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Question DetailsAsked on 7/12/2012

Should I remove my living but sick tree? Or can it come back?

Looking for a tree expert on this one: I've got what I've been told is a plum tree (similar in size, appearance and growth traits to a crab apple tree, but features dark red/purplish leaves), but it's been dying off one whole section at a time. About two years ago, all the leaves on one of the three main branches died off (other symptoms included overproduction of sap and bark splitting). After removing the afflicted section that year, this year the remaining tree seemed to be on the mend, producing a lot of new branches and filling out with leaves. Within the last few weeks (which included drought conditions), one of the two remaining main branches just had all of its leaves suddenly shrivel and die - basically only 1/3 of the original tree is alive. The last main branch looks fine. Is this a common die-off cycle or some sort of disease? Is it possible for the tree to come back, or should I just "cut" my losses and remove it altogether?

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1 Answer


My parents had someplum trees with the same issue - two different times. One time it turned out to be bacterial canker and they survived after tratment with something called the Bordeaux treatment - a copper treatment that works on a lot of insects, funguses, and some viruses - called by some the universal spray for fruit trees - I know it worked very well on many varieties of fruit trees we had. The second time around, during a stressful drought where we had a waer shortage so could not water them much, it was plum leaf curl, which is viral, and it wiped out the plums, persimmons, nectarines and a few other fruit trees.

I would suggest calling or eMailing your state Cooperative Extension Service (usually at Land Grant state colleges or Ag colleges) and ask if you can send them a sample - if so, sent a good foot of branch with the dying leaves, plus pictures of the sap and bark splitting issue, and they should be able to identify it for you.

You could also talk to your local tree nursery about local problems - take a branch to them, they might be able to identify the problem for you. Take enclosed in a well tied plastic bag - and wash the outside of the bag with a good dishwashing soap and water wash after putting it in - they don't want it spread around their nursery if it is a disease, obviously.

The University of California at Davis (California's primary Ag school) has a large online collection of plant and animal related articles and hint lists.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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