A state of (slime) flux
Free Press Gardening Columnist
Slime flux. An interesting disease. It infects many different trees, most commonly Siberian elms and cottonwoods.
This complex of bacterial cells develops in the water-conducting tissue of these trees creating pressure that disrupts the water uptake of the tree. As pressures build, a foul smelling fluid oozes from pruning cuts and cracks. As this problem spreads through the water-conducting plumbing of the tree, more and more branches become afflicted with this disease. Branches that do not receive adequate water and nutrients may not leaf out in the spring or start to die from the top down after leaves appear. Sometimes an ooze will weep from cracks on the underside of the dead and dying branches confirming your suspicion of infection by slime flux.
If you have ever had a hose kink while watering your garden, you have an inkling of what happens when the water-conducting tissue of a tree is crushed. The kink in the hose cuts off the water flowing through the hose. Slime flux creates internal pressures of up to 60 pounds per square inch (psi). When the tires of my pickup are low, I pressurize them to about 35 psi, and slime flux creates pressure twice this amount crushing the water-conducting tissue that delivers water to the branches above.
When trees are infected with slime flux, it makes sense to drill a hole in the tree in hopes of locating the pocket of slime that is creating the pressure. This, however, is not the best approach to solving the pressure problem. Drilling a hole in the tree causes the disease to spread to other portions of the tree, many sections that were not previously infected.
The key to helping the tree overcome the pressure problem is increasing the tree’s vigor. This results in the tree producing more water-conducting cells. Many of the soil samples taken around trees I’ve reviewed for Teddy Hildebrandt of T4Trees have been lacking adequate nitrogen to ensure proper growth. Providing the tree with adequate water is also critical.
In next week’s article I’ll provide guidance on how you can improve the health of your trees. Fertilizer is part of the program. I’ll also provide guidance to help you avoid the problems many of you experienced this past winter with your pines.
Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.
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