View Full Version : Testing Shrubs For Poison

06-17-2009, 08:51 PM
Hello all. I have a client that I believe poisoned the shrubs that we trimmed so he can blame us for there death and make us responsible for replacement. Is there a test kit or lab that test Yew type shrubs for poisons or herbicides? I dont know of any kits or labs that do this. I would like to test the shrubs to rule out poison before I replace the shrubs.

Thanks an advance.

06-17-2009, 09:07 PM
well what symptoms are the shrubs exhibiting that makes the client think they were poisoned?

what sort of shrubs were they, and how much did you prune?

Daily Lawn/Landscape
06-17-2009, 11:03 PM
Yes you can have the shrubs tested for herbicide. Got any pics of the shrubs?


06-18-2009, 12:22 AM
About 25% of the total size of the shrub was removed in april of 2008. Since that, no growth has occurred. We have pruned hundreds of yews before were more than 25% of the shrub was cut back and all have sprouted new growth after the pruning. We havent done anything different to this client's shrubs than the others. There now dry, dead, and brittle. They were very healthly before we trimmed them. If we come across any shrub that is questionable, we don't touch it. That is why I think he has done something to them.

When we were walking around discussing what he wanted done before I accepted the trimming job, I felt that he wasn't content having the Yews in the landscape, but he still wanted them trimmed to reduce the size. So now, he calls a year later and says that we killed them last year and they need to be replaced with whatever he chooses.

I dont have a problem replacing any shrub that we have damaged (this would be our first), but I have that hunch that we are not at fault. His not liking the yews and our past successful trimming of other clients shrubs, makes me think this.

I just need a test kit or company that does testing before I agree to replace the shrubs.

Does anyone know where I can find this?

06-18-2009, 08:20 AM
No, not at a year later.

I will tell you this much though. If the WHOLE yew shrub is dead, no green left and it was thriving beforehand it was most likely purposely killed with a herbicide. If it is patchy yellowed and dead here and there it was your trimming job. You have trimmed hundreds, well I have trimmed 10's of thousands and guess what I still damage some some time. I have never ever ever ever seen a shrub killed completely dead by a bad trim job though. That would have to be some heavy mixed brush killer.

Unless... it was in the middle of a drought and 100+deg out for a couple weeks before and after you trimmed. That would be the only way I could see someone completely killing an entire yew by trimming it.

06-18-2009, 09:35 AM
Were there any dead weeds or grass next to the shrubs in question?

06-18-2009, 02:22 PM
The whole shrub is dead, even down to the roots. It was in spring during the wet season when they were cut. All the foliage was removed so the overall size would be smaller. The stems even dripped with sap when they were cut so the plant was very much alive when they were trimmed. None of the other shrubs died. They were sprouting new growth within about 2 weeks afterwards.

They are not in direct sunlight for afternoon hours when it is the hottest. They only get a few hours of direct morning light.

We have trimmed 10s of thousands of shrubs also and, like most of everyone that does hedge trimming, have skimmed a few into the wood sometimes. But no one ever required replacement of the shrub. That is what I meant by our first. We have trimmed hundreds of yews were there was no foliage left on the shrub and all have sprouted new growth afterward within 2-3 weeks, and all were done in the spring before heat and extreme sun could harm growth.

There wasn't any dead weeds or grass in the area because the shrub was hugging the ground making the soil bare.

I need to know of a test kit or company that does testing. Even a soil test kit might help. I need to do this asap.

Thanks in advance.


06-18-2009, 03:11 PM
Just contact your local extension agent.

06-18-2009, 04:37 PM
Thank you Jnyz. That is what I needed. I knew there was someplace like this available, I just didn't know what it was called or where it was.

I will be sending them a sample on monday when the technician is available.

Thanks to all for the fast replies.


06-18-2009, 05:44 PM
Have you been on the property before they called with complaint? If so what condition were the yews in?

