Health issues with my citrus?

trippy1976December 21, 2010

There is an orange tree in my back yard. I don't know for sure, but I think it was planted by the prior owner about 8 years ago.

I've always had these chutes pop up. They grow from the base of the tree, grow very fast and very high, and have huge 2 inch thorns. The "branch" looks very different from the rest of the tree. The rest of the tree has bark that is green with whiteish streaks. This is pure green and doesn't really look like it has bark...

So question / issue #1 are these chutes. I can hardly keep up with them and since I took ownership of this poor tree more and more sprout out of the base. I don't know if this is normal, or something due to some neglect from me. I'm from Maine, so this is my first time having a citrus tree.

Second issue is the new growth. Most of it appears "blighted". The old growth appears unaffected. I have posted pictures:

Leaves with "blight" on a branch I trimmed off

Holding up "blighted" growth next to old growth, you can see the difference. Blight on the left, healthy on the right.

This is one of the chutes with giant thorns. They are really long, sometimes 6-8 feet in length.

Most start from the base of the tree like this. I've pruned them away, but am surprised at how quick they grow back, how high they go and prune them out because they HURT when picking the fruit and my children have been hurt by them while playing too.

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Ah, that looks to be the root-stock that is sprouting.
Just as you've done, prune them away whenever they appear.
It is vigorous, which is why it makes good root-stock ;)


    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 8:44PM
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call_me_wizfire(7b Central Arkansas)

UH_OH SUCKER!!!!! they are called this because they literally 'suck' the life out of the part of the plant that you actually want. That could also explain your 'blight'.
Okay, a sucker is when a shoot grows from the root stock, with the roots supplying nutrients and water to the suckers, it doesnt give any to the plant above the plant graft.
CUT THEM OFF YOUR PLANT AT ALL TIME AND AT ALL COSTS. THEY ARE EVIL, but not really, get rid of them at the first signs. it is a different kind of plant, it probably wont even fruit if you let it grow. the huge suckers that you have will probably explain the problems you are having with you plants.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 10:27PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It's not at all clear to me what you are calling "blight." Can you try again to get a clear picture? And can you describe what you see?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 12:57AM
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I zoomed in on the areas. You can see there is actual death/damage to the leaves and also they are not nice and flat like the old growth, but very wavy and curly. This only affects new growth this year. All my old growth is still looking pretty good and healthy.

Damage visible on this leaf pretty well.

Here you can see the damage pretty well. This is not localized, it's all over the tree and pretty much affects all the new growth.

You can also see the "curled" leaves pretty well here too.

I'm a new citrus owner so I'm guessing there is some kind of spraying / fertilizing I'm not doing that I should be. But I'm uncertain.

Last year (in Florida) we had a really bad cold streak. The fruit was dry and tasted foul. I either waited too long to pick it or the cold destroyed it. Or... I didn't do something the tree needed me to in order to produce good fruit.

That combined with this growth issue has me really concerned for the future of my orange tree. Which I love dearly :)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 9:50AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I see evidence of leaf miners hard at work. Wrinkled leaves can be caused by a number of things, usually such pests such as aphids, thrips, or mites. Do some investigating to see if one of these might be the problem.

And, yes, keep those shoots (suckers) clipped off whenever you see them. They should NEVER be allowed to grow to several feet in length, but removed when they first appear.

Look at the trunk in the first group of pictures you posted (last image in the group). Do you see how different the bottom part of the tree trunk is? All of those suckers are growing from that part of the trunk. THAT is the root stock, a different citrus called a Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata). Do you see how the leaves on those suckers are different from the leaves that appear on the rest of the tree?

Citrus trees are grafted onto sturdy, fast growing root stock, usually Poncirus (not always). The 'real' citrus variety is inserted into the root stock at a very early age, and the two plants unite...they graft. However, root stock varieties are often very aggressive (as you can see), and will overpower the cultivated variety if allowed. It's up to you to prevent this from happening.

Most of our fruit trees and many of our ornamental varieties (trees and shrubs) are a product of grafting. It's not unique to citrus.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 12:11PM
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call_me_wizfire(7b Central Arkansas)

the blight looks like leaf miner damage except i can see none of their trademark trails of death crisscrossing the leaves, i just see large chunks bitten off... i had a wierd image of some wierd catapillar chewing off the edges of your plant, but that doesnt sound very plausible... try showing the plant...checking the leaves for bugs...washing with a soap or rubbing alchohol mix... mike? do u have the appropiate ratio for it....Al? Josh?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 8:54PM
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Rootstock shoots. Cut them off. But you are leaving little stubs behind which just encourages new ones. You need to cut them off flush with the main stem. Then, if you go round your tree once a week (is that too difficult?) you can easily rub away with your fingers any tiny new growth.

Definitely leaf miner damage. There are different approaches to dealing with them. Plenty of internet articles you should look up. You can spray chemicals, or you can basically ignore them but cut off young growth at certain times of the year. On a healthy mature tree, the damage looks unsightly but often doesn't actually do much harm.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 4:47AM
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To me,it looks like the "blight" is Asian citrus leaf miner.

The "suckers" are shoots from the rootstock, and in this case the leaf shape is the identifying thing. The rootstock will try to out grow the "foreign" grafted fruiting cultivar and suckers will distroy the tree.

Check them over about every few weeks in growing season.

I have heard the suckers are best rubbed off instead of being clipped with shears. I know if you catch tham small it is quite easy to do that since thay are brittle at that stage. And you dont need to go get shears and disinfectant - just use your hand. If you let them grow and get tough, they will have to be clipped, and they they will leave a "stump" and that will encourage more suckers, so timely maintenence is the key.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 2:54AM
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Glad you mentioned that Tantanman. When I was a child my father instructed me to pull root stock suckers off if possible rather than prune them. He said they were then less likely to grow back. This is done by snapping the shoot down toward the ground or if the shoot is too mature for this to work sometimes placing your foot on the shoot and against the trunk and pulling up sharply on the shoot will do the trick. If these fail, by all means prune. I have gardened many years and I believe that he was right but I wondered what others thought about it.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 10:28PM
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