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Trees/willow tree dead or alive !


Hi i am in the Uk,

We have moved to a house that has a very old and very dead little willow tree about 4ft tall , it was all bent out of shape so i hoisted it up a bit and pruned off some of the dead branches.
I have noticed a few of the grey branches have pussy willow now showing up and was wandering how can this be ?

Many of the branches are still brittle and i was wondering if i should really go to town and cut all the brittle branches off leaving it with just the ones that seem to be with shoots on ? Even though everyone said get rid of it i felt sorry for it and wanted to give it a chance would it fare any better if i did this ?

It is covered in Lichen but, i like it like that..

Many thanks, Sandy.

ps i am not a spam robot lol..

Hi Sandy, greetings from across the pond!

Willows (Salix) can be a very resilient genera, just when you think theyíre dead, theyíll surprise you. In answer to your question, it is always safe to prune out wood youíre sure is dead. If a branch is brittle to the touch, itís safe to remove.  But itís important to remember that although removing dead branches may improve the ascetic of the tree, it will not improve the health. From the brief description you provided me I feel confident making the assertion that you little willow likely has some other underlying conditions that led it to its current state.

My first thought is that itís likely under pressure from an insect/s. Without being there in person though itís difficult for me make any sort of an official diagnosis. But if indeed this poor little specimen is under constant assault itís unfortunately just a matter of time before it dies.  The reason being is that many of these insects attack Willows by boring into the soft trunk tissue and depositing eggs that develop into voracious larva. These larvae disrupt the water and nutrient transport systems as they feed and mature. Often youíll begin to see entire sections of a tree die while other parts seem unaffected. Eventually though as the borers begin to multiply exponentially, the tree succumbs.

That being said though, it is also possible that there are site conditions that are also contributing to the treesí decline. For instance, soil contamination, extreme anaerobic conditions or soil compaction could also be factors.

At this point if you were here in the US I would usually provide a list of likely culprits that correspond with the symptoms you described. Unfortunately Iím not well versed in the insects you encounter in Western Europe. In addition I would provide a means of suppression/control, but again since Iím unfamiliar with the UKís legislative laws governing pesticides I canít offer that either. If you choose to employ a synthetic means of control I always recommend that people weigh the benefit versus risk of such applications. Often people opt to remove and replace a tree rather than perform treatments.

I hope that that answered your question and I wish you all the luck with your little tree.

In horticultural solidarity,

James Parker

P.S. Ė I like Lichen also; it gives character to an old tree :)


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James Parker


I can answer questions regarding tree identification, plant pathology (plant diseases), entomology (plant insect problems), soil science, organic horticultural practices, proper pruning techniques, pesticide questions, watering, turf care, fertilizing.


I have 10 years of experience in Forestry and Urban Forestry in Greater New York City working and consulting for government agencies, private residents and large corporations.

International Society of Arboriculture Connecticut Tree Protection Association North Eastern Organic Farmers Association

Bachelors of Science Horticulture Oregon State International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist (NE-6660A) Connecticut Arborist License (S-5496) CT Pesticide Supervisors License (S-5496) NY Commercial Applicators License (CO881265) Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP)

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