Botanical Reboot

The drought of 2016 was rough. We lost many trees and shrubs, and we are still seeing damage as a result of stress even though we have had good rainfall this year. Many trees have dead limbs, and in our storms we have lots of dead limbs coming down.

Some trees respond to stress by starting over from the roots when the top is damaged. This twenty year old umbrella magnolia has about 50% top death this year, and I am picking up lots of limbs after they fall. Also, notice that she is throwing a sprout from the base. This reboot, if you will, is a little self-insurance program in case the top continues to die. Walk in the woods and you can spot these restarted trees often.

My dilemma is whether to cut this magnolia to its base and allow this new sprout a fresh start, or to nurse this damaged tree along as she continues malingering. Any action will have to take place early next spring during active growth. Any pruning of live wood before then would be entirely too much stress on this already stressed tree.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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