By wayne / Chlorosis / 0 Comments

Very commonly, Pin Oaks show mild-to-severe signs of chlorosis. Most of the time, it is the story of the wrong tree planted in the wrong place. Pin Oaks love well-drained, gravely soils with a pH level less than 7.0 (acidic). However, all throughout the Midwest, we find Pin Oaks planted in compacted, clay soils aggravated by high pH levels and too much irrigation for the lawns nearby.

I have been able to treat some severely chlorotic trees over the years, and I have gotten great results. One such site was in Roselle, Illinois. This first picture was taken in mid-June 2013. The Pin Oak had a perfect shape, but was a golden yellow. If you were to look closely at the leaves, very little green was apparent, even in the veins. The client had treated this tree in the past with other arborists, but not much ever changed. The more advances stages of chlorosis, which include dying branches and large sections turning brown had not yet occurred, but would be inevitable if something was not started quickly. The drought of 2012 had also affected many trees in the area.

In mid-June 2013, I treated this tree with two separate treatments. I prefer chlorotic situations in which I can avoid trunk injection and deal with only the treatment of the soil. This approach is less invasive and less likely to create a ‘tree junkie!’ This is my term for a tree that has become dependent upon future injections to supply it with the nutrients (primarily iron and manganese) that it cannot seem to obtain from the soil on its own. If I can gradually change the soil chemistry to provide a more beneficial arrangement between the soil micro-organisms and the trees roots, then we may be able to train the tree to ‘feed itself.’ In this situation in Roselle, however, the chlorosis was so severe that I felt I had to do both a soil and a trunk injection.

The homeowner was not so sure that he would see the drastic results that I was promising. Nevertheless, I told him to ‘stand back and be prepared to be amazed!’ I told him that by the end of the summer, his Pin Oak would be gorgeous. I decided to take before and after pictures to document the ‘magic act.’

This is the same tree just five weeks later.

Needless to say, the homeowner’s jaw dropped. He had known me for several years from the ash trees that I was treating in his neighborhood (Emerald Tree Care LLC had the contract to treat parkway ash trees for the Village of Roselle). Even though we are a tree and plant healthcare company, he had never thought to chat with me about his Pin Oak.

Even with this drastic change in color after five weeks, I told the homeowner that there was still some discoloration in the leaves between the leaf veins and the rest of the leaf.

After an additional five weeks had passed from the soil treatment and the trunk injection, there was even less yellowing in the leaves present. The Pin Oak was no longer presenting itself as having any kind of a nutrient deficiency. The full transformation occurred between the middle of June and the end of August – right during the heat of the summer.

If you notice a tree in your yard showing signs of chlorosis, I can fix it. Be sure to hire the very best! Get a Board Certified Master Arborist involved with the tree and plant healthcare of your property.

Together we can make a difference!

Call the office at 630-480-4090 to set up a free inspection!

By wayne / Chlorosis / 0 Comments


Chlorosis can be identified by a yellowing of plant leaves typically between veins (interveinal) usually a sign of a micro-nutrient deficiency. The most common deficiencies are iron and manganese. If chlorosis is left unchecked it can lead to entire leaves turning yellow, including the stems, browning of the edges of the leaves as these leaf cells die. Over a prolonged period even entire branches or individual stems may die. The lack of green color in the leaves is due to a lack of chlorophyll, a compound manufactured by plants necessary for photosynthesis to occur. Manganese is the core of every chlorophyll molecule. No manganese leads to no chlorophyll. Iron is required during the process of chlorophyll manufacturing. Just remember that it is a critical component of the energy transfer process during this chlorophyll production. It should be getting easier to understand now just how critical micro-nutrient deficiencies are to the well being of plants.


The soil itself could simply be deficient in nutrients but that is usually not the most common cause of chlorosis symptoms. Soil tests many times reveal plenty of iron and manganese in the soil but something is interfering with the plants ability to absorb these nutrients from the soil. Alkaline soils (over a pH of 7.0) tend to interfere with the availability of iron and manganese. This problem is not totally understood but it seems in higher alkaline soils that iron remains more of a solid and manganese is bound tightly by soil particles. This situation will remain like this indefinitely if something is not done to alter the soil chemistry. Also our urban soils are usually stripped of all the beneficial fungi (mycorrhizae) during development. Additionally our urban soils never get enriched each year from decaying leaves as is the case with our forest soils.


The most problematic species in our area are pin oaks and river birch. Pin oaks thrive in well drained gravely soils with a pH closer to 6.0. When we plant them in our poorly drained, saturated clay soils with a pH of typically 8.0, it should come as no surprise that we need to deal with chlorosis. Add azaleas and rhododendron to this problematic list also. In fact nearly all acid loving plants are not going to like the average upper Midwest soil types.


Treatments for Iron chlorosis fall into three general classes – trunk injection, soil treatment, and foliar spraying. They all have varying levels of costs and length of time they are effective. Foliar spraying works quickly but does not last very long. Trunk injections last longer but can cause some damage to the trees if applied through any drilling methods. Soil treatments can be more cost effective but depending on the products chosen might not be as effective nor last very long. The problem with chlorosis treatment comes when you fail to address the underlying soil chemistry issues.


I like to explain this problem in the following manner. If we inject our trees with the nutrients they need we will encourage them to become “junkies”. They will become even lazier when it comes to looking for what nutrients they need on their own. You will now need to inject them repeatedly, sometimes yearly, to maintain the non-chlorotic look you are after. While injections might be needed at first if you have waited too long to address the chlorosis issue, I still prefer to address the soil problem first. If you can solve the problem through a proper soil treatment it will last longer, at a lower overall cost, and cause less damage to our trees. As mentioned earlier nutrient deficiency might not be the problem with our soils. We need to deal with bigger issues of Soil pH, compaction, poor drainage, and a different measure of soil health called Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC). The iron and manganese ions that our plants need are being “held” by the soil sometimes in forms that are unavailable to the plants roots to absorb. I will detail the better solution in the next few paragraphs.


We do not need to manage forest soils. This is because there are billions of miles of fungal roots in just a cubic foot of healthy forest soil. But many of our urban soils are lacking these beneficial fungi. They are extremely important to the plants ability to absorb and even find nutrients stored in the soil around them. Mycorrhizae build colonies around a trees roots and attach to them. Then they develop their own root system hundreds of times more dense than the tree’s own root system. These fungi then gather nutrients, water, and minerals and then “trade” the tree for carbon in the form of sugars and dead root cells that are shed as the tree grows. 15% of a trees’ energy derived from photosynthesis can go into this trade in the soil with these mycorrhizal colonies of fungi. This trade occurs in nature’s own “flea market”. The soil around these roots and mycorrhizae actually help facilitate this trade. How good the soil is at handling this trade is measured as the “Cation Exchange Capacity” of soil. Generally the more organic material in the soil, the healthier it is and the higher this measurement is. If we can increase the health of the soil around a chlorotic pin oak by establishing new mycorrhizal colonies, they will help gather the very nutrients that the tree is deficient in. As the tree “exudes” sugars to trade with the fungi, this exudate (especially from oaks) is acidic. As a result the healthy oak tree itself will actually help to lower the pH of the soil around it.


Our Board Certified Master Arborist, Wayne White, will personally recommend the treatment best suited to your chlorotic tree or shrub. If the trees are severely chlorotic they might need both a trunk injection and a soil treatment the first year. The goal though is to wean them off of any need for a trunk injection in the future by treating the soil around the tree with a combination of fertilizers with the necessary micro-nutrients, a bio-root stimulant, and billions of beneficial fungal spores of mycorrhizae. They need to be applied with a deep root feeder to be effective.