I have a young oak (around 3 years old) in our front yard that for the 2nd year hasn't had any leaves at the top and is drooping a little bit. Right below, it is very lush and the dead area doesn't seem to be spreading any further down (that I've noticed). The last two springs I've tried those tree fertilizer stakes and haven't see any improvement. There's also a fungus of some sort growing on it, but I think I've seen that on lots of trees.
Any advice? Should I cut the dead part off of the top? Will that cause it to grow in a weird direction? Is the tree a lost cause?
Thanks, Jason B.
This tree is struggling. There may be an internal infection or it has simply failed to properly establish (send out roots into the surrounding soil). It could have something to do with how it was planted or damage done to the roots at the time of planting. Hard to say.
It’s good that the tree is not getting any worse. Do prune off anything that is dead. This is important to the health of your tree and it will not change how it grows. That happened when the top died back.
The tree may be okay in the long run. If it survives it will grow out well despite the damage. But, this tree is not healthy overall, and may stay stunted or decline rather than improve. There’s not much you can do to help it. Continue to fertilize every year in February with tree fertilizer or fertilizer spikes. But, recovery is mostly up to the tree.
The growth on the trunk is lichens. These organisms are not parasites and are not directly hurting the oak. But, the heavy growth of lichens on the trunk is another sign that the tree is in low vigor and not doing well.
Do remove the thin stake and any bindings still around the trunk. This should have been removed a long time ago.
Consumer Horticulture Specialist
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture