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What is Chlorosis?

Chlorosis can generally be described as a micro-nutrient deficiency where the tree lacks iron or manganese. Identifying chlorosis can be done by looking at the leaves: do you notice leaves with dark green veins, a lime green or yellow color, or browning on the leaf edges? The lack of green color in the leaves is caused by a lack of chlorophyll. If a tree has an iron or manganese deficiency, the formation of chlorophyll is compromised and photosynthesis cannot be completed. Typically, the answer to fixing a chlorotic tree lies within the soil.

Chlorosis Information

What Causes Chlorosis?

Although the soil in Illinois has a heavy limestone base, and therefore has a high pH level (over 7.0), it typically has adequate levels of iron. The communication breakdown occurs because the high pH levels prevent the tree roots from obtaining the iron that is already in the soil.

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Susceptible Species?

Any species of tree can show the symptoms of chlorosis. In the Chicagoland area, river birch and pin oak are the two types that are the most commonly chlorotic. These species are both sensitive to the high pH levels in the soil.

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Stages of Chlorosis

Healthy trees have beautiful, dark green foliage. The progression of chlorosis appears as (1) light green leaves with dark green veins, (2) yellow leaves with dark green veins, (3) yellow leaves with small brown spots or browning edges, (4) brown leaves, and finally (5) the death of the tree.

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Treatment Options

In the earlier stages of chlorosis, a soil treatment that lowers the pH levels and encourages the natural uptake of iron and manganese is preferred. In severe cases, especially when there may be limb loss, iron and manganese injections may also be considered.

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