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Problems With A Sweet Gum Tree

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Question:

We have a very large sweet gum tree. A large area of bark has come off the tree and a lot of the roots are exposed. Is this tree dying from the loss of bark? How can I cover up the roots? The roots have ruined my front yard.

Margie

Answer:

Hi Margie,

Sorry to hear about your Sweet Gum tree. The outer layer of bark on a tree functions to protect the living layers that lie just beneath it. This means that any damage sustained to the trunk that results in a substantial loss of bark will certainly have an effect on the performance of the tree. Bark loss that extends all the way around the girth of the tree spells certain death. A large loss limited to one side of the tree may only affect that side of the tree in the same way an amputation would. I would recommend calling a professional tree service to schedule an onsite inspection. They will be able to assess your situation and give you a good idea of your tree's chances for survival.

Much of the root system of a Sweet Gum tree is shallow (just beneath the surface of the soil. As the tree gets older, the roots become larger around in size and start to push up through the soil. Over time, these exposed roots can lift sidewalks, interfere with mowing, and create a tripping hazard in the yard.

Most tree experts would advise you to NOT cover the exposed roots of your tree with soil. This is because the addition of soil will change drainage patterns around the tree's root zone, thereby changing the way oxygen and water are distributed to the roots. Sudden or severe changes in oxygen availability can spell disaster (even death) to your tree, and given that it may already be in trouble, it's not worth taking the chance. Cutting the roots can have a similar disastrous affect. There is no way to know how much of the root system that tree can afford to lose without adversely affecting it. Any wounds you make in the bark can also create a road in for insects and disease.

A better solution may be to plant an interesting ground cover nearby that will spread and grow over the roots. A coarse mulch like woodchips may also allow enough air and water to penetrate to the root zone, but again, a professional will be able to better advise you after an onsite visit.

Good luck!

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By Bob James09/28/2008

I transplanted a 12" sweet gum from South Carolina to my yard in North Texas July 2006. It has really struggled apparently. It gets plenty of water and yet the tree is only about 38 inches tall in September of 2008. There was more vertical growth this year than ever but it still seems much too slow of growth compared to what I have seen others do. I have added an acidic mulch to moderate our naturally alkaline soils and feed it with a Miracle Gro solution approximately 3 months. Spring growth activity is strong, but late summer leaves appear burnt on edges and increased water frequency does not stimulate. Any help would be appreciated. Bob in Texas - just north of Fort Worth

By Maeve (Guest Post)05/13/2008

Can you tell me how to stop the "sprouts" that shoot up from the taproots, so many of them. I have to cut them off every day almost, or my yard would have a big covering of them . They are easy enough to snip off, but I am getting very disheartened by how they look. A tree company fed the tree, pruned it bur these sprouts continue all the time. Would really appreciate your opinion and advice. Thank you very much. Maeve

By Chris Fort05/10/2008

This is off topic, but I did not see how to ask a new question.
I have a 10 foot volunteer sweet gum in my yard. Should
I pinch off the suckers in the trunk to promote growth or leave them alone?

Chris

By Sharyl [12]03/26/2008

I would be very careful - out here some species of gum are called widow makers because they have a habit of dropping branches without warning especially in the dry or drought conditions

By LuvMyGingerKids [45]03/25/2008

I would call a tree surgeon and ask them.

Questions

Here are questions related to Problems With A Sweet Gum Tree.

Question: Branch Die-off and Thinner Leaves on Sweet Gum Tree

I have two sweet gum trees in my yard about 75 feet apart. This past year, the leaves have not been as dense, and one of the trees had 4-5 large branches die off. I had them removed, and some of the inner wood was blackened. No insect tunnels were noted. This tree is in a rather wet part of the yard except in July-August when we have very hot dry weather. The other is well drained with no limb loss. One non-arborist tree guy suggested carpenter ants, but there is no wood damage or saw dust. What is happening to my trees and what can I do about it? Thanks!

By Brenda L.

Question: Branches Falling Off Sweet Gum Tree

I have a gum tree in my front yard. Several large branches have fallen off. When I look at the flesh where it has broken off, it is nice and white and shows no sign of disease or being struck by lightening. Now today, another big branch is hanging. The tree looks fine, but I have no idea why these huge branches are falling off. I had to cut the branch up with a chain saw it was so big. What do you think could be causing this?

By Fonda L


Most Recent Answer

By Linda [37]07/11/2011

We finally got rid of the sweet gum tree in our yard. I think it was about 30 years old and such a pain in the. My husband hated it from day one (we've been in the house 2 years now) and finally paid to have it cut down. It was a beautiful shade tree but the sweet gum balls and leaves were just too much! I hope you can save you tree if you want to, but I can't imagine wanting to. Google sweet gum tree and see what people say about this particular pain!

Question: Concerns With Sweet Gum Tree

I have what I believe is a sweet gum tree in the front yard. It is July and all of the leaves have turned red. Photo of tree with red leaves I know this is normal for the fall, but as I said it is July. There is noticeable moss on the bark and a light green flaking moss (?) on most of the branches and it appears to be missing spots of bark on many of the branches. Closeup of gray lichen While taking the pictures I also noticed a lot of ant activity and some small holes around the trunk. Is this tree dying? Is there anything I can do? I have included a few pictures. One photo is the tree turning red, one is a look at one of the branches and the last is a closeup of the "mildew" or moss? upward shot of tree branch, too far away to see much. Some bark missing.

Thanks for the input!

By Ryan


Most Recent Answer

By Linda [37]07/11/2011

We finally got rid of the sweet gum tree in our yard. I think it was about 30 years old and such a pain in the. My husband hated it from day one (we've been in the house 2 years now) and finally paid to have it cut down. It was a beautiful shade tree but the sweet gum balls and leaves were just too much! I hope you can save your tree if you want to, but I can't imagine wanting to. Google sweet gum tree and see what people say about this particular pain!

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