P71223P71223+What is killing the box elders? (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/what-is-killing-the-box-elders/) I still do not know. I know that does not sound like much of an update. All I can share is some pictures of secondary symptoms observed now that the affected trees are deteriorating.

The two pictures above, although not relevant to any symptoms, are important to our Community because the historic Felton Covered Bridge just got a new roof! (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/felton-covered-bridge/) Dead box elders that are already starting to destabilize and collapse are now leaning onto the edge of the new shingles! They really need to be removed before winter storms move them around, and they dislodge any shingles.

The first of the two pictures below show basidiocarps associated with fungal decay of the trunks and roots. This decay destabilized and compromised the structural integrity of the necrotic trees with remarkably efficiency. The trees died only last spring, and are already collapsing! The second of the two pictures below simply shows decaying bark peeling from a necrotic trunk.P71223++P71223+++

This all happened so suddenly. Like SODS (Sudden Oak Death Syndrome) it is likely to be misdiagnosed a few times before the primary pathogen is actually identified. Also like SODS, it may be ignored as an isolated situation affecting a few trees that are not very popular anyway. When SODS first started killing a few of the unpopular tanoaks, it did not seem like much of a problem. It did not get much attention until it started taking out majestic coast live oaks that had been healthy for centuries.

The two pictures below show a cross section of a necrotic trunk that needed to be cleared from a bridle trail. Galleries have been excavated by the larvae of unidentified boring insects. The second picture is merely a closeup of the first.P71223++++P71223+++++


16 thoughts on “Dead Box Elder Update

  1. Now I am with you. We call the Elder tree Holunder in German and I am more acquainted with this name. Especially because of the berries from which we make Elderberry syrup which I quite like. I suppose you would also make wine, but as I am TT I don’t drink it.

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    1. Actually, the box elder is a type of maple, Acer negundo. It is a rather trashy maple that does not last long. Most people do not know that it is a maple because it had palmately compound leaves. (They are trifoliately compound leaves, but the two side leaflets are not bisymmetrical.) There are elderberries in the same area, and I am trying to get some established in my garden because I like the berries. My elderberry jelly has won second place in the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival every year for the past few years, except last year. It is not a happy topic, but I wrote an article about it (Blue Ribbon). Our Elderberries are a native ‘blue elderberry’. They are supposedly not as good as those from Europe or Eastern North American, but I keep wining second place . . . except. . . well anyway.

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  2. It’s always sad when trees start dying off. My Cape Chestnut, (Calodendron capense), is not happy and I’m not sure if it because of lack of water because of the drought, or if it’s being crowded by the New Zealand Christmas tree,(Metrosideros excelsa), which is next to it.

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    1. In the forest, I do not mind losing trees that die a natural death. However, when my big black oak blew down, I was very sad! It was such an excellent specimen. When I lived in town, EVERY tree was such an important part of the landscape that I could not bear to lose any of them. After I moved away, one of the coast live oaks was cut down, and it was very sad to see!

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    1. Whatever it is, it should not kill the entire specie. Even when the Dutch elm disease moved through, it left a few survivors who were cultivated as resistant cultivars, and bred into modern garden cultivars. Even SODS did not kill all of the coast live oaks.

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      1. Without knowing what the pathogen is, it is impossible to determine any ratio of resistance. I mean, we could count how many trees succumbed and how many trees survived within our limited population, but it would represent the entire specie. Those who know the tree tell me to not worry about it, that this sort of thing happens sometimes. I just do not trust it after what happened with the Phytophthora ramorum (SODS).


  3. Every year there seem to be new plant pathogens to worry about. The biggest cause of tree death in my garden is the dreaded honey fungus, Armillaria. My garden was an orchard for several hundred years and it is everywhere.

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    1. We have Armillaria mellea, which is quite serious, but is also naturally occurring. Exotic pathogens are circulating at an alarming rate with so much biomass circulated around the world!


  4. We have Acer negundo here in South Western Ontario but we call them Manitoba Maple.
    They are apparently not native to this area but I think this may be disputed. We (we at Devon Acres Farm anyway) consider them great trees. For several reasons. They grow easily and quickly, can be utterly neglected and still do well. They can be cut back right to the ground and will send up dozens of new shoots and eventually there may be 5 or 6 good sized trees from that one old trunk. They make great firewood, in our opinion anyway. As firewood it is light and fast burning perhaps, but your firewood trees regenerate on their own and grow fast. It splits easily too once dried a season. There is a type of shelf fungus that grows only on the Manitoba Maple, it is edible and can get quite large. No idea what it is called. They seem to be really popular with a tiny green inch worm and of course the box elder beetle. We really do like our Acer negundos. I wonder if there is much difference or any difference between our trees and yours in California. – Robin.

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    1. Acer negundo has a huge range that extends over most of North America. Although the range is not continuous, Acer negundo might be present in every State except for only Hawaii and perhaps Alaska. It is amazing that such a seemingly weak tree can live in so many diverse climates, from very cold winter climates to tropical highlands in Central America. They are unpopular here because they are so weak and take up space where other trees could live. They are used for firewood here as well, and although not the best, they are quite productive. (We grew poplars for firewood just because they replace themselves so readily. I did not care that it was not the best wood or that it had to be used within the same year. Once you know how to use it, it works just fine.) While in Oklahoma, I found that box elder were unpopular there as well.. However, I though it odd that once removed, they would often be replaced with cottonwoods or willows for firewood. I can not imagine either of those trees being any better than Acer negundo.


  5. Oh and I forgot to mention that there does not seem to be anything affecting our Acer negundo population. The odd one will just up and die but an immediate neighbour will be totally unaffected. There is a disease of oaks here colloquially known as Oak dieback disease, no idea what the scientific name is but I suspect it might be fungal as it is apparently spread by roots from one tree to the next.

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    1. As you know, Acer negundo often just die without warning. That is to be expected. The problem is that such a large group of them died at the same time! That is scary.


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