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shakespearegirl

Is my mulberry dying?

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Hi all!

 

I hope it's ok to post this, as I'm from the US, but I've been searching the internet to find a place that can help me help my tree! Quick background - bought our house 2 years ago, the tree has seemed to be relatively healthy the whole time. I know it to be a fruitless mulberry tree, and is at most approximately 68 years old (assuming it's as old as the house). Recently I had my annual pest inspection, which turned up subterranean termites and drywood termites not too far from the tree (structure in question is just barely out of frame on the left in the picture that shows the whole tree), and I had them look at my tree too. Though they said they weren't experts when it came to trees, they advised that I should have an arborist check it out because they thought it might have termites.

 

I've had 3 arborists out. The first said the tree shows "extensive decay" stemming from improper pruning low on the tree (ie, early on in its life), anything hanging from it must be removed, and the tree should be removed. The second said they saw signs of previous "bug entry," and said the tree probably has 5-15 years tops. The third said there's nothing at all wrong with it, if there was decay that long ago it would be quite deteriorated now, termites don't typically go for trees even if there are spots of dead wood, and fruitless mulberries live to be 150+ and I have nothing to worry about. Mind you, these are all certified arborists, so I would have expected their answers to be the same. But now I'm sat here totally at a loss, not sure if I should spend $5k+ to remove a tree that might actually be just fine. Granted, it'd be easier to landscape if the tree was gone (bye bye awkwardly raised lawn!), but it's a dream to have a house with a full grown tree (not very common here), so it'd be a little heartbreaking to say goodbye to her! Any advice at all is greatly appreciated!

 

 

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They respond well to pruning. You could reduce the canopy quite dramatically and it will come back (do it when not in leaf of course). Gets rid of any falling down issues and you get to keep a tree although smaller.

 

I have just pulled the one in my garden out because I don't want a big tree near my house. It was a big old tree that an 8 ton digger struggled with.

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Usually when a tree is dying its leaves start to get small and pale and the canopy looks thin. It's too early in the year to see yet, but my overall impression is that the tree itself looks pretty healthy.

 

It has clearly been cut back a couple of times before. Once relates to the dead area where you have shown close-ups - my guess would be that the branch died and was cut off, and that whatever killed it also progressed a bit down the trunk, hence the dead area with no bark. However, if you look at the sides of the picture you can see a smooth area of new bark growing which means the tree has killed off whatever the infection was and is now re-growing bark over the top. It will eventually grow completely over that - trimming the dead area up to a smoother shape might allow that to happen a bit faster.

 

The second area is quite a bit higher up on each of the two main branches where you can see a whole load of branches all starting at the same place with several of them very upright. That is a sign that it was cut there before and grew back. You probably don't want to go in that hard again but it shows that it can recover from cutting.

 

If you have insect damage to the heart of the tree, that doesn't really matter so long as it is not carrying so much weight that large branches are likely to snap off. You would need someone to actually inspect it from all angles to be certain on that one. From what you have posted, nothing immediately stands out. The other issue would be severe root damage (physical or fungal) leading to it becoming unstable and blowing over. Again, that would need to be inspected but there is nothing obvious - there is something going on with that thickened base but I am not qualified to comment what it might be - could just be typical of this species. Bear in mind when you have a tree inspected by someone whose main job is working on trees that they are not truly neutral in offering an opinion as whether they get extra work may depend on what they say.

 

The other question is, what would happen if it fell? If it wouldn't hit anything that's a problem beyond a bit of tidying up then you could just leave it. If it might be a problem then reducing it as Peasgood suggests would make that less likely to happen. There appears to be a decent line that it could be reduced to - hard to say exactly from the picture but I would guess it would take about 6-8ft off the top and a bit less off the sides and still look quite natural. It would need doing periodically after that.

 

Alec

 

 

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The thing  bothers me the most  is its a play area, so soil compaction. I would strip grass from around base of tree and mulch it to balance soil moisture throughout growing season. The obvious decay is noted but it ( from image) wouldnt worry me if in my garden. K

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