Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

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Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  0soyoung on Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:07 pm

In Feb 2013 I bought a Beni Hime Japanese maple at a local nursery. I bare rooted it and put it into a moderately deep pot of Turface MVP just as the buds cracked in March 2013.
It subsequently leafed out but wilted as though I had been too aggressive with root pruning. So, I kept it shaded for several weeks until it seemed to have recovered. Nevertheless, its growth last season seemed weak. I expected it to rebound this spring, but to my dismay it died over the winter - the very few leaf buds on the tree were dry, brittle, and never colored or swelled this spring. I finally realized the tree was really dead when I noticed that the trunk bark was 'blackish' - a sure sign of dead cambium (in the region between 1 and 2).


I am at a loss to figure out what I did wrong in my treatment of the tree or what I overlooked that led to its death. Maybe it was a dying tree when I bought it and didn't recognize it. It is tough (impossible?) to positively identify the cause of one tree's death, but I'd like to understand the possibilities with the help of anyone that is interested in doing so.

I performed an 'autopsy' of my victim by sectioning the trunk with a large pruner. In brief, I found that the cambium and parenchyma in the vicinity of the graft union had died.

At section 1, well above the union , I found that a quarter section of the xylem was still alive. Throughout the region near section 2, the cambium and xylem parenchyma were all dead. I made more sections near the nebari with a Dremmel wheel and discovered a live root at section 5 , which explains why, even at the time of this 'autopsy', I had apparently healthy/live roots on one side of the (dead) tree.

Given all this, I think I bought a sick tree and didn't recognize it was at the time. The still live root and the live area above the area of the graft union must have been connected in 2013. It seems reasonable to infer that this was the only part of the tree that was alive because it would explain weak the growth I got. Further it is clear the the tree suffered some damage at its base (at the bottom right in the second photo) and that the root there was dead when I bought the tree. Nevertheless, why did the 'live vein' die? Was this Beni Hime grafted to an incompatible root stock? Was it diseased? Did it get too much sun and wind during the winter (I'm in zone 8 and Beni Hime is supposedly hardy enough for zone 5)?

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  JimLewis on Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:14 pm

You may have gotten a bit of phytophthora "wilt." May be nothing you've done.

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  0soyoung on Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:25 pm

JimLewis wrote:You may have gotten a bit of phytophthora "wilt."  May be nothing you've done.  

Thanks, Jim.

Phytophora was not on my list of possibilities at all.
It is usually associated with oaks is about all I know about it - off to do some research!

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  Randy_Davis on Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:52 pm

Verticillium wilt

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  yamasuri on Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:18 pm

Sorry Osoyoung for your loss. That was last year my 5 Japanese Maples end up same way. This year it hit my Pinuses. Is it any preventive treatment to wilt?

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  Kev Bailey on Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:25 pm

Verticillium wilt starts at the growing tips and becomes dead branches that spread downward through the trunk, eventually killing the tree, if you are unlucky enough to experience it.. I've lost Only two out of nearly 200 maples to this disease. It is easy to diagnose as there is an unnaturally dark ring under the bark in affected wood. Google image search it. Hope that I lose no more!

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  0soyoung on Thu May 01, 2014 3:53 am

Randy_Davis wrote:Verticillium wilt

Thanks, but I am pretty sure that it wasn't verticillium. I am also pretty sure it wasn't nectria and it never exhibited the charteristic symptoms of pseudomonas. These are the 3 widely known attackers of JMs.

Verticillium usually doesn't affect the tree until it has leafed out and characteristically makes streaks in the xylem. It does its thing in the cool of early spring and cause leafs to suddenly wilt and turn dry brown. Nectria, causes simiar behavior but later in the season when temperatures are higher (i.e., July/Aug). Psuedomonas makes a weeping black spot on the bark usually in the fall. At least that is what they usually do and I had none of those symptoms or characteristic artifacts. Of course one of them could still have been the problem, but cultures are not possible because I disposed of the tree as soon as I completed my 'autopsy'.

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  0soyoung on Thu May 01, 2014 4:02 am

Kev Bailey wrote:Verticillium wilt starts at the growing tips and becomes dead branches that spread downward through the trunk, eventually killing the tree, if you are unlucky enough to experience it.. I've lost Only two out of nearly 200 maples to this disease. It is easy to diagnose as there is an unnaturally  dark ring under the bark in affected wood. Google image search it. Hope that I lose no more!

Yes, I agree.

No rings/streaks in the xylem and no pattern of starting from a nick or any similar damage. I haven't had the joy of verticillium on any of my trees, but I have experience nectria which seems to be quite common in my 'neck of the woods'. But no problems of this sort on any of my dozens of other JMs - thanks. I've never seen a tree die quite like this before.


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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  GaryWood on Thu May 01, 2014 5:03 am

0, when I started working in the Pacific North West years ago this same malady perplexed me! I was familiar with the fungal pathogens (verticillium) so I used systemic fungicides prophylactically to combat this. But, the problem continued. A little research brought me to Pseudomonas which is bacterial. I found that treating Acer with ZEROTOL at repotting with a drench and subsequent spray  almost completely eliminated it, which leads me to believe it's bacterial rather than fungal. Just an observation.

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  0soyoung on Thu May 01, 2014 5:32 am

GaryWood wrote:0, when I started working in the Pacific North West years ago this same malady perplexed me! I was familiar with the fungal pathogens (verticillium) so I used systemic fungicides prophylactically to combat this. But, the problem continued. A little research brought me to Pseudomonas which is bacterial. I found that treating Acer with ZEROTOL at repotting with a drench and subsequent spray  almost completely eliminated it, which leads me to believe it's bacterial rather than fungal. Just an observation.

Thanks for the insight, Gary.

I'll follow through on your advice - anything else wouldn't be prudent.

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

Post  JimLewis on Thu May 01, 2014 12:32 pm

Randy_Davis wrote:Verticillium wilt

That's what I meant to say. I was caught up in trying to recall how to spell . . .

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Re: Did I Buy a Sick Tree or Do Something Wrong?

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