cherry tree bark/insect damage

mabeldingeldine_gwJune 14, 2007

Thanks in advance for any help. I have a 4 y/o Montmorency sour cherry tree which this spring has developed a large vertical split in the bark. It is on the SW side, so at first I suspected sun scald (the trunk of the tree is fairly protected from sun by nearby growth, but the crown gets sun about all day), but I am not sure as it appears there may be some borer at work, too, judging from some apparent frass on the injury site. A photo is available here:

I've looked around online and have called my cooperative extension with no definitive answer yet.

What caused the injury(ies) and can it be treated, and if so, how?

THANKS!! This is the first year the tree has set fruit and it is killing me to think of losing it now.

I've also posted this question in Garden Pests.


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I looked at the photo of your cherry tree trunk, and it is indeed horrible. In fact, it looks like disaster on a 4-year old tree, since I don't see how a cherry tree would ever heal from such an injury in that location.

This looks more like freeze damage to me than anything else. I have seen bark splits from freeze/thaw cycles in early spring, but the way your bark has peeled back is beyond anything I have seen before. If there is minor insect activity, it is opportunistic, and I don't believe it caused the split, nor do I think sunscald could have done this.

I think I would be planting a new tree about now, since the prognosis for this one is not good.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 8:57AM
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Hi Don,

Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I appreciate your help even if it is bad news. I think we are going to take the tree down this weekend. Now I'm debating about replacing it with a peach tree, as the Jan and Joel bush cherries I planted this year are doing really well.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:51AM
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alcan_nw(z1 AK)

"What caused the injury(ies)"


Montmorency is said to be good to -40F but not under every circumstance. There are so many things that have to be just right for your tree to be healthy enough to survive that limit. For example a tree that has begun to become stressed can become infected easier with bacteria P.S. short for "Psuedomonas syringae", which is an opportunistic disease. Once stressed and established these bacterias then try to kill plant cells in the way diseases do and the P.S. bacterias do "ice nucleate" adjacent plant cells. This means that the cells that are otherwise prepared to survive much colder than below freezing temperatures are less able to because the cells get injected with compounds that favor ice crystallization at closer temperatures to the normal freezing of water, when then the cells will freeze and burst.

I would say most extension services are really not prepared to advise all the things you must do (tree health) because this can become a rather involved project in some weather locals and even soil types. You can't always rely on spraying to prevent initial infection sites because many of them have got specialized and resist the chemicals. I would be prepared to tell you to burn the tree after you've eaten the cherries, or at least surgically torch all the open diseased area.

And if it is the disease I truly think it is (it happened in the same way to my cherry in Alaska) planting a peach (lower 48 peach experiences) will give you the same maintenance requirements because they are just as susceptible or more, to the same disease as cherries. But if you DO plant peach I've heard about a new peach rootstock bred in N.J. called 'Guardian' that has in trials shown to keep the host tree scaffold in good enough condition to prevent these bacterial infections, for the most part.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 3:47AM
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alcan_nw(z1 AK)

I meant to say N.C. not N.J. as the State 'guardian' roostock was selected from.
(IE: 2003 article

 Disease continues to defy complete control efforts: Hybrid almond rootstocks prey to canker in sandy soil

This is the image from your blog too. Â
click for larger image

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 11:21AM
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Help. We have had an unusually snowy winter here in Southcoast Massachusetts. Our japanese cherry tree's bark is split down one side of the tree. The branches have buds on them, but we're concerned that there is something seriously wrong with the tree. Is there anything we can do to save the tree or will we have to discard it? p.s. we've had this tree for close to ten years.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 5:35PM
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I too have had this happen only the leaves have black spots and are turning yellow. Also hardened sap os evident.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:54PM
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