Monkey Puzzle tree problem

Discussion in 'Araucariaceae' started by Jim O, Jul 23, 2004.

  1. Jim O

    Jim O Member

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    Vancouver WA.
    When I moved to this house in 1980 there was a monkey Puzzle tree next to the drive that was about 15 or 20 feet tall. One Spring after the cable company had run a cable near the street ( about 20 feet from my tree) The Monkey tree died. I thought it had been the fault of the cable Co. but since I could not prove it I set out to replace the tree. I found a nursery North of Everett Wa. selling small Monkey trees ( about 6 inches tall). I bought one and brought it home. I left it in it's pot and placed it on the ground where the original tree had been. When winter came because it was above ground it died. That Fall I bought another one from the same place and this time I planted it in the same area as the original one had been. That was in 1989. It grew to about 15 feet. This past winter which saw more snow and ice than usual seemed to kill off the tree. It was fine and looked good until this spring when it slowly started to turn brown. I finally removed it yesterday. The roots that appeared to be in tact were all near the surface. I want to replace the tree again but am concerned that when it gets to be about 15 feet tall it to will die. Is there something that the tap root finds after about 15 years that kills it or did the winter just do a number on the tree? Any ideas of things I should do different the next time around?

    Jim O
    (the other Vancouver)
  2. AM Downie

    AM Downie Member

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    North Vancouver, BC Canada
    Root rot?

    Hi Jim,

    Monkey puzzles are very hardy in your area. The cold we experienced last winter (about 10F) is well above what they can tolerate (to -10F).

    I suspect that your trees may have succumbed to phytophthora root rot. This soil-borne fungal disease can decimate a mature tree in less than a year. I'm not aware that Monkey Puzzles are particularly susceptible, but it could be a factor. Port Orford (or Lawson's) Cypress trees are highly susceptible, for example.

    There is really no cure, or effective treatment. Below I excerpt some info from

    "Phytophthora cinnamomi is a microscopic soilborne organism, invisible to the naked eye, which causes root rot of a wide variety of plant species including many native and introduced ornamental plants. Other species of Phytophthora may cause diseases on a wide range of plants but are generally less severe. The biology and control measures are very similar so this outline will concentrate only on Phytophthora cinnamomi.

    Infection often results in the death of the plant, with earlier symptoms including wilting, yellowing and retention of dried foliage and darkening of young feeder roots and occasionally the larger roots. Phytophthora cinnamomi requires moist soil conditions and warm temperatures to be active, but damage caused by the disease most often occurs in summer when plants are drought stressed. The plant is unable to adequately absorb enough water from the soil because its roots are damaged and consequently may die. Small swimming zoospores are released which attach to and infect roots, normally behind the root tip. All spores and structures of Phytophthora are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. There is no way of visually telling if the pathogen is present in the soil.

    Phytophthora grows through the root destroying the tissue which is then unable to absorb water and nutrients. Further zoospores are produced in sporangia, particularly when the soil is moist and warm, and are released into the soil. Consequently zoospore numbers can build up quite rapidly. Zoospores move in water and may infect neighbouring plants especially those down slope from a site of infection. These spores are easily transported in storm water, drainage water, contaminated soil and on tools, footwear and vehicles. A further two spore types may be produced, a chlamydospore and an oospore, which are survival structures produced when conditions become unfavourable such as when a food source is exhausted or in periods of low temperature or drought. These spores are capable of surviving for extended periods of time, and when conditions become favourable they germinate and renew the life cycle. This allows Phytophthora to survive in dead plant tissue for a number of years.

    At present there is no one simple method for controlling Phytophthora cinnamomi. A combination of sanitation measures, good horticultural management, selective use of some fungicides and the addition of organic matter to soils can be used to retard the activity of Phytophthora."

    So, Jim, the presence of a soil-borne root rot organism would explain why successive plantings have also died. This is why I suspect Phytophthora. Perhaps your local Agricultural Extension Agency can provide more information, or refer you to a soil testing service to confirm this diagnosis.

    The only reasonable alternative would be to plant a root rot resistant species. There are lists of these available on the web.

    Good luck.
  3. I am presently living on property which is going to be bulldozed, and I have a beautiful 40 foot monkey tree that I would hate to see cut down. So I am thinking of selling it and I would like to know your opinion on moving a tree that big. Do you think that it would survive and is there a market for a tree that big? How do you put a price on it. Looking forward to hearing your reply.

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