Arbutus: 22 year-old Arbutus Tree - seriously sick

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by Alisonbi, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. Alisonbi

    Alisonbi Member

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    Vancouver, BC
    Hi there,

    We have an Arbutus tree at our property on Pasley Island in Howe Sound. It is located in a courtyard and very protected.

    The tree appears to be dying. There are a few green leaves at the very top of the tree, but the bark at the base of the trunk looks quite black with an uncharacteristically rough texture. There are a few buds with a spot of green showing, but no evidence of growth.

    I have been told that there is a "virus" that is killing Arbutus trees on the west coast and I'm wondering if this is the problem and if you can explain the disease.

    Is there anything we can do to save the tree?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Alison B-I
  2. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Victoria Australia [cool temperate]
    Can you get the help of a local arborist. They may be able to give you an idea if there is a disease. Sounds as tho something has gone wrong in it's environment considering it has survived for 22 years.

    I recently lost a very large "blackwood" that was 60 ft plus. It now appears the drought has got it. It took several years for it to get less and less leaves and then just stopped.

  3. ssi gardener

    ssi gardener Active Member

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    Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada
    Hi Alison, Being in the west coast area, it appears that this problem is spreading here. We have lost three trees to this 'disease'. I also was told, and it was generally accepted, that this was a virus and nothing could be done for it. However, I did some research and one item stated that it was a fungus. When I found a young tree by the deck beginning to get a large black spot on it I decided that if it were a fungus it might likely be treated with sulphur. I made a thick slurry of miscible sulphur and water and used a paint brush to thoroughly cover the spot and beyond for a space. I did this twice after rain. This actually stopped the advance of whatever it was, but left the bark in that area dead, black like the other trees had displayed. Three years later the tree is still growing and green, with the black spot now revealing the grey heartwood beneath it, but it now has a second patch appearing at its base. I also found another tree, but unfortunately I didn't discover it soon enough and it has already been girdled by black and is dying like the others although I tried sulphur. It would seem that, virus or fungus, it remains in the area, attacking arbutus trees. If anyone knows of a way to halt its advance, I'm sure both you and I would be mightily grateful. It does sound, though, as if your tree is beyond help. Once all the leaves begin to wilt and fade it dies. I've tried sulphuring a tree like this which had black around it entire circumference and it failed to help. You could try it, but I have my doubts. I'm sorry for your loss, as these beautiful trees are not easy to grow, and in the wild around here the deer eat the young ones which sprout so there are no replacements. I'm not sure if perhaps the problem remains in the dead roots and infects other trees in the area. Nobody seems to explain much about it beyond saying it's not treatable. I'll have to do more research. Hope you have an otherwise great summer. Lynetta

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