Ehhh, what’s up doc? Diagnosing plant health problems

Tree Doctors can come in all ages. Photo DNR
Tree Doctors can come in all ages. Photo DNR

The term “Tree Doctor” implies that such a professional can effectively diagnose a plant health problem and offer advice or prescriptions for resolving it.

Although not known as tree doctors these days, arborists are often called upon by their clients for exactly this service, since diagnosing plant health problems takes specialized knowledge and experience. Some diagnoses are straight-forward when dealing with common problems; however, other plant health issues can be frustrating to diagnose in cases when symptoms are elusive or when circumstances conspire to obscure the signs that something might be wrong.

The best plant health diagnosticians out there will tell you that it takes decades of study and diligent practice to get really good at it – and even then, the most experienced will still consult textbooks and research articles to help verify their conclusions.

So whether you’re a professional looking to beef up your skills on how to triage a tree issue or a homeowner with general concerns about the plants in your yard, consider consulting the following sources that outline the process of plant problem diagnosis:

  1. Article: “Plant Disease Diagnosis” from the American Phytopathological Society (APS).
  2. A companion PowerPoint presentation to the above APS article.
  3. “Diagnosing Plant Problems” as excerpted from the University of Kentucky’s Master Gardener Manual.
  4. “Diagnosing Tree Disorders” from the Colorado State Extension Master Gardner program

“As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician.”

~Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

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