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3221 Views 3 Replies Last post: May 9, 2013 4:11 PM by MikeHardman RSS
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May 8, 2013 9:36 PM

Is this a Bay Tree and is it diseased?


I have used your Tree Identification tool to ID a tree at the bottom of our garden - we moved here in December and the tree still had leaves on and looked pretty much as it does now (see photo of tree in garden - tree on right, towering above the games roomUnknown Tree.jpg). As you can see, the foliage is only on the top third of the tree. I am pretty sure it is a Bay, given the shape of the leaves and the herby smell coming off it when the leaves are crushed, but haven't been able to ID it until now because most of the trunk is foliage-free and not like any tree I've seen before!

It is at least as tall as a two-storey house and waves around madly in the wind, being tall and lanky, but so far (thank goodness!) hasn't fallen or broken! My husband managed to get a small branch off of it this evening, so I could see the leaves were like a large olive tree leaf, placed alternately on the stem, and had a characteristic smell when crushed.

The leaves, are, however, badly discolured and feel grainy and dry, a bit like light grade sandpaper, with some black spots - please see leaf photo. I am worried that the tree may be diseased and, if so, that it may need felling.

Please help!Unknown Tree 2.jpg

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    May 8, 2013 11:22 PM (in response to Woodean)
    Re: Is this a Bay Tree and is it diseased?

    Bay trees can grow surprisingly tall...

    However, the petioles (stems) on your tree's leaves are too short for bay (Laurus nobilis), and your tree is rather sparsely branched and foliated.


    I think it is a Eucalyptus.

    But there are a lot to choose from (over 700 species)...


    Have a look at the ground beneath the tree. If the tree has got to flowering age, you might find little hard brown woody cups. That would confirm my ID as Eucalyptus. The leaves contain a fragrant oil, used for many purposes; you may be confusing the scent with that of bay leaves.


    The leaves are showing 'scorch', which perversely can be caused by cold.

    Many species of Eucalyptus grown in the UK can cope with cold quite well, but some can't. Scorching and leaf drop (giving a sparse appearance) are two of the symptoms.

    Tip die-back (as in yours) can also be a symptom of other problems, such as underwatering, overwatering or irregular watering. Generally, eucalypts cope pretty well with a range of watering regimes, so I suspect the problem is not that; I think it is cold-induced scorching.


    One can never be sure if a tree is going to fall. However in my experience, eucalpyts stand up well. That's partly because of their flexibility (bending higher up means less movement lower down). But a tree's stability in the wind depends partly on how well it was planted (a tree being pot-bound when planted can cause its roots to develop in a non-ideal fashion), the soil it is growing in, the exposure of the site, etc. - including its state of health (fungi can rot a tree from the inside. eg.)


    In your case, I suspect the tree is suffering just from the cold. We know it has grown well in the past (to reach that height) and it may resume that growth given favourable conditions.


    If you want to prune it for peace of mind, it should tolerate that. Eucalypts are quite forgiving in that manner. Personally, I love tall (eventually majestic) eucalypts, and the light shade they cast, and the rustling of their leaves in the wind. The leaves, however, are tough and can be slow to decompose (thinking of your garden beds underneath).



    - Eucalyptus -

    - Eucalyptus fruit (cups) -



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        May 9, 2013 4:11 PM (in response to Woodean)
        Re: Is this a Bay Tree and is it diseased?

        Make sure the ties (on the stakes) are not throttling the tree and are not wearing through the bark. If they are, slacken them and/or replace them with flatter ties (ie. straps).

        There are several schools of thought on the correct way to stake trees. I won't embark on that side-avenue just now, but you might do a bit of Googling if of interest.

        I have a slight concern in that, if the stakes are 5ft high, the tree was a fair size (probably over 5ft) when it was planted. I would have preferred to have it planted when smaller.


        My watering comments apply however a tree gets moisture at its roots - by human intervention or not. Trees can be planted on very free-draining sands or gravels, which may lead them to be effectively underwatered. Or they could be grown in boggy conditions, giving them excess water. There are types of tree that can cope with either.

        With all the rain you've had, your eucalypt certainly won't benefit from any additional watering by hand or hose. And if it is not in abnormally wet or dry soil, by virtue of the composition of the soil and/or water ingress/egress, I would leave it to its own devices regarding water.

        ...Unless prolonged dry conditions occur. It seems hard to imagine, but I remember the River Mole in Surrey drying up in 1977 and going underground (hence its name 'mole'). The whole valley turned brown, big old beeches lost their leaves due to inadequate water, and dust devils played in the arid fields. Perversely, when the drought broke, there was excessive rain, which led further beeches (etc.) to die through overwatering. They were extreme conditions. But it shows that even well established trees, ie. ones with deep and widespread roots, can suffer from abnormal watering.


        Do look for those woody fruit cups...


        Oh, and you could find a pair of large woody swellings around soil level, attached to the trunk.

        Those are the tree's 'plan B'. If the top of the tree breaks off or gets burned to death (as can happen in its homeland), the tree can regenerate from those swellings. So be aware of them when planting or staking near the base of the tree.



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