Dieback and related issues concerning JM witch's brooms

Discussion in 'Maples' started by katsura, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    witches brooms do experience die back and sudden death.
    I don't think anyone knows why - perhaps it's their undersized root ball/mass.
    I have a large Shaina that like mapledia alawys looked great in full sun but this year has noticeable die back.
    I hope it does not suddenly die.
    I am sorry for your loss, mapledia.
     
  2. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Last year i bought three very large Shaina, all three had horrible die back. This last spring they all seem to have a lot more dieback but yet as i look at them today, they seem to be very full with only a few holes.

    Over the last few years i have lost several Shaina, aratama and kandy kitchen and when i break them up for the trash pile i find they have very small root systems. I feel like there must be something about the witches brooms which keeps them from generating the energy to grow roots.

    I would guess that their is truth to the fact that they were hit with some sort of virus since they are an abnormal growth on a tree.
     
  3. mapledia

    mapledia Active Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    All the comments above resonate with me. Over the past 3 years, I, too have lost Shaina, Aratama and Kandy Kitchen. Happily my Skeeter's broom is still doing just great in a very shady location. But re Shaina, it sure looks great when it's doing well. But just generally I'm not happy with the brooms. They don't grow much (if at all) in my yard, they experience a lot more die-back than any of my other JMs, and when they do have die-back they don't produce enough growth to offset what's been lost. I've experimented with location, different soil culture and nearly everything else, but always with the same disappointing results.
     
  4. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    I love the witches brooms because of the many various colors and sizes of the leaves on the same plant,
    but they are subject to die back and I live in fear of sudden death. Also I like their oddity.
    I grow mine in FULL DAY SUN and today it is 100F on the thermometer here. They like sun.
    I know they are temperamental and not for everyone, and I am sorry to hear of people losing maples
    because I know how sad that is and I know how much I hate to lose mine.
     
  5. maf

    maf Well-Known Member Maple Society

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    It is no surprise that witch's brooms die more easily than normal maples, they are freaks of nature after all. It was interesting to hear that some dead brooms had very small root systems, when examined. It is said that maple witch's brooms cannot be grown on their own roots (by layering or cuttings etc) and can only be propagated by grafting; if this is true it might suggest that these plants expend most of their energy on top growth rather than root growth and are thus more susceptible to problems in the root zone.

    There was a thread on this forum some time ago which discussed how the Shaina and Aratama type witch's brooms often suffer a phenomenom where the scion wood grows to a much larger diameter than the rootstock. This may be related to the other problems people are experiencing.

    I have 'Shaina' (or a very similar broom, it was received unlabelled) and 'Coonara Pygmy' and, like katsura said, I also find they appreciate full sun for most of the day. Mine are in containers.
     
  6. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    The brooms which come directly from the growers can sometimes have some this issue magnified since the trees have been fed to get to a full size and the root system did not grow at the same rate. In most of my dead cases, I have found the dead trees to have very small root systems. I found one tree to have a 2" caliper trunk but its rootball was less than 6" which did not look large enough to support the tree and yes the tree is dead. These trees have consumed a huge amount of my money and I am very reluctant to buy them.

    I can say that I have Ap Elizabeth and Ap English Town and I have not seen the large dieback nor have I suffered any death. Ap Skeeter's Broom has also been good but I find that tre to grow a lot bigger than what i consider a similar dwarf. Another one I really like is Brandt's Dwarf but it may also grow larger.
     
  7. Houzi

    Houzi Active Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    I must admit the only die back I've ever had was last year on uncharacteristic long growth in October.Usually I get maybe just one or two nodes of growth/year,but extremely dense despite opening up interior each winter.At 5/6years old still under 2ft tall in ground.As has been pointed out,perhaps these supercharged examples are not such a good long term investment.
    It makes me wonder....if this 'sick' dwarf can be made to overtake the rootstock(assumably standard vigorous palmatum)and also that dwarves remain dwarves despite this rootstock.It brings back that old arguement of wether there is any long term advantage of grafts vs cuttings etc.,seeing as the rootstock seems to have little bearing on the growth in this case.I know one of our largest JM producers here chooses to use a well known cultivar for seedling rootstocks purely because they are repeatable and straight,not for their vigour.(sorry perhaps not the right thread to discuss this)
     
