Mesquite Tree disease

magicgarden_az(Z9)June 11, 2008

My 5yr old tree did not fully leaf out this year. Its sort of thin. It doesn't look sick, but I've heard this is the beginning of a decline due to disease. Has anyone every encountered this? Any idea what to do?

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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

I would contact an arborist for a consultation.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 2:22AM
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After taking pictures, Cathy Bishof (owner of Mesquite Valley Growers) was consulted. She said the tree isn't getting enough water and that a 50 foot soaker needed to be put around the tree for 4-5 hours. She also said that Mesquies need organtic fertilizer. Who knew? Its a desert tree and yet, it can't survive naturally. Apparantly, if Mesquites aren't watered and fed, they suffer from "sun-scorching" which causes the bark to peel and strip away - then the bugs move in.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 5:50PM
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Mesquites (and all trees) need deep, but infrequent watering. That means watering for long periods of time (as Mesquite Valley Growers suggested) once every three to four weeks - more often when trees are newly planted. It takes from 3 to 5 years for trees to become established. I use a hose and let the water trickle overnight at the edge of the canopy (that is where most of the feeder roots are). If the tree is large, move the hose to another area the next night and so on. Water at night so the temperature of the water is as low as possible.

Mesquites are legumes, a family of plants that are able to manufacture nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil. They typically do not need fertilizer and I wouldn't apply any to yours, especially since it is stressed. To do so would be like asking a marathon runner to go an extra mile or so after the end of the race.

Mesquites (and all trees) will suffer from sunburn or sunscorching if they are pruned too much. The lower branches help protect the trunks from the intense rays of the sun. In our landscapes we often prune theses branches creating umbrella-like shapes and thin the canopy. Pruning at the wrong time of year (June-August)can also result in sunburn - as branches previously shaded are now exposed. Removing more than 25 percent of the foliage in any year can send a tree into a stress mode that makes it vulnerable to pests and diseases. A tree in stress gives off chemical signals that attract insect pests - an example is the bark beetle problem in the northern AZ forests.

While your tree is recovering, do not prune or fertilize. A mesquite tree with a 10 foot diameter canopy needs about 70 gallons of water applied once every two weeks in the summer. Established trees of this size only need water once every three to four weeks, applying about 100-140 gallons. Mesquites seldom need water during the winter if we receive adequate soaking rains.

I hope this helps.

Certified Arborist

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 12:19PM
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Excellent post by aztreelvr. I have just one thing to add. I would check to see if the tree was planted at the proper depth. There is an epidemic here in the valley of trees being planted too deeply.

Deep planting can lead to disease, insect problems, and the roots can actually suffer from lack of oxygen and fail to develop or die.

Easy way to check:

If the trunk looks like a pencil shoved in the ground, it is too deep. You should be able to see a flare (root flare) where the trunk meets the ground. If you find it is planted too deep you can dig out the soil from around the trunk to a radius of about 3 times the diameter of the trunk.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 11:58PM
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aztreelvr - Certified Arborist - thank you for your post. It is interesting that each arborist and nursery professional has a varying position on this matter. After consulting with Cathy Bishop, owner of Mesquite Valley Growers, who agrees with you regarding the watering scheme - the only difference is that she thinks the tree needs an organic fertilizing now (not chemical).

The most important thing to come out of this is that people who do not water their Mesquites - will now know they are wrong! Most of our Mesquites are not the thorny, native ones. They are from Chile and come from the nursery. They are adaptable - but that doesn't mean they don't need care.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 1:05PM
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azarborist - thanks for catching the planting too deeply. I usually include this info but totally missed it this time. You're absolutely right - planting below grade and then adding soil to make it appear level is rampant in the landscape trade.

Just a note about mesquites. Usually by the time any mesquite has been in the ground five years, you can begin weaning it off the irrigation system. These trees can survive on rainfall alone (even the Chilean) - assuming we have a year with normal rainfall - along with the water they 'steal' from surrounding shrubs. In dry years give established trees a good deep soaking once a month in the summer.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:57PM
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I have an almost 20 year old Chilean Mesquite that is developing cankers. Is there a treatment and can I save the tree?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 2:03PM
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I have a question about my mesquite. I mistakenly had it trimmed back a little bit about 3 weeks ago because it was over my property line and I didn't want to cause a problem with my neighbor. Now the tree is losing its leaves. Is this a sign of "scorching" also?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 11:26AM
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We'll need a few more details about the 'canker(s)' on your mesquite. Where are they located (branch, trunk, roots)? What do they look like? (mushroom-like, enlarged area on branch, what color, is there oozing sap, what color is the sap, does the sap have an odor.)

