My plum tree seems to be dying. How can I save it?

Plum and prune    San Jose CA

My plum tree is about 11 years old. We never pruned it till about 2 year ago when we cut off a lot of branches - our neighbors were complaining that it was spreading into their backyard. One of the roots had extended under the fence into the neighbors backyard and they had taken the liberty to cut the root to address their concern that the tree root might destroy the concrete in their backyard. The tree was about 15-16 feet high and equally spread out to about 12-14 ft in width of the foliage/branches, so we never thought cutting one root could adversely impact this tree.

Next season we did not get any leaves and same happened last year as well. I noticed that some branches were starting to dry out and it seems like the tree is dying.. I cut out some branches and noticed black spots (see photo) that looks like fungus. I have enclosed some pictures and would welcome/appreciate suggestions on how to revive this tree.

Posted by: Rajeev (3 points) Rajeev
Posted: April 19, 2015


I reached out to some tree fruit experts at Penn State, here is what I got.

"I had to read a little further on the link, but he says the tree had no leaves last year and from the pictures the tree is dead. Stone fruits are pretty water hungry and with the drought in CA where these trees are and the chainsaw pruning of major limbs, the trees were stressed out and died. The black fungus is just secondary rot moving in. The cracking is because the tree is drying into firewood. Ran it by our plant path person down here, Kari Peter, and she said the same thing. Take care. David Biddinger, Penn State"

Now that I read this I looked more closely at the images and it could be that the tree is dead

Posted by: David Hughes (67 points) David Hughes
Posted: April 23, 2015

Can I ask if there is any sign of the branches still being alive? It's worrying that they have not produced leaves for the past two years (correct?). If you scrape away a small bit of bark is there any healthy green wood underneath? You may have to try several branches to make sure you don't miss any living ones. Let's try to ascertain if the tree is still living as a first step.

I currently suspect that the tree is infected with the silver leaf pathogen, Chondrostereum purpureum, which is a wood rotting fungus that attacks many fruit trees - including plum. The pathogen enters the tree through wounds, including pruning wounds and grows down into the wood, producing a dark stain. In addition to the staining of the wood, the fungus produces a toxin which results in a distinctive silvering of the leaves. This may occur on one branch to begin with and then spread to other branches. The silver sheen is usually particularly apparent on plum. Would you happen to remember anything unusual about the leaves when they were last produced?

A further diagnostic symptom would be the presence of fungal fruiting bodies (mushrooms) on dead wood. They occur in clusters (see pic) and release spores in the fall and winter when conditions are moist. Susceptible trees should be pruned in summer to reduce the risk of silver leaf and pruning wounds can be painted with fungicide if the tree is a susceptible variety.

Posted by: Lindsay McMenemy (4 points) Lindsay McMenemy
Posted: April 20, 2015

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