  8. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Since witches brooms are grafted on a non-broom rootstock, I am curious about how the top structure broom feeds
    back to "dwarf" the root ball/ root mass if that is a proven characteristic of brooms which anecdotically seems true
    with many of my brooms and which Charlie has observed by measurements mentioned above. What mechanisms do
    we know that inhibit root ball growth which the brooms might be creating or enhancing?
    I called Thursday a good friend who is a huge Pacific Northwest grafter/nurseryman to run some of these questions
    by him and he did not blanketly accept our premise of smaller rootballs on brooms. He did agree that Skeeter's Broom
    is wobbly in containers indicating a small root mass but he told me he had over 500 Shainas in 5 gal containers and had
    never noticed wobbling which he will now look into more carefully. He did not have an answer to my question in paragraph 1.
    He did agree that Aratama and Shaina are notorious for overgrowing their grafts which maf & Housi mentioned. Like maf I grow
    my brooms in containers. My grower/grafter friend made a good point about broom die back - he did not agree that brooms
    necessarily have more die back but he did say that because of their density, the sunlight is often shut out to the interior or
    lower parts of the tree which could account for any die back.
    This topic probably deserves its own thread which I leave up to maf & the adminstrators, but I am pursuing answers to my
    above question about the feed back loop from the top broom that would inhibit rootstock root growth.
     
  9. maf

    maf Well-Known Member Maple Society

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Another thing about the interior die-back in brooms like Shaina is that the density of the foliage can mean that the plants do not dry out as quickly as normal maples after rainfall, thus encouraging fungal type problems that thrive in still humid conditions. I think this is one of the reasons they seem to do better in open conditions where the wind and full sun can more quickly driy out the foliage after the rain has stopped. It would be interesting to see if there were any connection between wetter than normal spring weather and dieback in witch's brooms.

    Good suggestion.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  10. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    I am sorry for your Shaina, Mapledia.
    My contribution to this interesting discussion is based on my experience, I have not noticed any more dieback in brooms than in the other palmatums. Neither have I observed a smaller rootmass when replanting or moving them.
    I do want to expand on what Houzi says for this perceived difference since I believe he has touched the right cord. Many growers indeed heavily fertilize the trees to push growth, I have seen lots of Shainas with large internodes which is totally uncharacteristic. In many nurseries 2 year old Shainas are taller than my 9 year old planted in the ground. This may be a major trigger both for the die back and for the imbalance root/top growth. My Shaina grows 3-5 cm/year only and has not experienced any dieback so far. Indeed, I lost half of my large Skeeters Broom last year but, to me, it was a case of Verticillium albo-atrum.

    Gomero
     
  11. mapledia

    mapledia Active Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Thanks, Gomero. My Shaina did very well in its location of bright light, mostly the filtered variety, but with some full sun each day for 5 years. We didn't force it to grow, just gave it small-to-moderate amounts of spring fertilizer each year to compensate for leeching of nutrients in the soil during the winter rainy period. The internodes on my Shaina were very close together and it showed the dense growth habit characteristic of the brooms. Frankly, I didn't expect it to grow much (and it didn't), but when the die-back started to occur, I was concerned because it wasn't just a few leaves or stem tips: it was entire branches of die-back. When I pruned off the die-back, I examined them, and they seemed disease-free to me. None of the trees surrounding Shaina have experienced any difficulty whatsoever. When it died, I examined the root system as we dug it up, and the root ball was quite large, typical of what I've seen with other JMs, and there was no apparent root rot nor other abnormalities. So I'm at a loss to know why, exactly, this particular plant died. Of course, like all gardeners, this happens from time to time, but I'd still like to know why this plant died. I do have other brooms in my garden, and they are all growing slowly but doing very well with no die-back whatsoever. At any rate, I totally agree with you that some growers do push growth to the max, and this is not in the best interests of the plant or customer. It stresses the plant, usually to dire consequences. I'm also aware that some growers fail to successfully match the scion wood with the best possible root stock, and this also creates bad results down the road.

