Using the Tree Doctor App in Everyday Arboriculture

In the August 2014 issue of Arborist News, the article “Tree Problems? There’s an App for That!” features the Purdue Tree Doctor app. As someone who lives and breathes arboriculture, I instantly downloaded the app and began using it on my iPhone. I spend 8 to 10 hours a day looking at trees and shrubs in the urban landscape. Throughout the day, I typically see trees and shrubs that have a problem, but I am not entirely sure of the cause. With the app on my iPhone, I could instantly have a quick reference for tree problems I was unsure of.

I found the app to be a great resource for trees in the urban landscape. There is good detail on individual tree species with insect, disease, and abiotic problems listed. What I especially like about the app is its emphasis on the cultural and abiotic problems that are common to the particular species. For example, Bald-cypress in the app (a species I am currently trying to restore plant health) gives management suggestions for drought, decline, leaf scorch, and soil compaction. The app gives information on how the damage occurs, the stages of the problem, and control measures that could be taken to alleviate the problem.

A great addition to the Tree Doctor would be shrubs and other common small landscape plants. Azalea, rhododendron, cherry laurel, hydrangea, boxwood, and Japanese holly are some examples of very common plants found in the urban landscape that are not included in the app. Many plants I make applications to in the landscape are small ornamental shrubs and plants less than 25 feet in height. Having insect, disease, and cultural knowledge of these shrubs is critical to my success for plant health.

Another limitation is that the app needs to be refreshed often in order to access all the plant problems of a particular species. I have had to close the app and reopen it in order to access information. Maybe I need to reinstall the app, but this has been a frequent problem since I have been using the app.

There are a few plant problems where the Tree Doctor does not recommend a treatment For example, the Tree Doctor says there is not a product available for cytospora canker disease on spruce trees. Based on recommendations from the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories, I have made applications for cytospora canker disease on spruce trees and have had success with plant health.  With this in mind, remember that the Tree Doctor is a support tool and should be combined with practical arboricultural knowledge when making treatment decisions.

Overall, The Tree Doctor app is a good tool for working with trees. Arborists in the field may find some limitations with app performance, species listed and control recommendations.

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