Stick Like Stems without Leaves on My Lemon Tree

dragon49(6 NY)January 28, 2008

My Lemon Tree is 2 years and 4 months old. I have just noticed a few stems (the largest around 8 inches or so) without any leaves.

It is hard to categorize them as stems. They are not green. They are thin wooden sticks?

What is this a sign of? Should I remove them?


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Hello Dragon49

It sounds like you have some dead wood, since even fairly thick branches retain some green on lemons. If the twigs really are dead, you will be able to tell if you cut them back to just before a visible leaf scar an inch or so back from the tip of the twig. A living branch will have green visible under the surface layer of bark, and will be somewhat flexible and will smell strongly of citrus. Dead twigs will usually be very brittle.

Dead twigs are not unusual: some of the green twigs on any given lemon tree will die back as the tree grows--this is a normal process. The bigger the tree, the more dead twigs you will see.

Let me also point out that this can happen fairly slowly. On my citrus trees, I often notice green twigs that drop all their leaves in the late fall, or late spring, which remain green for several months but never regrow new leaves. These twigs eventually die. What presumably happens is that new growth elsewhere on the tree has shaded out these twigs, or drawn off the supply of hormones (auxins) that facilitate regrowth.

Long and short of it: I don't think you have anything to worry about.

One more point: if you do snip an inch off a twig and discover it is still alive, you really have not done much harm, and in fact you will probably stimulate new growth. This is why I said to cut just in front (1/8 or 1/4 inch is fine) of a leaf scar (i.e., cut to to the tip side of the twig and leave the leaf scar on the part of the twig still attached to the tree). This is where the new growth will want to appear. When pruning, I often try to cut back to a leaf scar that is pointing in the direction I want a new branch to develop.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 5:55PM
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