Photos would be great. You can post these in the "Gallery" section of this forum - there is a link on the main page.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 12:37PM
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Three weeks ago we had some exceedingly hot temperatures. How much of the foliage was removed when your tree was trimmed? If it exceeded 25 percent, the falling leaflets cold be a sign of stress.

Mesquites also drop their leaves during drought. For now the best course of action is to water your tree deeply (to three feet) but infrequently. I like to use a hose and let it trickle overnight at the drip line (edge of branches). If your tree is large, you may need to move the hose to a different side of the tree and water again the next night. Don't water next to the trunk. For mature trees, water once every three to four weeks in the summer tapering to once every six weeks in the winter. For young trees, water deeply once every two to three weeks in summer tapering to once a month in the winter.

Don't seal the pruing wounds - leave them open to the air.
If there was severe pruning done, you can try to protect the trunk or branches by painting with latex paint. Use a color to match the trunk and dilute it 1:1 with water.

Next time your tree needs pruning try to do a little at a time. The best time to do major pruning is in May. Never remove more than 25 percent of the foliage/branches in any year.

A great reference for pruning landscape plants here in the desert is Pruning, Planting and Care by Eric Johnson. You can find it on line or at local bookstores.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 12:52PM
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The wind planted this Mesquite tree in 1988. It has never been watered or pruned, only parasitic Mistletoe removed in the spring. Every year it has fully bloomed and produced those little pods that Prairie dogs and Jackrabbits love to eat...until this year! Could this be a disease of some kind? Pic 1 taken August 7, 2007. Pic 2 taken June 29, 2008.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 6:32PM
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So my mesquite has been showing some of the signs listed above (I have included a link to an album with pictures for visual effect). I have been getting some leaf drop (mainly the little tiny leaves and not the larger stem). They go yellow then the tips go brown then the wind takes the leaves.

New growth doesn't seem to be a problem at all. Just maintaining the color. Most of the problem seems to be much worse on the east side of the tree and some on the south side as well (but that is where the house is).

Due to the 1 zone nature of my drip all of my plants are on the same zone. So I have to meld those with the trees. The drip runs for about 2.5 hours every 3 days. Under the umbrella of the mesquite are 7 or 8 plants that get between .5 and 1.0 gpm (don't know exactly the builder put them in). The drip for the tree has been run out to the drip line and there are 8 1gpm drippers that are for that purpose. However the landscape is also weird. Much of the ground sits about 2-3 feet higher than the bottom of the trunk since they put the tree at the bottom of mounds along a river rock path, plus my yard has a high grade so it all sits weird in relation to the tree.

Any thoughts on what I might, or might not be doing wrong?

The pictures show the whole tree, leaves that are falling off and yellow+brown, new growth, and a general trunk shot.



Here is a link that might be useful: Mesquite Tree Pics

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:05PM
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There could be a number of reasons for your mesquite decline, including rodents and fungi. Have you contacted your local U of A Extension office? They have one in every county and the agriculture agent or master gardeners may be able to help.

Here is a link to the U of A Plant Pathology web site. Just select the plant you have a question on and click 'go'.

I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: U of A Plant Pathology web site

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 1:08PM
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I'm glad to see your tree hasn't been over pruned like many mesquites. If new growth looks good, I wouldn't worry too much. I do have a couple suggestions.

1) Mesquites are a tree that evolved in climates with rainy periods followed by long periods of drought so they are extremely well adapted to our climate and soils. Watering every three days is way too often for this tree. In summer a mesquite only needs water once every three weeks or so, as long as the water soaks down to three feet into the soil. It is imperative that the soil dry a bit in between irrigations.

Because your drip system is all on the same valve, you could opt to close or cap off the emitters for the tree and just water once every three weeks with a hose. Usually by the time mesquites are 3 -5 years old they can be weaned off the drip system, as long as there are other plants nearby. They will 'steal' water from other plants in the landscape.

2) Your tree may be planted too deeply. To check, gently scoop back soil at the base of the trunk. You should be able to see the 'root flare' or zone where the trunk begins to turn into roots, or see tops of roots emerging from the trunk. The tissues in is area of the trunk must remain exposed to air. Often times, soil is piled up against the trunk or trees/plants are planted too deeply and they begin to suffocate. If this is the case, remove the soil in a 12 inch radius around the trunk.

