Cherry Tree – Rotten Trunk

Q: We just bought a nice house in Marietta. This little tree is right out front and will offer great shade if its not too late to save it from whatever is eating it to death.

I don’t know what kind of tree it is or what the problem is. Can you help?

A: The tree looks like a flowering cherry to me.

My guess is that when it was young the lower bark was damaged in some way. Maybe a lawnmower hit it hard or a string trimmer removed the bark or a root was carelessly chopped off. In any case, the damage wasn’t severe enough to kill the tree but the wound never healed completely. The rolled bark on either side of the rotten area tells me that the tree tried to close over the wound…but it wasn’t successful.

As a result, the interior sapwood began to decay, ably assisted by local termites and borers.

What does that mean? It means the trunk is severely weakened at a point close to the ground. Even though sufficient nutrients are getting to the upper part of the tree now, the interior is slowly rotting away.

You can’t stop this rotting. No insecticide or sealing compound will help. Eventually the lower trunk will be so weakened that the tree will fall over. Since the damage is on the side away from the street, the fall will likely be *toward* the street…and toward that nice car I see parked nearby. The big limb on the tree will make a nice crease in the top of the car.

What to do now? You can choose to gamble and leave the tree in place for a while…but there is no way to determine when it will fail. Leaves coming on it this spring make it more susceptible to strong wind, plus they add weight on the limbs.

My advice is to remove the tree, grind the stump and plant another fast-growing shade tree in its place.

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