Persimmon tree split - is this disease or fruit-load?

girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)July 27, 2013

So bummed right now! The persimmon tree that was doing so wonderfully earlier this spring - and DID have great fruit set, despite the nearest known male tree being about 1/4 mile from my yard - has had two branches split dreadfully, one large, one small. We've had a very rainy spring, not sure if it's fostered any disease or not, but in the past seasons the leaves did have black spots on them occasionally. Yet overall the tree's grown very well, put on a ton of growth since being planted as a tiny whip in 2006.

What is going on with the tree, and will it survive this breakage? Here is the large split (and it's along the main trunk, which is not good at all):

The spot inside the branch looks like some kind of disease:

There is a lot of fruit on this large branch, which I don't know whether contributed to the branch splitting or not. I had a branch break similarly on a nearby peach tree as well.

There's another smaller branch broken off the trunk higher up (I can add picture later if needed). Again, these branches were heavy with foliage and fruit. I don't want to lose the tree, and I don't particularly want to cut off the branch while the leaves and fruit are still very green and not showing signs of problems. But am afraid that such a split on the trunk could harm the tree if not treated before winter in some way.

Can I paint it with something in the meanwhile, to seal the torn area, then consider trimming off the branch in the cooler weather when the fruit's ripened and the leaves are off? Is this a sign of some kind of common persimmon tree disease, or an odd occurrence?

Please advise if this is something you've seen before in persimmons. I can post more pics of the tree if it'd help.

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econ0003(10a CA / 8b CA)

I lost a branch on my 4 year old persimmon tree earlier this year. The damage looks pretty much the same as yours. The only difference is that it didn't peel back any of the trunk with it.

It looks like there is some sort of infection on the top of the branch that probably weakened it enough along with the fruit load.

This post was edited by econ0003 on Sun, Jul 28, 13 at 0:52

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 9:57PM
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You've got some really bad crotches, with included bark on that tree - which predispose to splitting out, either from fruit load or wind pressure.
Needed some corrective/preventative pruning some time back.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 10:44PM
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miketrees(WA Australia)

I think some one is showing off what a great crop they have!
That just looks like an overload to me.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 6:47AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Thanks for responses. I did learn that there was a front that moved through with showers in the wee hours Saturday morning, that had some gusty winds behind it, and that's probably what cracked the branches.

@ econ - sorry to hear you had breakage as well. I totally can feel the angst over having to get rid of fruit, but am guessing we're both facing the same options.

@ lucky - was wanting to get your input, but sad that it's a pruning issue overlooked. The past half-dozen years were stressful from family and work standpoint (including the kids' dad dying suddenly last year) and I had no time to pay as much attention to my yard as I used to. But we have tried since last summer to give the fruit trees more attention. Took out a bunch, opened up the yard, did more mulching and clean out around the base of the persimmons and paw-paws. I did not even think of pruning the affected persimmon other than removing some branches growing toward the back fence, as I thought since it would maybe get as high as 40'-50' feet, that it would do its own thing pretty much as far as growth. What is recommended now for it? Should I put anything on the open scar on the main trunk?

@ mike - I thought it was a lovely crop forming, but have no idea what is normal versus big or small for this tree! It's only the second year to have set fruit (last year was the first time it had any). Now I wonder if I should go trim off some of the other branches' ends to make them lighter?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 11:07AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

I have a Meader persimmon and the natural growth habit of tree invites damage from storms. In the past, I have had some branch breaks such as you have. I believe the black exudate is normal as a consequence. Amazingly, my tree has been resilient despite the branch breaks. Every year I try to do some major pruning to keep the branch growth strong and sturdy.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Don't feel bad.
I was mowing in my orchard yesterday - and noticing all the horrible untended branch angles on many of my trees - persimmons and pecans/hicans alike.
Guess I oughta spend some time this winter correcting the worst-case scenarios before they blow out.

The 'black exudate' is typical of included bark; a common feature in many species, especially with narrow branch angles that are prone to splitting out with heavy fruit load or 'wind-sail' pressure.

The '816' persimmon, up the street from my office - likely to be Meader or possibly Early Golden - frequently breaks limbs due to heavy fruit load - not bad angles, just excessive fruit. Haven't yet decided if that's a good or bad thing...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 12:48PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Really appreciate the feedback and experiences - you all help diminish that knot of despair when I look at my tree sitting there looking pretty gnarly!

