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Ficus tree dead or dieing?

Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:50 am
by freshbreeze
I have a problem with one of my ficus trees. There are two on the property each on one side of fence gate. One is thriving and flourishing. The other is NOT. Its lost all its leaves. quickly i might add. lost them all in a 2 week timeline

I'm curious if what ever killed it will kill the other?

what made it die, anyone know? or way to find out?

is it dead? might it come back? how do i check?

both trees are about 20ft tall. both have had some of the bark stripped from my goats (they like to eat it). Both have had manure composted around it to make the ground higher. The roots are very shallow. Both had hurricane damage 2 years ago, where i had to remove broken branches. both are home to various squirrels, and iguanas. I don't know if any of this info is important but i just don't understand why one is looking so great while the other isn't.

thanks for any help.


Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 3:10 am
by freshbreeze
nobody has any idea? it would be appreciated i would like to save this ficus. if i can.

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:23 am
by Roger
Hi there. I've not had much experience with a Ficus, so I'm not familiar with their particulars. I do know for an established tree or shrub to be denuded of leaves in as short as two weeks, I would suspect some kind of outside interferance. Especially if another cultivar was within a couple dozen feet and had no apparent problems.

My first guess would be root damage. Any major excavating around the tree would have been evident to you though, so that probably isn't the case.

I assume there is no sign of a heavy insect infestation on the tree?

You mentioned goats eating the bark on them: is there a place on the leafless one where the bark has been removed all the way around its trunk? In trees, generally if the trunk is 'ringed' deeply in this way, then leaves can not send their food to the roots, water and nutrients can't travel upwards, and the tree will usually die. This could also happen if there is a deep enough wound on the trunk that even doesn't go all the way around the trunk.

Something may have contaminated the soil near that location, or the plants foilage. If it were near a road, I would suspect some kind of spray from county or city cleaning the roadside might have drifted to your property. Anything similiar would affect plants, but a 20 foot tall tree would take some very strong herbicide to be so totally affected. Could the roots have invaded an ammonia heavy septic system?

Would any of these 'general suspects' apply to your case as a possible cause?

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:00 pm
by freshbreeze
Thank you Roger. You did help me. i had a thought based on what you said.

This tree is closest to my cold compost pile. Although its over 20 feet away and down slope from the tree in a depressed part of the property. I have at times thrown shavings and urine, mixed with the manure to compost there.

I've done this 3 other times never having the trees around it die. Actually the opposite. The two palm trees i have near older piles are thriving. So i figure the ficus is more susceptible. (which i find odd, these trees from what I'm researching are hardy)....

So i wonder if that might be the problem. Though both compost and tree have been near each other for 4 years, this is the first year we have had such a drought. The trees sit not 6 ft from a canal too. Which is really low. and both the canal and the manure pile can cause ammonia type sendoffs. Too many fish in a too low canal? and too much urine in my compost might have done it. not enough rain to even it out. and this might be a cause. I guess i'll never truly know if i was part of the problem. ugh! This tree and its sister were magnificant. Now its lopsided. this is very frustrating.

The bark is not eaten all way around. Just in patches.

I visually could not find any bugs or indication of any.

It just doesn't explain the other tree being healthy.

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 11:01 am
by Roger
Hi again! I would doubt runoff from a compost pile would have hurt the tree, it's not concentrated like in a septic system. Likewise the canal. For that matter, trees around the fill lines here seem to be the greenest and strongest plants. I doubt whatever happened was your fault :)

If there is a really strong drought affecting the area, maybe that is the culprit - for whatever reason, one of the trees may have had access to the watertable and the other did not. Maybe one of them has deeper roots than the other. Several extremely heavy soakings near the base of the tree may be just what it needs in that case?

As long as you can't easily break off small sized branches, if their is some 'spring' to them when you bend them, there could be some kind of vigor left in the tree. You could leave it and see if it bounces back later in the season or next spring before replacing it. Maybe whatever affected it just sent it dormant instead of killing it.

Here's hoping it is just taking a nap because of the drought, and good luck!