, could be damaged by something used on or done to nearby paving - many things.

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