Issue: October 21, 2000

"Odd" branches on Raywood ash tree


Approximately 3 years ago we planted a Raywood ash. The tree seemed to grow normally the first two years, but this year it did not leaf out until late spring or early summer. The leaves are very sparse and there are lots of bare branches. Several weeks ago we noticed that one of the branches appeared to be totally different from the others, and the leaves are not those of an ash tree. They are much larger and lighter in color. The branch and the leaves have grown rapidly, and we noticed another branch is beginning to have the same appearance. Should we remove the "odd" branches, and what could be the problem with the tree? Artesia, NM


It sounds like there could be several problems involved here. First, the delayed production of leaves could be due to the drought that you are experiencing. Your fall and winter were very dry. Trees do need moisture through the winter, though not as much as during the growing season. Did you irrigate the tree last winter? If so, did you irrigate properly? Since this tree has been in place for three years, it was beginning to develop roots beyond the planting hole. Did you irrigate only at the base of the trunk, or did you moisten the soil out to the "drip line" of this tree? Did you irrigate deeply to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 2 to 3 feet? Did you irrigate once a month?

Did you use any weed killers the previous summer or this spring? Damage to the tree from weed killers can also cause the symptoms you have described. If you did, then time and lots of water should help the tree recover if it is possible for it to recover (that depends on the herbicide used and the amount used).

Are the "odd" branches developing at the base of the tree? Could they be developing below the graft union? It is common to graft ornamental trees on a seedling rootstock to obtain the desired variety in the upper part of the tree. The rootstock would be an ash, but probably another species of ash with different leaf characteristics.

It may be that you are just seeing a "water sprout" developing. A water sprout is an exceptionally vigorous shoot that develops after severe pruning or injury to the other branches.

If this is a water sprout, leave it. If it is a branch developing below the graft union, remove it. If the tree is severely damaged, it may be best to remove the entire tree.

Contact your Extension County agent to help you determine which of the conditions described is the appropriate explanation for your tree.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

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