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How to tell a fruit tree is dead?

Posted by jbclem z9b Topanga, Ca (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 28, 08 at 20:20

I have some apple trees that were affected by summer heat last year and I'm trying to figure out if they are dead or still hanging on...capable of sending out at least a stem that can later be grafted onto. Two of the trees are young, planted last year as bare root. The other is an 8 ft Fuji, transplanted 3 years ago from a milder summer area, did real well until last year, now looks bad with vertical(shrivel?) lines on some trunks and stems, some bark cracking, peeling.

I've been cutting back branches looking for green and not finding it. My main question is: can a fruit tree be alive even if it's not showing any green interior when the branches, and trunks, are cut back.

Any other ways to tell, other than waiting well into spring to see if any buds or new growth appear.


ps...I also have a Tarrocco Blood orange that has mostly black branches, but two that are still partly green, and a watersprout green branch growing from below the graft. I'm thinking with any of these trees that if the roots are still good and alive, it would be better to graft onto any future growth than to dig up the tree and start over with a new and real young one. Does this make sense?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How to tell a fruit tree is dead?

I do not think you need to wait well into Spring. All my live plants have started showing the signs of flourishing. My apple tree is showing buds though no leaves/flowers.

I know a dead tree because I have one :-( My fig tree died last year, and it is showing no signs of any leaf sprouting out -- so that IMO is the sign of it being dead. If you examine the buds closely, you should be able to tell (now) that they have no growth.

RE: How to tell a fruit tree is dead?

on the apple, if the wood is brown, brittle and snaps, it is dead. You should see some sprouting within the next 6 weeks if it is still alive.
citrus, if you want Tarrocco, remove the sprout below the graft right away. It will steal all the strength from the grafted portion, especially if it was stressed last year. If you do not want that variety, you could remove the all wood above the graft and re-graft onto the root stock. I would not recomend digging it up. If you want a tree in a different place, start with a healthy new tree from the nursery.
I recomend mulch for fruit trees in CA. a good 12 inches thick for the first 2 years. mulch 2 to 3 feet past the drip line.

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