Old camillia tree looks more yellow ?

plaidbirdApril 29, 2013

No idea when these were planted, the house was built in the later 1880's. I'm so accustomed to these trees taking care of themselves, it's possible the one I'm worried about has always been this color. But it really seems like it's getting more yellow the last few years.

The photo shows the tall red on that I'm concerned about. Behind it is the pink, blooms end of December, first of January one.. that is a normal darker green. Behind that is the skinny one that blooms in the fall. Pretty little thing with pink and white flowers.

The three in the photo are planted close, and on their south side, the land drops off to the neighbors sloped driveway, so before he planted a laurel hedge, the drainage was excellent. It's possible the area is not draining as freely now, but that's only a little guess on my part. Heavy rain has always pooled a bit close to there, but then drains as the rain lets up.

My plan is to dig a few better drain area between the neighbors hedge plants..just in case.

I bought some Camellia/Rhodie food. But thinking I should first check here and be sure I'm not feeding a sick plant, which is a bad thing I know.

They have never been fed before.

Our soil here is slightly acidic and known as Camellia/ Rhodie heaven.

In the hottest part of the summer they do get water as a natural slop over from watering plants nearby.

The nearby Sweet-gum trees drop tons of leaves on their soil surface, which I leave to decompose till spring when I do a clean up to prevent slug Disneyland. When cleaning up I only pull off debris and find the area has a nice layer of compost like stuff covering it. Same for the upcoming cleaning of dropped flowers and the wave of old camellia leaves to follow. I make a point of not stripping the soil bare.

If all you Camellia lovers have not dropped over ded in shock from from my lack of care of these old dears, I am going to post a couple more photos.

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See.... yellow.

I'm aware some of the more yellow leaves are natural this time of year as they are getting ready to fall, but my concern is the other leaves.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 9:25PM
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Here is the real nitty gritty. I found this spot where it's much worse. I can see mildew, which is on everything that stands still long enough.. the house itself for example. That's just caused by our rain and humility. But this looks worse somehow.

I've looked close and careful, read books and online lists of pests...don't see any creatures of any kind.

Poor old thing. She and I are aging together. We've been together about 40 years now.

This post was edited by plaidbird on Tue, Apr 30, 13 at 3:24

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 9:30PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I would do a soil test to see if it is low in some minerals. Because all of leaves' parts look yellow, including the leaf veins, it does not appear to be a soil pH Problem.

The trees, being so old and not being replenished of minerals by fertilizing, maybe are suffering because the soil has a defficiency of one or more minerals. For example, low nitrogen levels make leaves turn yellow in some plants. When you do the soil test, add a note indicating that you are researching why a camellia tree has all yellow leaves. Complicating things, plants sometimes have adequate nitrogen levels in the soil but drainage problems (which you mentioned) or a root disease prevent them from absorbing nitrogen in the needed amounts.

Aphids and scale can also make the leaves turn yellow but I have not seen them turn THAT yellowish a-n-d not show signs of leaf damage on pictures so, I doubt pests are at work.

The sun, as it becomes stronger later in Spring, can make dark green leaves turn bronze or slightly yellowish but I have not seen them turn so yellow... as they appear in your pictures. If the sun was the problem, leaves in direct contact with the sun would be affected and the shaded leaves would remain dark green. I mention this possibility because the yellow leaves are in the tallest camellia, the one least protected from the sun.

If the soil test results are inconclusive and no one else posts a suggestion, consider taking a few leaves to your Agric Extension Service along with the soil test results for analysis.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:59AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I see sooty mold in the last shot which indicates mites or sucking insects like scales are or have been present. Otherwise I would fertilize repeatedly (per label directions) and see if greening occurred - it may take some time as the discoloration is severe. Other factors to consider are that camellias are prone to water molds (which rot the roots) and honey fungus (Armillaria) is common in the PNW. This last may show as dark rhizomorphs on or under the bark, hear the base of the specimen. Tops of trees and shrubs above the point of attack sooner or later malfunction and die. Pretty much all kinds are on the menu.

This post was edited by bboy on Wed, May 1, 13 at 16:32

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you !

I recognize both of your screen names, so I know I can take this advice to the bank. :)

First I read both of your replies as I was waiting to leave to catch the bus. Had time to look up Armillaria, and almost lost hope. So now I've had time to mull it all over and took a quick glance at the camellia before the sun went down.

Root rot : while a possibility in the near future, I really think I'm catching the change in winter water soon enough, but this will put that project forward for this summer. Looking this time I see the places I cleared in the fall and spring are draining well, but I need to come closer to the house and get the main source redirected. That rain barrel project, long put off would be a timely thing here too, since directing water from there on out in a new direction makes the most sense. I also noticed how much the main trunk and surrounding area for 4 or 5 feet out is elevated from the rest of the garden, so that's a better start than my imagination had told me.