    Good to hear from you, Gomero.
    mapledia
     
  12. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    I have spoken the last 2 days with 5 grafters/growers well-known to many forum members about points raised in this thread.
    I wanted to share their experiences and thoughts with forum colleagues hoping you would find them of interest.
    Shaina was thought to be the WB (witches broom) most subject to die back. Most of the growers (but not all) had the same experience
    I and amazing maples had with inhibited root balls/mass on WB's - good feedback from mapledia that her Shaina had a normal root ball.
    Everyone experienced WB's often overgrowing their grafts where the scion/rootstock union shows graft incompatibility with the scion base
    being thicker than the rootstock below. I asked all of them if they felt it was scion overgrowth or rootstock undergrowth and most (not all)
    thought it was the former. I asked this because most of us thought the carbohydrate sharing from the WB top with the rootstock and roots
    was compromised in WB's likely partly accounting for the inhibited root mass and maybe accounting for the smaller rootstock caliper growth.
    I was told that some old time growers would bury the bulbous scion union (or mound dirt up on it) to get the scion to grow its own roots (the
    rootstock would eventually die away) almost a form of air layering. The man who has found the most WB's and grafted them (he found & named
    Shaina) told me that on every WB he has ever found there is a fist-like bolus at the point where the original broom arises from the host tree and
    he found this similar to the graft overgrowth bulge which he thinks is a characteristic of WB's. He told me that he recently revisited the original
    Shaina broom which has tripled in size from his late 1970's discovery. The atropurpureum maple on which the broom lives is itself dying back now.
    He sent his original scions to Iseli in Oregon who propagated Shaina, the first ones of which were huge, often 3-5 feet tall for whatever reasons &
    when he saw them he just knew these trees would end badly when sent back East. He also told me he has found that WB's need more uniform
    watering schedules than other maples and that WB's get stressed by changes in watering frequency (not the amount of water). I told him that my
    large Shaina was showing interior die back for the first time and he told me he uses AGRASTREP (sp?) which works on fireblight and pseudomonas.
    I asked him if he thought the frequency of watering effect on WB's might be connected to their compromised root balls but he was unsure.
    Another friend felt that much overgrowth of the graft was because WB's were not grafted onto vigorous enough rootstock like amoenum rootstock
    which could compensate for the WB's inherent mutational weakness. Just about everyone felt that WB's being "freaks of nature" (to quote maf) was
    intrinsic to the odd characteristics discussed in this thread - often inadequate root ball, excess die back, graft overgrowth, even sudden death.
    Like the 5 "experts" I spoke with, forum members have a diversity of experiences and opinions on the topics of this thread which I find thrilling as
    we all grope our way toward replicable and useful knowledge of WB's whose odd secrets often defy & contradict.
     
    maplesmagpie likes this.
  13. mapledia

    mapledia Active Member

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Hey, Katsura, thanks for the informative post. I was especially interested in the comment you made about WBs needing a uniform watering schedule (not the amount of water). My Shaina was, like all my JMs, on a strict watering schedule and so that was not an issue for it. Like I said, I was sorry to see my Shaina die-back for 2 years and then suddenly just die. I did study the root ball when I dug it up, and it seemed to me at least the size of my other JMs and appeared disease-free. There was no root-rot, no destruction of tissue, no evidence of disease, and the size of the ball was quite good ... not what I'd call "small" by any means, given the size of the tree. Also, the graft union appeared to be perfect with no overgrowth discernible to the naked eye. Still, I appreciate the information you've provided and will take all this into consideration with my other brooms. Many thanks.
     
  14. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Re: Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

    Mapledia, would you discard Veticillium albo-atrum completely?

    Mike, interesting what you say. I want to highlight your point on WB's growing on their own roots. This is exactly the case of my Shaina and of many of my older low-grafted maples. Even though when planted all the grafted maples have their graft union well above ground, over the years, with the regular addition of mulch, the union ends up disappearing underground.

    Gomero
     
  15. maf

    maf Well-Known Member Maple Society

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    Great information, katsura, thanks for posting. This discussion now has its own thread, as suggested.

    With the knowledge that brooms can be encouraged to grow their own roots by mounding the soil around the graft union, I wonder if anyone has had success with air layering a witch's broom such as 'Shaina'? I have previously seen reports that this technique is not successful with WB's.
     
  16. mapledia

    mapledia Active Member

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    Gomero, no I would not discount Verticillium albo-atrum as the cause of my plant's death. It's just that when I have experienced this particular pathogen, I've seen yellowing and defoliation on a few branches, and in some cases the wilting of the entire plant. And of course I then look for discoloration of the vascular tissue. My Shaina did not exhibit discolored vascular tissue, nor did the plant show wilting at any time. However, as a precaution, when I removed Shaina I also removed all the surrounding dirt and burned the dead plant tissue. No JMs are planted in Shaina's old spot at present.
    mapledia
     
  17. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Depending on the growing location, watering
    practices, fertilizer regimens, amount of sun,
    wind protection and climate, one aspect that
    some of us felt was quite common in most
    all of the witches broom Maples, was that
    they all seemed a little more susceptible to
    Verticillium alboatrum damage than other
    broom types were.

