Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

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Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  -Jamie- on Sat Nov 07, 2015 8:38 pm

Hi everyone,

I'd appreciate a little help. I recently bought a collected Utah Juniper, and the person who collected it planted it with about 3 inches of its trunk in the soil. It's been like that for about a year, since collection, and I'm worried about the trunk rotting.

When I dug away some of the soil, it seems like the trunk was originally a little thicker, but only below the soil level. In the picture, the dark area marks where the trunk was buried, as it's now waterlogged bark. However, that layer of bark is thicker than the exposed trunk, so that I could possibly peel away the waterlogged bark, and maybe find dry trunk underneath, without having a situation of reverse taper.

However, the tree looks much better when buried to where it was buried. But if I leave it buried, I'm worried the whole tree might die. I've never encountered a situation like this, so any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks a lot,

Jamie


-Jamie-
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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:29 pm

I think we could be of more help with a good clear picture of the whole tree.  Juniper heartwood is relatively rot resistent, but in bonsai sized trees here's not hat much heartwood, and almost by definition the "Utah" juniper will be a dryland tree whose wood is not genetically prepared to be perpetually damp.  So I'd worry.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  -Jamie- on Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:22 pm

Of course. Here's a picture of the front and the back. You can see where the soil level is. However, looking at the first picture (the front of the tree - in which the tree is on the left side of the pot), I managed to dig 3 inches down on the left side of the trunk without hitting any roots, and 2 inches down on the right side of the trunk. But even then, I didn't hit roots, I just hit some clay like substance, and didn't want to dig any further for fear of damaging the roots. I suspect the clay was what it was originally growing in, perhaps.

And thanks for the help.







-Jamie-
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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:34 pm

Where did the guy you bought it from live?  If he was out west, planting that deep probably would be OK. Juniper aren't known for their great bases, anyway.  But in NY where it does get a lot wetter than it is used to, you could have a problem -- especially with that heavy soil you found. 

I don't know this species so take this advice with that in mind:  When you repot, you might consider a total bare root, then planting it in a very coarse mix that drains speedily.  But if you can find someone familiar with how Utah juniper behave in your area, listen to him or her FIRST.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  -Jamie- on Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:42 pm

So, Utah Junipers sometimes have the base of their trunk buried? It's in a coarse medium, and it did come from out West, so maybe it wasn't a problem out there. Now, though, I have to decide if I can keep it potted as is, with the trunk partially buried, or if that trunk has to be exposed? I wonder if anyone's grown these in the North East?

-Jamie-
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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  Dave Murphy on Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:40 pm

Dead wood from any species of tree that remains in contact with the soil will eventually rot.  It's just a matter of time.  I have several large, collected Rocky Mountain Junipers with lots of natural dead wood that extends to and below the soil line.  The good news is that the wood on these old, slowly growing trees is quite dense and it will take many years for the wood to rot, but rot it will.  With that said, I routinely pull soil away from the dead wood and try to keep it above grade and as dry as possible.  The soil goes back over the areas in question if the tree is going to be shown.  With your tree, I wouldn't worry about it until you're sure the tree has recovered from collection and is growing well. Good luck.

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  -Jamie- on Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:34 pm

Thanks Dave, that was extremely helpful. So, the part of the trunk that's dark now from being waterlogged is essentially a lost cause? All I can do is to keep it dry, so that it hopefully doesn't rot, or to simply slow the onset of rot down? I don't really take my trees to shows, and just enjoy them at home, so the thought of having to keep the trunk exposed like that isn't ideal.

I was thinking that possibly, when the tree's recovered from collecting, that I could try to grow roots out of that portion of the trunk. But I don't know how these Junipers take to it, or if it's just a big waste of time, and I need to resign myself to the fact that my tree just has a big ole ugly trunk.


-Jamie-
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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 09, 2015 1:45 pm

So, Utah Junipers sometimes have the base of their trunk buried?

I think you misunderstand me.  I was referring to the fact that very, very few collected juniper have ideal bases -- nebari, if you must -- because the conditions under which they were grown meant the roots went every which way searching for the slightest drops of water. 


Thanks Dave, that was extremely helpful. So, the part of the trunk that's dark now from being waterlogged is essentially a lost cause? All I can do is to keep it dry, so that it hopefully doesn't rot, or to simply slow the onset of rot down?

I'm not Dave, but yes ALL wood will rot if it is perpetually damp.  Exposing and letting it dry may help slow it down.  But, after you have cleaned off its roots and repotted, let the lower trunk dry completely then treat with MinWax Wood hardener.  Let that dry before you cover the lower trunk again.  Repeat every year or two.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  MKBonsai on Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:28 am

Hi,

Nice tree with some nice potential.

One question - is the top layer of soil that you refer to actually soil or is it gravel or pumice as it looks like gravel gravel the photos? Or is there a layer of gravel then s the the clay that you mention?

Thanks!

JT - MKBonsai

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  -Jamie- on Tue Nov 10, 2015 5:39 pm

Thanks Jim, that's great advice with the wood hardener. I'll definitely keep that in mind when it comes to repotting.

And JT, it is potted in gravel/pumice, so it's nice and fast draining. The clay I mentioned is around the base of the trunk, on the right side of the trunk, and it's not a layer of clay or anything like that. It's just a little bit of clay stuck to the trunk, and I didn't dig around it to see how much of it there was. But I suspect it it was partially growing in this clay-like substance originally, and that it just wasn't fully cleaned off when collected, possibly so as not to disturb the roots.

I also spoke to the guy who collected it, and he said that these collected Utah Junipers are different from Rocky Mountain and other Junipers, because their bark is a much different type of bark. The inside layers of bark are not only harder, but the outside is almost like a coconut husk (long, strong strands of fiber - the Native Americans even wove with it), and that this outside husk is often quite wet in nature. He also told me that this tree was repotted to the same level of depth as it was originally growing, so it's not uncommon for them to be wet like this when growing in nature, but that the fibrous nature of the bark is used to being wetter. So, to avoid any potential for it being too wet, he pots them in this medium exclusively, and he hasn't had any problems since, but that he did have some problems with more water retaining soils. So, I'll just have to keep an eye on it, because New York is much more humid than than its native Utah, but hopefully it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

And thanks for all the help everyone. This was a great introduction to the IBC.

-Jamie-
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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

Post  MKBonsai on Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:40 pm

Thanks for the reply on the soil type. I would think that if the vast majority of the substrate is very free draining then that would normally help minimise rot - compared to if it was sitting in, say, peat based compost. I'd probably try to see if its possible to gently remove the clay depending on how much root it is attached to and whether it looks like in terms of whether it can be removed safely or not. The other advice regarding rotting of dead wood looks good to me - unfortunately it very difficult if not impossible for it to be totally avoided.

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Re: Utah Juniper - Potential for Trunk Rot?

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