@ chervil - that's very reassuring about the tree's ability to bounce back despite losing limbs. Did you bother to treat the break areas with anything, or simply trim the branch off as cleanly as possible and let the trunk scar over however it would?

@ lucky -
Well, I do feel a bit better knowing I'm not some kind of terrible persimmon-tree slacker :) . But sure hope your own trees don't get whacked as hard as mine did. I think mine had actually grown something akin to a double central leader, with as big as that branch was. Then as the fruit load started to make it flop over, it was inevitable for the split to occur as it moved farther off its previously upright stance.

It's really ugly with the separated branch, but the branch's leaves and fruit don't seem harmed for the time being. They're resting on a wheelbarrow and an adjacent mound of dirt (we've been digging out another part of the yard). So the branch being held up off the ground makes it so the breakage angle doesn't torque the connecting bark/cambium layer.

If it's not dying, can I leave the branch "as is" until the fruit ripens, then trim it off? (Probably around mid-September, it went quite early last year compared to the female tree up at the front of the neighborhood.)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:12PM
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I might even be tempted to pull it back up into position and wrap/tie it in place until after the fruit ripens, then prune it off.

While it's not persimmon, Dr. Bill Reid has some good stuff at his northern pecan blogspot on pruning/training young trees, that can be transposed to persimmon and other species.
Here's one on 'stalked buds', that tend to produce narrow branch angles with included bark, similar to your tree

Here is a link that might be useful: Northern Pecan blog

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:24PM
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Oh... and you ARE a slacker - but I'm WORSE!! lol.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 8:20AM
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My take: to tight of a crotch, it was destined to happen. the rot or whatever you want to call it, was also due to the crotch being such a tight angle and having a water trap there. leave it as is to harvest the fruit then cut it away with a good pruning saw. wipe the saw with alcohol first just to be safe. probably no need to cover the wound, but feel free. Tree will be fine.

Do a lot of reading on pruning before starting an over all pruning program. there are so many places on the web that tell how to prune and it is all just 2nd hand conventional wisdom minus some really important details. I look at a tree and think of what I would do over several days before actually doing it. although that is more my personality then the requirements of pruning, but I haven't wanted to put any of them back on.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 11:10AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

@ lucky -

Okay okay, I'll order our "Promoting excellence in slacking since..... whenever" t-shirts, complete with Wallyism ("People think I don't have a plan"). Probably get around to it next week :-) .

Per your idea - I'd actually wanted to tie the branch up and push it against the trunk when it first broke, but wasn't sure what I could use that would hold the weight (the branch is about 1.5+" diameter at the base? and very long). For now, the propping-up may work, and I might employ some combo of tying/propping to get it through the early fall.

Your link for Dr. Reid's blogspot on the stalked buds was VERY helpful. His photos were definitely applicable to my tree. I'll keep a look-out for the narrow angles and bark inclusions from now on, had no idea the tree might be growing itself a ticking time-bomb for a branch junction.

@ cckw -

Appreciate the extra reassurance that the patient will survive this break and the upcoming surgery! Do narrow angles trap water enough to erode the bark and underlying tissue? Guess that's another thing to watch for. I agree on pruning thoughtfully, but not always timidly, which I'm prone to do. My son and I did some aggressive cutting back on a few plum trees this spring, hoping it'll make them productive.The peaches need re-shaping desperately and will get that as soon as harvest is over in the next two weeks. I'll need guidance on whether or not to prune the pawpaws and pears. But that's another thread or two.

I only wish there was a super-glue for trees or a way to instantly weld them back together. :)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 4:08PM
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I'm not necessarily advocating it, but we have a beautiful redbud in the backyard, planted by my eldest son when he was just a little tyke - that was splitting right down the middle - two leaders and lots of included bark. I augered a hole all the way through the trunk, inserted a threaded rod and put washers & nuts on each end and pulled it back together. That was well over 10 years ago. Yeah, I know it's not gonna last forever - and at some point the whole thing's gotta come down - and it's up to me to make sure no one hits that hardware with a chainsaw.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 7:51PM
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