Make sure you have the sample inspected by the extension agent, not a Master Gardener. They are OK for homeowners, not professionals. You can also send sample to the Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Lab. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/plantdiagnosticlab/

I think Penn State has something similar.

06-18-2009, 06:20 PM
I have known the client for a few years and have been servicing his power equipment for just as long. He hasn't done any hedge trimming for 5 years before we showed up, so everything was overgrown. That is why he wanted us to trim them up. The yews were healthy and deeply green, just overgrown for the landscape.

Penn State University will be doing the testing. I will be sending wood core samples and soil samples. They might be able to tell me what killed the plants.

Like I said before in an earlier post, I don't have a problem replacing shrubs we have killed/damaged. I just don't believe we destroyed these shrubs.


Think Green
06-20-2009, 06:32 PM
I hope that the yews died from natural or chemical causes, because it is not in your favor if they didn't. If this customer wants to take you to small claims court over a few yews then so be it... I wouldn't think that the cost of court will constitute new shrubs to make a point. Yew plants are finnicky and all know that too much water will cause root rot and damage. Cottony scale and blights are common for these things. Slight changes in soil textures to erosion problems will cause sudden death. Herbicide damage is prevalent as well as overfertilization. Pesticides applied in the heat of the day or in extreme mixtures will kill them......... I have read where ozone and carbon dioxide will do them in!!
I wish you all the luck in the world.....
Reply back with the results.

06-20-2009, 07:21 PM
I will not to take him to court over a few plants. If nothing else comes out of the situation, I just want to know if I can trust him as a honest client. If I find out that the plants were poisoned, he will never see me again.


06-20-2009, 07:48 PM
I've never know Yews to be finicky. I really never been able to kill a yew.

Think Green
06-20-2009, 10:48 PM
Yews can grow in pretty much any type of soil, and yes they do not like wet feet! I have customers now with yews planted in the semi-shaded landscapes that are doing well with adequate drained soils. Down south, they get rust--scale--and iron chlorotic.
Not arguing the point with you, it is or as I thought that landscapers knew about the possiblities of yews being tender-footed. It is a possiblity that not all soil conditions around this wonderful globe have subjective issues with the plant.. They do down here!!!!

No, I was referring to the customer taking you to small claims court. People whom theorize that we kill plants with herbicides or fertilizer need to understand that plants are trickly. Watered plants that have shallow roots such as the yew, can possibly be injured with preemerge herbicides applied around the root zones in B&R settings. Deep rooted plants are less likely to be harmed with herbicides as one would think.
It is wise for you to send the samples off to be tested, as it would keep your customer integrity intact. I have been in this situation with other species of plants and trees that were wilted in humid conditions after insecticides were applied. Another LCO whom takes care of a commercial complex of ours seems to kill pines each time he ferts. Sample taking is one step to cover you @## and kick theirs.!!!!
I did not intend for anyone to take this to the extreme limits, but some plants die. I can understand that one out of lets say a row of 10 died, but all 10 means that something was applied to them afterwards. Then another factor to consider is root grafting from the same species of plants that are grouped together. The roots will grow together and entwine, thus if one plant becomes infected with some sort of MLO, then the whole darn row will be infected. What about mites? What about blight? What about drought stress?
It is limitless as to the factors that could have killed these shrubs.
Please keep us posted on the results.

06-21-2009, 10:15 AM
cool, good to know =)

06-21-2009, 11:29 AM
Think Green, root grafting is not possible in this situation because all but two are at least ten feet apart. There weren't any mites, blight, over/underwatering, unfertile/overfertilitized soil, extreme sun, planets lining up, wizards voodoo spell, etc that could have killed them. They just didn't come back. The only way I can tell that they died is from poisoning. Yews is my area are very hearty plants. They can be cut heavily, and grow back. This will be my first heavy cutting of this shrub were they did not come back. And being the client never liked the shrubs to begin with, testing is the only way to cover my butt. Tomarrow the lab guy will be in so we'll see how this goes.