Arbutus: Dying arbutus tree?

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by Daniel Mosquin, Aug 26, 2002.

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    The following was received via email:

    The arbutus tree outside my house in Lions Bay (British Columbia) appears to be dying on one side. We did extensive renovations two years ago on our house which required digging a foundation right beside the tree. Branches on the dying side are turning black and no longer grow leaves. The tree is seeding profusely, both on the dying and healthy sides.

    The dying side borders the new foundation while the earth around the healthy side was undisturbed.

    Can this tree be saved and if so, how?

    Thank you in advance for any information you can supply.
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    This is an excellent question, whether your arbutus tree will survive. Presently, these trees are being attacked by a defoliating fungus -- stressed urban trees being the most susceptible, it seems, but it may not be in your area (yet). Prolific seeding is a sign of stress, but not necessarily of imminent departure from this world.

    If the root volume removed was not great, then the tree will probably recover. If there is disease in your area, the damage may be the opportunity for infection (and the tree's possible demise). Do not prune the tree. Allow the tree to naturally wall-off the dead tissue (which it will do in time). Pruning cuts are another opportunity for infection.

    Reducing stress on the tree should be your foremost consideration. Do not water or fertilize. Arbutus are adapted to a dry summer regime and infertile, gravelly soils. Do not build up soil around the stem, or reduce the flow of natural water or air by covering or compacting the soil in any way. The roots are probably very deep and they require oxygen to survive. Allow a free flow of air around the crown and do not increase shade (renovate buildings to improve light if necessary).

    Good luck!
  3. We are located in Sooke BC and our Arbutus trees have been battling a leaf fungus for a number of years now. In the later stages of the disease, the whole tree gets covered in a black dust.

    So far we have lost 1 major and 2 minor trees to the fungus. The remaining 3 major Arbutus trees appeared healthier last year, but appear to have a taken a turn for the worse this year. We are pretty sure that 1 will lose the battle soon. It is a shame as this is a nicely shaped tree along the road side.

    A couple of years ago we were told that there was little that could be done to save the trees; one must just wait and see.

    Is anyone aware of measures that can be taken to help the trees overcome the fungus?
  4. mcroteau1969

    mcroteau1969 Active Member 10 Years

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    Victoria, BC
    My 3 year old seedling was totally defoliated by a hungry young deer last spring but survived and feafed out very nicelyl.

    Now I noticed over the past few months a 'blackness' has spread across the surfaces of the leaves (not branches which remain brown) - please see photo.

    Is this indicative of a disease?

    - Michael

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