Puddle around Oak


Bamboo Plantation Owner
Dec 14, 2007
Northeast PA
I need some help guys.
A customer asked me to come and look at a white oak in her front yard. The tree is about 20" dbh and grows out like a half of a rainbow due to being dwarfed by a much larger oak. Here's the problem and unfortunately I do not have any pics. One side of the base of the tree always has a puddle of liquid. The liquid stinks like what you would smell while sawing oak.
The tree has this puddle all summer long for the last 5 summers. Even during periods of drought, so i am ruling out rain water.
The base of the tree at the soil has an old injury where it appears a machine bit the tree and it is clear that there is some hardened off wood there and the tree is trying to heal it over.
Above this old wound the bark is black on the puddle side of the tree up to about chest level.

I know, that was long and drawn out with no pics to back it. Any ideas guys?

If the tree is close enough to hit the house, I'd be urging her to get it removed. Regardless of the source of water, it sounds like a lot of root rot problems as well as slime flux (the black ooze on the trunk). Then she can find the source of the water and have it shut off.

Years ago I was removing a big old oak tree in the old section of Orlando. Everything was fine until the stump cut. About halfway through I hit a water line and water started spraying everywhere. It took about 45 minutes before we found the shutoff for the house and got the water stopped. Then I found the spigot that had been piped up and nailed to the base of the tree. The tree had since grown completely over the spigot, I never noticed it until after I hit the line. Must have been there 40-50 years or more. And the line was still pressurized, even though the spigot hadn't been useable in at least 25 years.

Perhaps there's a buried water line somewhere near your tree, except with a leak.
About halfway through I hit a water line and water started spraying everywhere. It took about 45 minutes before we found the shutoff for the house and got the water stopped.

Hahaha...sounds like Moses was running your chainsaw!!! :lol:
Sounds like perhaps a host of issues. Skwerl named good ones.

Soil compaction
Poor drainage

Check for mushrooms.
Bang on the trunk to listen for hollows. Check the entire stem using a common hammer.
Check the canopy. Lots of sprouts along the stems? small leaves?
Lots of deadwood?
Dig around the root flair.

Remember, visually checking a tree is only the first step. Touch it, smell it, climb it if necessary to investigate crotches and pockets of decay.
And last but not least, write a disclaimer on anything you put in writing.
Blow it out your hole, Guy. The tree has been sitting in standing water for 5 years and smells like rot. Regardless of anything else that might be observed, the tree sounds like it has a very high possibility of catastrophic root failure. Or do you need to spend a few hundred dollars of the customer's money 'assessing' the tree before making that same recommendation?

You make rude comments to me and I'll throw em right back. Bring it on. :X
1. having a puddle is not "STANDING IN WATER"

2. Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

3. Assessments can be quick, and be followed immediately by treatment that the owner decides on.

4. Is it smarter to skip the assessment and blow a wad on removal of a viable tree?

5. If you have a sore on your leg do you go to the mortician?

6. If all you have is a saw, defects are exaggerated, and all trees are firewood.

7. Who is rude here?

Peace, out.
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  • #8
Nothing abnormal about the canopy of the tree. I studied all that over thoroughly. Actually, a damn nice tree considering the semi-arch fashion that it is growing in. Not a stitch of deadwood. I am going to try and get pics.
Stinky water around the base of the tree for 5 years equals root rot, period, end of story.
If the stem is oozing, the roots are rotting. Hmm. :/: Root rot is easy to find, and possible to quantify--just dig down and look at the roots, tap the trunk, basic stuff.

Thanks Chris, looking forward to the pics. What region are you in?
It can be difficult to decipher a customer's description of tree problems.
How many of us have been standing next to a pine that is experiencing its natural needle-drop while a customer vehemently states that, "It's never done that before !" ???
I have to wonder if the wound in this white oak is more recent than we realise ? A 'bad smell' could be just what Tucker described >>> pissy smelling oak sap (which I happen to like, freak that I am)... the 'dark spot' simply wet bark ?
The description of the canopy is helpful, but oaks can be tricky buggers with internal decay. Ye olde rubber mallet might help sound out probs.
Pics, my man... PIX !!!
I've seen big old fat oaks be full of water . A hollow spot near the base .Talk about smell like a hog sty,yuck .

The one in the picture had smelly water just gush out of it when it was cut .


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  • #12
It appears as though I will be removing the tree. But, like any tree job, that is subject to change. I spent some time with the customer today and made it clear that here and now, the cause of the liquid was not clear. But, what was clear is that the tree was not structurally sound especially considering how hard of a lean it was on. Also, clear to me after a little picking around at the ground, that the roots were soft and rotted as a result of the standing liquid. I wrote out an estimate clearing recommending removing the tree. If the tree ever uprooted, it would certainly customize the neighbors house. Being intelligent people, the homeowners have agreed that removal would be best. I thank you guys for your help. When i go back for a removal I will take pics of the tree "as is", and pics of whatever i discover while working. Also I gave the tree a little thumpin with the sounding mallet and she sounds lousy right down at soil level.

Stay safe gents. I am also thrilled at some of the responses I got here. i frequent another popular tree site and it seems like questions like this draw more criticism than they do advice.

I apologize for getting a bit hot last night. One thing is for sure, it's never dull around here!

Looking forward to the followup pictures. :)
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  • #14
Skwerl, you didnt offend me any. My wife is however, in the background offending me.
Not that easy:

The foundations of solipsism lie at the heart of the view that the individual understands all psychological concepts (thinking, willing, perceiving, etc.) by analogy with his or her own mental states; i.e., by abstraction from inner experience. And this view, or some variant of it, has been influential in philosophy since Descartes elevated the search for incontrovertible certainty to the status of the primary goal of epistemology, whilst also elevating epistemology to "first philosophy". However, both these manoeuvres — methodological solipsism and the primacy of epistemology — have been called into question in modern times, with Richard Rorty making particularly pointed criticisms in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.


Not A-tall, dude. You left out an "s" before, so I missed the usage.

I think solipSism is bunk. I'm a diehard epistemologist, from Aristotle to Ayn Rand. I soaked in much of her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology back in high school.

We don't know what we imagine. We know through our sensation-perception-conception, aka data-analysis-conclusion. :)