Monday, August 8, 2011

Dead Carolina Buckthorn

It’s sad to witness the death of a tree that you’ve come to know and enjoy. I’ve been watching this Carolina Buckthorn for the last 15 years. I’ve seen it fully loaded with leaves and admired its production of bright fruit. It’s had its setbacks over the years, but it has always managed to pull through.

It stands on the lower portion of a north facing slope at the edge of a mixed stand of cedars and oaks. Carolina Buckthorn is an understory tree and does best when lightly shaded by its neighbors. This location sheltered the tree from drying winter winds and seemed the ideal place for this type of buckthorn to grow.

The first signs of trouble were early loss of leaves and poor fruit production. The next season began with several dead branches and undersized leaves. Leaves again dropped early and no fruit was produced. It was obvious that the tree was on its way out. Growth during the last year was in the form of spindly shoots coming up from near the base. These died before the summer was over and that was the end of the tree.

The trunk and larger branches are still strong and are being colonized by lichens. Carolina Buckthorns are uncommon in Ohio and it’s that fact that initially caused me to be interested in this tree. I soon learned that Carolina Buckthorn was quite an interesting species in itself. It would have been worth studying this tree even if it were the most common plant around. There are still plenty of Carolina Buckthorns growing at Blue Jay Barrens, but none that I know as well as I knew this guy.

I noticed swellings and long fissures at the upper end of the three year old branches. I wonder if these had anything to do with the death of the tree. I said that I knew this tree well, but I don’t remember seeing this condition when the tree was still alive.

Whittling away some of the bark didn’t shed much light on the cause of the deformity. The wood was swollen and the bark was thickened. It looks as though this might have been a point of branching that died back. It seems that something else also had to happen for this growth to be formed. I guess I’ll have to check some other Carolina Buckthorns to see if they show any signs of the same affliction.


  1. Very interesting to watch the birth, life, and death of so many plants on your property.

  2. Hi, Lois. It is interesting. I really prefer the birth and life parts.