Sooty mold : I thought the same thing but have been watching for a few years and have not found any creatures. BUT.... I suddenly occurs to me, I need to get a ladder out and look closer, since all the branches start above my head. There could be tiny scale hiding in plain sight.
Interestingly a similar looking mold grows on the lower 3 or 4 feet or so of the siding of the house right here. Always has. Stopped scrubbing if off about 20 or so years ago because I was doing more damage to the asbestos siding, than just letting it be there and not looking so close.

The GOOD news : It took reading your reply Luis, to get me thinking clearer about sun exposure. The sun on this camellia has changed drastically this spring. It's a long story, including neighborhood politics, the party line sewer system, and changing home owners.. but in the end we won, and the terribly misplaced huge oak tree is finally gone. Don't take me as a tree hater, I'm quite the opposite, but this belonged in a park, not on the fence line next to my backdoor.

I watched them plant that darn oak, and as it grew over the last 35 years about, it turned my backyard into a cave, killing most everything. It was a super duper special cultivar, purchased on Earth Day by the home owners, Hollywood people, Nice idea, but poor execution ya know. I never knew a tree could get that big, that fast, but it did.

That oak did shade the camellia in the front yard from the western sun. I'm in the process of moving the shade plants there to safer spots now. And the reason the camellia was shaded before the oak ? My ancient cherry tree shaded it from the western sun. But see.. the oak damaged the cherry, and the limbs self pruned into a lion tail type situation. The huge limb that finally fell because of the weight of the cherries a few years ago, because of the oak, did shade the camellia in years past. Yes, it was a huge limb.. . tipped a telephone pole over a bit and pulled all the lines loose from the houses. Then the gutters tore off the corners of the houses. Like dominos. I felt bad about the whole darn thing, put it was the oak trees fault, not that others would understand. I just kept saying, " I'm sorry". :(

See, my thought process stopped at the backyard when dealing with the oak tree damage on my property.

Looking at how the green IS better on the other side of the camellia was the key Luis !

Well, I'll be up on a ladder at some point tomorrow guys.

This post was edited by plaidbird on Thu, May 2, 13 at 0:55

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:32AM
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More photos:

This is from the shady side.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:38PM
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This shows the base of the trunk where small stems always want to start growing up. The new ones look the right shade of green.

Please ignore the honeysuckle, fern, old chunk of wood etc.. Didn't tidy up for the photo op.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:42PM
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I climbed up in the camellia and can't see anything obvious, with reading glasses anyway. Brought down a piece with the mold on it to look closer.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:44PM
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Oh, the missing leaf between those two I pulled off because it was in the way.

Next I rubbed my finger across the moldy leaf. One pass and it all comes off, much like if you ran your hand over a dusty outdoor shelf, complete with the majority rolling up, then dropping off. Shown here.

Two tiny spots remain. Potentially scale, but they seem to be part of the leaf itself. Super hard and I can't separate them from the leaf. Would this be a typical pattern if this is some kind of tiny scale ? It is much, much smaller than what I was looking for. No larger ones to be found.

When a camellia gets spots from winter, is it only on one side on a one year old leaf ?

I was expecting any scale to be on the woody parts, but I am wondering about this. Sorry my point and shoot camera and my lack of skills prevents this photo from being better.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Separate question, as long as we're here' then I'll stop being a pest.

Our wind has really increased recently, due to them taking down some tall buildings that we didn't realize were protecting us as much as they did. Light rail is in the process of coming a block away, so the new wind, that comes down off the west hills, across the river and now seems pretty constant, is only part of the crazy current activity. It will be nice in a couple years when they're done.

Anyway, this camellia has always taken the brunt of the worst winter wind, which I know is not advised according to the books. But there she is, just a bit windswept in appearance.

With this new added and now constant wind, what can I anticipate as far as potential issues with this camellia ? All I can think of is to get her back to better overall health, but I don't know what I should be watching for. Expert pruning for height would probably be good, but I'm too old to be climbing up there, and too poor to bring in the big boys. So it is what it is I guess.

I have decided than since I don't believe her roots have any rot, I am going to go ahead and feed her with the special fert and water it in. Maybe I should also throw out some greensand, since I have a lifetime supply already, that I use every 3 or 4 years in beds with lots of flower type plants. Good idea or bad ?

I have the greensand due to soil tests in the back for a veggie garden, done years ago.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 5:10PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

If your soil acidic, go ahead and amend it with greensand now and then. I do not have any but find that I have to amend in Spring and, optionally, at the end of the summer.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:57PM
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Thanks again Luis.

Yes, PH runs about 6. I soaked everything tonight since it's windy and dry. Will be finally doing the fert and greensand tomorrow morning. I'm only accustomed to using fert on potted plants, where you have to be sure the roots are plumped up and not dry. I assume in the ground would be no different.

I realize I've rambled on about this camellia, but I care about them a lot. There are a total of 6 camellia trees, and if this does turn out to be something worse, chances are the others would sooner or later suffer than same fate. So I figured saying too much in hopes of you guys catching smooth odd, was better than leaving out something important that I just didn't know about.

The Italian family with many children, that built this house and I think did much of the planting never knew .. all these years later someone would be watching out over their plants. It seems like they put a lot of thought into it, so it's only right.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 1:58AM
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