3) The stake placed next to your tree should be removed. If the tree can't stand by itself, use two, two-inch wood stakes and support the tree in between the stakes.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 1:25PM
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I have spoken with Cathy Bishop (owner of Mesquite Valley Growers) and have read two articles by John Begeman. According to these authorities, a mesquite tree needs a deep watering twice a month in the growing season - preferably with a soaker hose. They should be watered once a month during the winter. Furthermore, the trees need organic fertilizer. To generalize about these trees regarding their adaptibility is a big mistake. Where these trees grown in nature has a lot to do with how they develop. Low lying areas, flood planes, banks of washes all provide more moisture and nutrients. There are also some new features associated with irrigation systems that are specially designed for different types of trees. I have listened to both Cathy and John and my tree is doing much better.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 11:59AM
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Something thinks my mesquite tree has too many branches and has chosen to remove a narrow ring of bark from some of the smaller branches. The branches are a little thicker than a pencil and the rings are about 1/32" wide and deep ... just enough to kill the branch. Is this pest and a control method known?


    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 9:36PM
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The damage you see is most likey from the mesquite twig girdler, a beetle that munches on the bark of this tree. Its brown and about an inch long with speckled back. It usually is active in the early summer when the female cuts a deep channel around a small branch where she lays her eggs. The branch dies afterwards but by that time the larvae have moved into the live tissue.

Mesquites are a tough tree and usually the dying twigs just result in a little shorter branch. There is no effective control.

Here's an article from the Green Valley News that has a photo and details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mesquite Twig Girdler

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:49PM
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We have a 1.5 year old mesquite tree. And a few months ago has started losing its leaves. It was planted by the builders' landscapers. Comparing it to our neighbors tree, which was planted the same time, theirs are full of leaves. We did trim and decreased watering at some point. can't remember now, what month it was when we did it. Is our tree dying? Is there a way to save it?
I have photos of the tree, but don't know how to post it.
We live in the Tucson-Marana area.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:46AM
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I was able to upload the photo. Please advise on what best to do with our tree. Thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mesquite tree in distress

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 12:15PM
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Hard to tell from the photos, is the wood brown or green? If its dark or brown, its probably a lost cause (use your finger nail to try to peel off some bark on a branch, if its fleshy, thats good. If its dry and hard, thats bad). Hopefully its under the builders warranty still. Mesquites do shed their leaves in spring, but your photo looks like its just more than normal spring shed. If it were a mature tree, I'd say call a certified arborist out to help, but since its so young, you'd probably be better off just replacing it.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 12:33PM
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Cassiebel: I went to Cathy Bishop of Mesquite Valley Growers for advice on my tree. First of all, mine is a Chilean, which means it is not native. It required regular deep watering which mine was not getting. I installed a bubble on my irrigation system. Second, these trees require organic fertilizer. I have been feeding it fish emulsion and algae during the growing seasons. It is looking much better. People think that just because something is desert adapted, it can survive in our awful soil and can make do with our ridiculous rainfall. Not so. The only type of mesquite that can do this is the awful ones with all the deadly thorns. They aren't trees, they are giant weeks.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:56PM
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Tucson: I have a beautiful Chilean mesquite that hasn't been watered for years or pruned. One central branch at the top has not leafed out this year and there are numerous bubbles of sap on the branches. I've been told I need to do overnight watering and have learned something about how to do that from these postings, but I'm wondering what the sap bubbles are about.

Someone suggested possible bark beetles. How can I tell? I'm not sure if I'm seeing sawdust on the bark or just remnants of the flowers. Is there a way to save this tree?

I gather I should not have it thinned at this time?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 2:17PM
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Sap is usually a symptom of stress. This could be wind damage, insufficient water, pests, damage to the roots, pruning, over fertilizing, construction in the area, herbicides, fungal or bacterial diseases, etc.

Mesquites are subject to damage from the mesquite twig girdler which causes dieback at the tips of branches. If the center branch was injured it could have attracted flatheaded or roundheaded borers. The larvae feed on dead or dying wood. The adults will leave elliptical (for flatheaded) or round (for roundheaded) holes in the branch when they exit the tree. If this is the case you may choose to remove the affected branch and dispose of the wood.

