Your Trees Might Be Deficient in Iron

February 23, 2023
February 23, 2023 Ryan McFadgen

Your Trees Might Be Deficient in Iron

We’re always available to help you with a tree removal if necessary. But in many cases you probably hope to save the tree, and we definitely support that goal. If you watch diligently for signs of illness or nutritional deficiency in your trees, you can often prevent the tree from becoming so sick that it needs to be removed. That is definitely the case with iron deficiency, or chlorosis. If you notice signs of iron deficiency early enough, the condition can be reversed and the tree saved.

But first, what causes iron deficiency in trees? In the Western half of the country, our soils tend to be very alkaline. So even though it might actually contain enough iron, the alkalinity interferes with your trees’ ability to absorb the nutrient. And in compacted soils (such as from foot traffic or poor drainage) the lack of oxygen in the soil can make the problem even worse.

Some species of tree are more susceptible to iron deficiency than others, such as silver maples, red maples, pin oaks, and river birch. Iron deficiency is much less common in cottonwoods, sweet gums, bald cypress, swamp white oak, and Eastern white pine, but can still occur in these species.

Iron deficiency interrupts the process of  photosynthesis, in which trees use chlorophyll to make food. Over time the tree becomes malnourished and susceptible to many forms of illness or pests. And in time, the iron deficiency will contribute to the tree’s death.

But if you catch the signs of iron deficiency in trees early, you can reverse this problem. Look for:

  • Leaves that turn light green or yellow early in the summer
  • Leaves turning brown on the edges
  • Dark green veins in leaves
  • Leaves turn brown and fall off (before the expected time in the fall)
  • Branches begin to die

Iron deficiency in trees can be reversed by watering more often during dry spells, mulching two inches deep or less, amending the soil to make it less alkaline, and avoiding fertilizers with nitrogen or phosphate. Some or all of these methods might be recommended, depending upon the particular problems with your soil.

Hopefully you can save your sick trees. But if tree removal is necessary, do give us a call and we’ll get the job done safely.



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