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Archive Info:  News - Mar 17, 2012

Putting the zap into sap

By Curt Hodges, Sun Staff Writer

CHERRY VALLEY — Ed Dickey says he “puts the zap in the sap.” Tree sap, that is, and the longtime “Tree Doctor” says with the right treatment ailing trees can be revived to shade again.

Dickey of Clover Bend has been working with trees since 1967 when he was a young man in the Missouri Bootheel working with his father, M.E. Dickey. Over the years he has helped to save many a tree in East and Northeast Arkansas and Southwest Missouri.

One of his latest endeavors has been with the historic trees at the new Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at Birdeye in Cross County.

“There are some beautiful and historic trees here,” said Dickey earlier this week while standing in the shade of a very large sweet gum tree.

Dickey had not only treated the tree nutritionally, but he had placed a couple of one-inch steel bolts in the tree to reinforce its nearly split trunk. He also had filled a large void in the trunk with concrete to prevent the tree from dying.

He is careful to place the concrete below the tree’s growing point, and it eventually will close in the gap and cover the concrete.

The tree was showing negative signs, largely because of where it was and due to construction that had gone on around it, he said. So Dickey also mixed up some of his special tree concoction containing live enzymes and gave the tree a good feeding inside its dripline by injecting the fluids deep into the soil so it could be picked up by the tree’s feeder roots.

He also uses both topical and systemic insecticides to kill borers and other pests that can harm or kill a tree.

The gum tree, he said, had responded positively and was showing a very even pattern of new green buds brought on by the warm and favorable weather of the past several days.

Dickey also placed lightning protection in the tree as well as in several other large trees on the cemetery grounds. He said a single lightning rod can protect several trees, and due to the size of the veterans cemetery, several lightning protection systems were installed.

What he has done, the tree surgeon said, is the necessary repairs to the trees, making sure they have the nutrients to survive and installing of the lightning arresters.

To do that, Dickey drives a three-quarter inch copper coated rod, 10 feet long, into the ground onto which a large wire is affixed and run up the tree, using insulators every few feet. At the top is another rod that is placed to catch the lightning rather than let it strike the tree. The lightning charge is diverted to the ground.

“I put a fuse in parallel with the wire that lets us know if lightning has struck,” Dickey said. It is a common auto fuse that easily blows if lightning strikes and provides a positive method to determine if lightning has struck.

Dickey said lightning strikes are not necessarily bad, only when they strike a tree.

“Lightning releases nitrogen, which can be a benefit to the soil and thus trees and other vegetation,” Dickey said.

The cemetery is home to dozens of large trees, including red oaks, white oaks, sycamores, sweet gums and others whose trunks are huge, and their canopies have shaded the earth for more than a century.

“We’ve treated six large trees here,” Dickey said, including a large oak that has been designated by the Arkansas Forestry Commission as a “State Champion” by being the largest Southern Red Oak in Arkansas. The tree is reportedly 200 years old.

This place will be filled with trees, said Dickey, noting that several hundred will be planted on the grounds to supplement and complement the existing trees.

However, there have been problems with some cypress trees planted along a holding pond. Beavers have been cutting them off.

That led to trapping and removing the beavers, one of which was said to weigh 60 pounds.


Dickey also recommends that homeowners treat their trees by preparing the ground under them to receive a good covering of mulch, which helps to insulate the ground and hold in moisture as well as make it easier for natural rainfall to reach feeder roots. It also provides a good base for fertilization.

He recommended mulch made from pine bark, cedar, cypress or redwood because of its insect resistance and ability to last a long time.

Dickey said he also employs a system of injectors, which are placed into the outer bark surface of trees to the part that carries the sap and nutrients.

The injectors provide a positive way to inject nutrients and insecticides into the sap stream of a tree.

He said trees that have been struck by lightning, suffered construction damage, fire or heavy insect infestation can be helped most of the time.

In nearby Cherry Valley, Dickey visited another of his tree friends, a large white oak in the yard of the mayor of the town. The oak, estimated by the tree surgeon to be at least 200 years old, had a large hollow in it which was filled with concrete and reinforcement.

It also received lightning protection.

Dickey is so passionate about trees that he has written a song about “Saving the Family Tree.” It can be heard on the company’s website, www or email

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