Elderberry pruning issue?

KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)November 11, 2013

Hello, fellow gardeners.
I have an old elderberry that seems to be suffering from some sort of issue. One main branch has a huge hole that was filled with frass, I removed as much as I could after cutting it off. The hole goes in a little more than a foot down inside. Should I cut it all the way past the end point of that hole? Is it safe for the elderberry to do that now?

I'm not certain how to trim the rest of this poor scraggly thing back so it comes in with more pizazz next year. I love how the branches arch over the driveway ( no vehicles park here) but I'm sure it needs to be pruned back anyway.

Suggestions appreciated.

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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

Another photo of the damaged area.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 1:09PM
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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

And how scraggly it is.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 1:11PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Now that over grown Elderberry by many years Elderberry should be keep to about 8 foot tall 4 year old canes cut out. Elderberry growth by canes meaning hollow with webbing inside. Cut all growth down to stump new canes come up and fruit on tops. Berries are poison before good ripe. I live on farm 5 miles west Glennville, Ga.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 1:40PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Wow, I never seen one that big! As Gator says you are supposed to cut off older canes. It does have some insect eating it. I doubt it can be saved. I didn't even know they could become a tree! Wow! If you want to save it. I would say that the right main branch where the wound is should be cut to the ground and destroyed. Also if not eating fruit, if it even fruits? A systemic insecticide is needed here for sure. Well it would work the best. But at this point you may want to seek professional help from an arborist.
You may want to hire a service to kill the insects. I'm in MI so have no idea what is wrong. To me it looks like carpenter ants (we don't have termites) But if it is termites, your house is probably next, better find out what insect is doing this.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 9:16PM
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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

No insects were inside. I used Organicide to spray it and nothing came out. It does fruit, unfortunately it's so tall making it impossible to reach.

I figured I'd have to cut that side down, which is fine if it means saving it.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 8:27AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Yeah the small holes above the center hole really look like what carpenter ants do to oaks and maples here. I see it all the time. I have seen maybe 25 trees downed from the ants. And often no ants are in sight. So not seeing the insect means nothing. It appears to be rotting, and is bad enough to compromise that side of the tree. They are hollow unlike many trees, so it's hard to say what is normal? Hopefully others will reply to this message. Again it will cost some bucks but a certified arborist is going to give you the best advice. Not a tree trimmer, a tree professional. Although they do have saws :) It is certainly a skilled trade and one must be qualified and be licensed by the state. Skill sets vary, so I assume it's like trying to find a good Plummer, not always easy. The arborists society (ASCA) usually has a list of local professionals. They often testify in legal disputes about trees.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:20AM
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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

I find it weird that three times now I've tried to reply to you, and it goes through, but when I come back it's gone x_x

Okay, so, let's try again!
We currently can't afford an arborist, however I have saved a link to the local arborists here in Savannah for when we are able to get one to check out the rest of our plants.

I went ahead and trimmed back the elderberry anyway since it needed it. My guess is that it was about 15-20 years old. The healthy branches were actually solid throughout! Not hollow like expected. Only the bad section was hollow, and it was clearly damaged, you could see the staining in the surrounding wood. The smaller holes above only went back about an inch or two, but after that it was just the larger hole itself. I ended up cutting off about 16" from where the hole began, still, no bugs and no extra holes were found. I know that means nothing, but I was surprised to see absolutely NOTHING in there, not a spider, no grubs, not a darn thing.

Should I put a mulch around the base of the tree, and if so, what kind and how much?


    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 3:13PM
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There is a group of fruit enthusiasts in Savannah who you might contact for some local advice. They are mainly experimenting with bananas and citrus at the old Bamboo Introduction Station on Hwy 17 (?) a bit south of the city but probably are well connected with others of wider interest.

I too have never seen a elderberry that large.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 8:16PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"I too have never seen a elderberry that large."

Yeah it's super cool! For mulch I like pine bark the best, but anything will do. Well i really do not like wood. And I'm not sure bark is much better? The problems is fungi break down wood, and it could attract pathogenic fungi. The ship is still out on this. I have seen little research. I use pine straw for my strawberries to keep them off the ground. I may go with this for everything soon. I can get it free.
Damage on yout tree looks like insects, but maybe it is a fungus? Maybe old age? Keep us updated and good luck!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:03PM
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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

I think I may know the group you're referring to, gonebananas! Not personally, but I did go to the plant swap in March, is Jane one of the people? If so, she is literally a few blocks down from us.

It really is a nice big elderberry, we have another on the other side of the house almost as big.

I may just put leaf litter down as mulch. Since it will compost itself it can also feed the tree too. We have a huge old sweet gum tree that drops a ton of leaves. Usually we toss it all in the compost bin, but there's plenty to share with the elder.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 2:23PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Do you know what sort of elderberry it is? Is it Sambucus nigra? If so they can take any amount of cutting back. They are all over the place here and grow in hedges everywhere ie they are cut back hard every year or so. But there are also plenty of old elders as big as yours - they are not strong wooded or long lived trees but will rejuvenate from any damage or pruning. They self seed here and are essentially weeds. This isn't a tree which needs molly coddling.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 4:21PM
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KrakenQueen(8b, Savannah GA)

Oops, double post!

It's definitely nigra. And yeah, it's all over the place. Since I trimmed it back the tree looks a bit happier.

I'll check out the link when I'm off my phone :)

This post was edited by KrakenQueen on Mon, Dec 2, 13 at 22:49

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 4:34PM
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