    The dilemma with the witches broom plants
    we see today as five year olds and older for
    resale is that upon a stress or two we may
    see telltale signs of Tight Bark in the scion
    portion of the tree than we did before the
    stresses occurred. The biggest issue of
    all is that we have been seeing in the last
    10-15 years a higher frequency of rootstocks
    that are showing signs of Tight Bark. There
    is little doubt that if the rootstock shows
    evidence of Tight Bark as a two year graft,
    we can expect to see more and more signs
    of Tight Bark in the scion portion of the tree
    at a more rapid pace than if the scion portion
    only had the bacterium present. Thus, for
    the witches brooms, the brooms and the
    dwarf forms it is imperative to use clean,
    Tight Bark free rootstocks for propagation
    purposes. Unfortunately through tissue
    culture techniques at this date, we have
    not been effective at reducing the amount
    of Tight Bark in our tissue culture grown
    plants, nor have we effectively lessoned
    the amount of Verticillium alboatrum in the
    plants system either. In order to save and
    protect the witches broom plants by way of
    grafting we have to use a clean rootstock
    that has some rootstock vigor that can be
    introduced into the scion portion of the
    tree. Even dwarfing rootstocks in Pomes,
    some Stone fruits, Nut trees and Citrus can
    still impart hormonal changes into the scion
    to limit how tall and effect overall size of
    the tree will grow and still be a vigorous
    rootstock for us in the ground. Vigor in
    this sense means able to grow and spread
    and be able to carry out chemical functions
    and transport of materials into the host part
    of the tree almost as exclusively as a
    standard rootstock could for a standard
    sized tree. This was one of the main
    criteria for developing a dwarfing rootstock
    for the palmatum type Maples years ago.
    As a matter of fact our 'Kiyohime akame'
    was grafted onto such a rootstock back
    in the 80's. Mr. Koto Matsubara was the
    person most able to root cuttings from the
    broom type palmatum type Maples and
    be quite successful at it, when so many
    others that tried failed in their attempts.

    Yes, layering of the overgrown grafted
    plants has been done in palmatum type
    Maples before with about an 80% success
    rate if we do not wait for the graft union to
    dry out and become overly brittle. A tree
    wound or a forced wound in a layered branch
    below ground or an air layered branch above
    ground still require a cut to induce rootlet
    formation with or without an accompanying
    hormonal paste. If we see the graft incompatibility
    soon enough we can either dig up the tree
    and replant with the graft union right below
    the soil surface or we can mound up covering
    the graft union and hope that we do get some
    root formation from the viable, exterior portion
    of the graft. Has been done in palmatum types
    but only in an experimental sense to see if we
    could save a tree in which the rootstock was
    starting to fail on us.

    Jim
     
  18. emery

    emery Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Great post katsura, thanks. (I haven't participated in this one since WBs are a bit outside my purview; still very interesting though.)

    I looked up what you had called "agrostrep" for the record the product is "agristrep" or "agri-strep" a product based on streptomycin sulfate powder. I am very interested to hear this may be a weapon in the fight against pseudomonas infection and will certainly pursue it. Thanks again.

    -E
     
  19. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I believe that Shaina is typically liable to suddenly 'up and die' like this
    I had a beautiful plant for three years (about 4 feet high) which decided that life for it was to be no more.
    There were no visible signs of disease and the root system was, at least to my eyes, perfectly sound
    I planted an Osakasuki in its place with no ill effects whatsoever
    It is now five years old with me and doing well
     
  20. Houzi

    Houzi Active Member

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    Hmm,spoke too soon,my Shaina is now putting out lots of fast growth for the first time ever.It's good to see it growing at last,and at least it'll have time to harden off this year,but good in the long run? we shall see.
    Just a thought...when found,witches brooms have a whole tree keeping them alive and keeping the roots going.Shaina only has it's roots.
     
  21. bub72ck

    bub72ck Active Member

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    This is an old thread but any new news or problems specifically from Shaina owners? I purchased one today and wonder how it is going to do. It's been four years since this thread was started meaning my tree was just starting it's life. Any new developments on better success rates with WBs?
     
  22. Houzi

    Houzi Active Member

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    Nothing to report here.Mine's planted in probably less than ideal conditions,in alkaline soil at lawn edge.That's probably why it doesn't grow vigorously but it grows more and dies back less each year.All I can recommend is just to be safe,don't try to push growth too much,it may ruin it's form and could increase die back(though I'd expect some natural interior die back as it gets really dense and dark in there with age)
     
  23. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I wonder whether or not the addition of Rootgrow (mycorrhizal fungi) to the root system would benefit these plants?
     
  24. marymyers

    marymyers Active Member Maple Society

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    It is ironic that this thread just showed up. I just lost 4 brooms this spring. One was my fault because I moved it? I lost Brandt's Dwarf, Kandy Kitchen and Scarlet Princess. All had been in the ground (in different areas) for one year. All just wilted and I think they are all gone. I received all of these trees from the same internet grower. This year I received Verna Jean from him, and that died 2 weeks after receiving it. Doesn't it make you wonder if some issues could be with the particular grower (grafter) of these trees.

    I am lucky that these were my only losses this Spring, and the most that I have lost at any one time.
     
  25. marymyers

    marymyers Active Member Maple Society

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    Thank you for your advice, Whis4ey. I have just purchased mycorrhizal fungi and will give a dose to all my brooms. It sounds like this may be very helpful to strengthen there root system.
     

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