All over the country, the bark of trees is turning white from the ground up about 2 or 3 feet.
All over the country, the bark of trees is turning white from the ground up about 2 or 3 feet. Look up into the tree, and you might see the leaves turning brown well before winter ... the interior growth sparse. What is causing this? Rumors circulate about the usual "beetles" or "fungus" -- conveniently vague, with the familiar "nothing to get worried about" subtext or afternote.
But as the white material builds up, the bark of the trees will come off in big chunks in your hand. Notice in this picture that the white stuff also shows on the roots. One researcher noticed that the white is most apparent on trees that are watered or irrigated, and not present on trees that take in only groundwater.
Allen Buckman, formerly a wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game, has taught concerned citizens how to identify dying trees. (See the DVD "Sky Lines" by Deborah Whitman.) We are so used to taking trees for granted that we don't know much about them, or even take the time to look carefully at them! Just taking a walk in your neighborhood or even having a conversation with friends or homeowners might open your eyes to what's happening to our trees.
Deborah Whitman of Davis, California has founded a non-profit called Environmental Voices, and is offering to help people test the health of their local trees. So far, local bark samples from Northern California show high residues of aluminum, barium and titanium, which might be the source of the white discoloration we are seeing.