You are correct in not trying to prune or thin your tree right now. Actually, I applaud you for not pruning it. As a result its probably in far better shape than most mesquites in our landscapes. A good deep watering once a month during warm weather is always a good idea.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flatheaded and Roundheaded Borers

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 3:50PM
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crista(Sunset 13)

Aztreelvr, I'm glad you mentioned about moving the hose around to different parts of the outer tree canopy. I don't think I've been diligent enough about this and as a result have a eight year old tree that's had some branches die back. I've done the overnight deep water as you've recommended, but usually do it only in one or two places.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 11:41PM
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I recently planted a 5 gallon tree (1/2/11). The leaves are dropping and most of the leaves are turning yellow and getting a brown tip. What am I doing wrong? I checked to make sure it is not planted too deeply and I have been giving it plenty of water to keep it moist. Could I be over watering it? We had a cold spell after I planted it. At night the temp would drop into the mid to high 30s for a few days. Is it a response to the cold weather?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Michael: you do not plant trees in January. It doesn't matter what kind they are. It freezes in January! To make matters worse its a baby. You plant trees in October. Never mind what the nurseries are saying - you don't know what you are doing and they do. THEY can plant a tree any time. You?

Right now you need to put a lot of mulch down on the ground to protect the roots from the cold at night. You should probably wrap it every night thru March if you want it to live. Maybe take a sweatshirt sleeve and slit it and sew velcro so that you can rewrap the trunk every night. That way if you loose the top, you'll still have the body.

How would you like to be left out there in the cold in the middle of the night? Its common sense.

And by the way - I have 30 trees.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 11:13AM
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RE: "The only type of mesquite that can do this is the awful ones with all the deadly thorns. They aren't trees, they are giant weeks."

Assuming you meant "weeds", well ... you are entitled to your opinion which I do not share. Having lived in the desert for the last 26 years, I love mesquite trees of all varieties including the Argentine. Where you see "deadly thorns" and a "weed" I see a massive 30' tree with a 40' crown and *lots* of precious shade. Easterners ... sheesh.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 12:11AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I don't know who brought this thread up since there is no post since July of 2011. I'm just the curious sort, so I read the whole thing, including the testy parts. So helpful... Anyhow, I love mesquites and was considering one to replace an absolutely terrible euc. Now, I don't think so. Too many problems, too many pests. Gonna look for another tree.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 3:29PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Not to be testy, lol... but I think there are few trees better suited for this area, with fewer problems.

-Mesquites are *very* drought tolerant but can also survive deluges. They can drop their leaves in response to drought, but will resprout once the required amount of water is available.
-Their leafing out every spring is a sure sign that winter has truly passed. What other tree is as accurate of a weather vane?
-They provide both shelter and food for wildlife - and their fruit is even consumable for humans (and is quite tasty, BTW).
- I love their soft, feathery appearance.
-They are fairly quick growing.
-There are a number of types and cultivars, including a thornless hybrid, some bright green types that look like the California Peppers (Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, one of my favorite trees).
-The wood can be added to BBQs and smokers for that mesquite flavor added to your meats.

Of an entire nursery, two trees I recently purchased were Mesquites. Their main problem is people!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 11:11PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Good grief, I feel like a weather vane, myself. Swinging back to favor the mesquite again. Sigh....

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Take a look at the Texas Honey Mesquite. You may just like it!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:21PM
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There are really not any problems with mesquites , I have some 20 plus of them here . You are over due to visit and see how much the place has changed since you were here.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:13PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Hey, Doug! Long time, no see (or hear). Got your e-mail and that is a great website you've got. I'll be in touch.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 2:22AM
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Do NOT feed mesquite trees! I am a Certified Arborist. As others have mentioned, Mesquites are in the legume family, and have the ability to "fix" nitrogen from the air. In fact, I've read that if you do feed them, they "forget" how to fix nitrogen. Anyone who tells you to feed a mesquite tree is trying to sell you fertilizer you don't need.

This post was edited by LindaMS123 on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 14:16

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:30PM
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Good point. They don't forget, but will block the nitrogen fixing bacteria's rhizome formation. After all, if you have plenty of nitrogen then the bacterium have nothing to offer in exchange for the carbs and shelter the tree provides. Then the nitrogen fixers die back and may not be available to colonize if the artificial nitrogen source later disappears.

This is an old thread. As a general rule I would question pruning Mesquite the first 5 years anyway. If it is growing that fast it is being over watered (or fertilized).

And sadly rescuing a tree buried too deeply by digging out an area is unlikely to work for long. If it has only been in the ground a year digging it up and replanting is better. Otherwise some real thought to replacing it should go into the decision of what to do.

Still that likely was best practices in 2008, especially when best practices was often derived from non-desert (arid) trees.

Not a certified arborist.

This post was edited by Fascist_Nation on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 16:36

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 4:31PM
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