I have a 10-year old weeping cherry tree in my front yard. Last weekend I noticed that many leaves had brown spots toward the end of the branches. I trimmed those branches, but I wonder what has caused this. Is the tree sick? Should I spray the tree with something to prevent this from happening again?

I live in the Seattle, WA area. I wonder if this is related to the 122-year old record of rain we broke this year.

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  • Good question. I am not sure. The tree definitely has the shape of a weeping willow. How can I tell what tree is this?
    – Martin
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:23
  • I just added a picture of the entire tree. The tree is ~7-8 feet tall. The tree was in flower from mid-April until the end of April (the flowers were pink). It was planted ~10 years ago and I bought the house ~2 years ago.
    – Martin
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:47
  • I just added another picture which shows the tree after I removed the "dead" branches. The tree is next to a sidewalk and at the bottom of the tree there is a rosebush. I am pretty sure the drainage is ok, but the we have had a lot more rain than usual this year.
    – Martin
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:20
  • 1
    That's a weeping cherry tree, not a willow at all.
    – user10810
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 3:58

1 Answer 1


This shouldn't be an answer but without knowing more information I can give you a heads up. Do you have a landscape maintenance company employed? This doesn't look like a willow to me...still could be I guess when you send pictures of the entire tree we'll know more for the ID.

You chose a super leaf specimen as it is partly alive and partly dead. When margins and tips of otherwise healthy material/leaves are browned or blackened that is a strong indication of over fertilization. High salts. This looks quite bad in fact. Don't really care that much about the ID, although that might help to figure out what is going wrong. Those leaves are showing severe problems with salt, usually fertilizer is the cause.

I am giving you a quick answer as we need more information and a picture of the entire tree and environment to be sure. But if you have a company responsible for fertilization or any chemical treatments near this tree you need to get enough information soon enough with which to start up a discussion. They would most certainly be responsible.

If this tree is near a lawn we need to know the last fertilization or pesticide application done for your lawn with what and when. Has anything been done to the plant bed in terms of pesticide, fertilizer...especially preemergent pesticide (herbicide is listed as a pesticide along with pesticides).

This is not a disease or insect. Well, fairly almost positively sure. Something has taken place within the last few weeks. Can you think of anything to add?

I've seen this before, of course, and had to go to court a few times for clients where their landscape maintenance company either screwed up with the chemicals, or the client had actually hired a separate fertilizing company to come in and fertilize a landscape after it had already been fertilized. Ugh! Many times it is the client over fertilizing or...well. Just some pre warnings. If I am at all talking sense this gives you time to document the damage, take pictures, get witnesses verified.

It might seem and I hope it is that I am blowing this out of proportion, but it just looks so similar to what people had to take to court and we all had to slug through. So, this is total supposition. Try not to get too worried. I certainly hope I am way off base but, this looks like chemical/salt damage to me.

Looking forward to more information and pictures. I apologize if I am wrong! A few clients waited far too long so I am a bit sensitized for getting the documentation in place IF this is truly even close to your problem, okay?

This type of leaf is more of a willow shrub, not a willow tree which is more long and narrow. Definitely need a picture of the entire tree. But fried tips and margins are a big indicator of high salts (fertilizer) or some chemical no matter the plant. Is this tree near an open body of water? A pond or canal for instance?

Just saw your newest picture of a weeping cherry? Not willow but weeping!! Not near the lawn but near utilities. I can't for the life of me see any connection to the utilities, not to cause this tip and margin burn.

If this is a brand new picture I am not seeing the same problem throughout that tree. Your tree looks healthy. Where did you find this branch and leaves on this tree? Have you had high winds? Are there anymore of this same problem on your tree? Any pattern such as just one side? I feel much better. Your tree looks healthy and perhaps this is just a tiny anomaly. (I am sorry again to have brought up courts and stuff!).

A close up of the base of your tree after you've pulled the mulch away down to the soil would be helpful. Mulch and soil on the bark of the tree is a bad thing but wouldn't cause the leaves to look like this. But heck, we are here so good thing to check. Soil, rocks, mulch on the bark of a tree promotes bacteria that will compromise the vascular system of your tree and will eventually girdle and kill your tree.

  • Thank you @stormy for the detailed. I have added a few more pictures. I did not add any special fertilizer in that area. I only water the tree/plants around when there are many days without water.
    – Martin
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:22
  • Excellent. Are the only damaged branches and leaves in that bucket? Shoot, I think you are in the clear! How pervasive were these damaged branches, leaves? Do check that trunk/soil connection. Planting woody shrubs and trees too deeply or allowing mulch to cover the bark at the base will eventually kill your tree. Only roots should be covered or under the soil. Just a good thing to check. Maybe we can talk later about your boxwood or ilex shrubs for a few pruning tips? Again sorry to have jumped to such horrendous fates but wish I had done that for others earlier. You are fine so far
    – stormy
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:37
  • I removed two buckets of damaged branches/leaves. The dead branches/leaves were all around the tree. I will definitely take a look at the trunk/soil connection. It's a good idea to check because I add new mulch frequently in that are. What is wrong with my boxwood/ilex shurbs? :)
    – Martin
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    Nothing is wrong with your boxwood (not Ilex I think). I am just OCD with pruning, hedges in particular. I'd just like to give a bit of advice. Do you use manual pruning shears or a gas powered/electric hedger? The main thing is to keep the top narrower than the bottom. Those sides should slightly angle towards the top, never straight up and down and of course never angle towards a narrower bottom. They look wonderful and soon you'll be hedging them. Also, use a tarp below the shrub as you trim to catch most of the debris. It is tough to get that stuff out of your mulch. I know, TMI.
    – stormy
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 4:59
  • Like stormy said, it happened fairly recently or the leaves wouldn't have grown and developed as far as they did. Stormy mentioned about the shape to trim your boxwood (any hedge for that matter). The angled slope is to ensure sunlight can reach the hedge evenly from top to bottom. If it's narrower at the bottom, it's more shaded and with less light reaching the lower parts, it'll start dying on you. I've seen lots of badly trimmed hedges that suffer die back because of improper trimming.
    – Jude
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 6:01

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