As Virginia is in a somewhat strange place in the United States, it is one of the few places that gets all four seasons and a considerable amount of rain. Even better, the warmer summer months are humid, creating a perfect breeding ground for diseases of all kinds on trees.

Trees are living, functioning pieces of our yards. While we tend to take them for granted, they can get sick just like we do. A sick tree is a dangerous thing because it can increase the risk of it falling or losing heavy limbs. Even worse, it can infect other living things in your yard. The best thing to do is continually check your trees for signs of diseases or infestations.

Take a look at the signs and causes of these common tree diseases in Lynchburg:

5. Sudden Oak Death

  • Clusters of leaves that die at the same time
  • Stems and tips of leaves turning brown
  • Trunk cankers forming near the ground

Virginia is on the watchlist for Sudden Oak Death, a disease that can devastate entire patches of woods and clusters of trees. It is believed that Sudden Oak Death has been quelled in our state, but it is something that all homeowners need to watch.

According to the Sudden Oak Death Organization, this is a disease that attacks one of the widest ranges of plants – over 100 different types, including oak trees. It gets the name because it killed millions of trees on the west coast – and now it is here. The disease attacks trees in different ways, sometimes coming in through the trunk and other times going through the leaves.

Luckily, some of Virginia’s finest students at Virginia Tech have been working on a way to combat the disease.

4. Beech Bark Disease

  • Yellow and/or white eggs appear on the tree
  • Red clusters on the bark’s surface
  • Wooly, white tufts near the main trunk of the tree

The most common tree disease in Virginia is Beech Bark Disease. It is known to appear in outbreaks in neighborhoods and housing communities where the homes and trees are extremely close together.

The disease starts when the Beech Scale Insect chews on the outer bark of the tree. When enough band together, it makes a wound in the bark. From there, two types of fungus move into the holes left behind. They take over the entire tree, effectively cutting off the nutrient pathway. Water can still get through, so the tree doesn’t always look unhealthy right away.

Per the US Forest Service, you are able to stop this disease in its tracks if you do find it quickly enough.

3. Powdery Mildew Disease

  • Fungus that grows along the root line of the tree
  • Powdery substance on the stems and leaves of a tree
  • Thinning toward the crown

Powdery Mildew Disease is one of the most obvious-to-spot diseases on our list. This is because it looks like someone took Baby Powder and sprayed your trees with it. Your leaves and stems will have a fine powder like substance that comes off when you touch it.

Most common on catalpa, linden, chokeberry, and crabapple trees, the disease starts when there is wound from a pest infestation on the lower trunk. It can also hit trees that are nutrient or water deficient, especially in the winter months when the ground is solid. It really thrives in the summer months when it isn’t too humid but it is extremely hot.

To prevent the disease, Penn State suggests: “The spores are carried by air currents and germinate on the leaf surface. Liquid water on leaves inhibits spore germination.”

2. Oak Wilt

  • Edges of the leaves start to turn brown
  • Sap takes on an unusual color or thickness
  • Leaves in large sections start to wilt

Oak Wilt does impact Oak Trees, like the name suggests, but it can hit other types of trees as well. This disease comes from a fungus that attacks the foliage of the tree. The fungus gets carried from tree to tree, meaning that if you have large clusters of trees in your yard, you may see an outbreak. It also tends to hit large urban areas at a time.

According to the Morton Arboretum, “Root graft transmission is responsible for the vast majority of new oak wilt infections. Trees of the same species, and sometimes same subgenus, growing within 50 feet of one another, may graft together and share the same vascular system.”

One of the best ways to prevent Oak Wilt is to plant your trees in a smart manner.

1. Thousand Cankers

  • Tunnels throughout the wood, often near the bottom of the tree
  • A tree that dies extremely quickly
  • Blank cankers on the knots of the tree

Thousand Cankers is a particularly perplexing disease because up until a few years ago, it wasn’t found in Virginia. Unfortunately, after an outbreak in Tennessee, it made its way here and has been hitting all of the walnut trees. Even scarier, it looks like the disease is morphing and might be able to infect other trees as well.

The disease is so prevalent that there is even a website for it,, which explains the lifecycle of it. The fungus starts growing around the pupal chamber of the beetles as they tunnel into the trees for egg shelters. As they grow, these shelters form into black, inky cankers. They start taking over the entire tree and eventually they stop nutrients and water from getting into the tree and it can die at an alarming rate – at least it appears that way.

If you see any of the signs listed above or you see something that just doesn’t look quite right to you, give Above Ground Tree Service a call right away. Our team of trained professionals can inspect your trees to see if your suspicions are correct. If they all, we will immediately launch to action and try to rectify the problem. Sometimes we will be able to do this through pruning; Sometimes it will take chemicals; Sometimes we can’t do anything.

Our team will talk frankly with you about the state of your tree and what the best way to proceed is. If we can’t do anything to help your tree, we can talk about cutting in down in the healthiest way – sometimes exposing the roots can lead to even more problems or it won’t solve the initial problem.

For a team that thinks about the health of your trees, your yard, and the environment, give us a call at (434) 221-9525.

Header photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks on Flickr!